Washington D.C., Oct 3, 2019 / 14:33 pm
Former Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston Michael Bransfield is facing an allegation that he touched inappropriately a nine year-old girl during a pilgrimage to Washington, DC, in 2012.
A subpoena was delivered to diocesan authorities in the West Virginia diocese Oct.1. According to a report by the Washington Post, the girl, now 16, alleges that the unelaborated incident took place when she was supposedly left alone in a room with Bransfield in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington during a diocesan-sponsored trip. The complaint was reportedly filed in July of this year.
Bransfield categorically denied the allegations in a phone call with the Washington Post, saying on Thursday, “Oh my God. Oh no, that’s horrible.”
“That did not happen. Somebody has imagined this. I can’t believe it,” Bransfield said. “I’m getting attacked from people I don’t know.”
Bransfield’s resignation as Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston was accepted by Pope Francis immediately after he turned 75 in September last year. Following his resignation, Pope Francis ordered Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore to conduct an investigation into allegations that Bransfield had sexually harassed adult males and misused diocesan finances during his time in West Virginia.
Bransfield is reported to have sexually harassed, assaulted, and coerced seminarians, priests, and other adults during his time as Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston. He was also found to have given large cash gifts to high-ranking Church leaders, using diocesan funds.
Lori banned Bransfield from public ministry within the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston and the Archdiocese of Baltimore in March, and the Vatican announced a series of sanctions in July.
In addition to restrictions on publicly celebrating Mass within the diocese, Bransfield was also prohibited from living in his former diocese ordered to “make personal amends for some of the harm he caused.” These “personal amends” are to be determined by Bransfield’s successor, Bishop Mark Brennan, who took office Sept. 3.