Jul 18, 2019 / 14:22 pm
In the wake of reports of financial and sexual misconduct on the part of former Bishop Michael Bransfield, the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston in West Virginia announced several new financial policies and procedures for increased transparency.
These new policies include the use of a new third-party auditing firm which will audit the diocese and publish the findings annually, the expansion and strengthening of the diocesan finance council, and the dissolution of the discretionary “Bishop’s Fund,” among other changes.
In a July 17 letter, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, who serves as Apostolic Administrator of Wheeling-Charleston, announced the financial policy changes, which were decided at a meeting with the diocese’s finance council.
“From my visits and communications with people from throughout the Diocese I clearly understand that the Church has a long way to go to regain your confidence and trust,” he said.
The reports about Bransfield’s “excessive spending and extravagant lifestyle,” as well as sexual misconduct, Lori said, have caused “great pain and caused many to rightly ask: How could such behavior go unchecked for so long a time? Is there a process in place to check a bishop’s behavior when he takes advantage of his co-workers or when he misuses diocesan funds that should be dedicated to the Church’s mission?”
“These are questions that must be addressed not only in West Virginia but also in the wider Church,” Lori added.
Lori was named apostolic administrator of Wheeling-Charleston in September 2018 by Pope Francis, following a series of allegations made against Bransfield including sexual and financial misconduct.
According to reports made public by the Washington Post, Bransfield used diocesan money to fund an extravagant lifestyle, including luxurious personal travel, a multi-million dollar home renovation, large monthly amounts spent on alcohol and fresh flowers, and large financial “gifts” to other members of the clergy.