He often travelled with young priests in their twenties. Bransfield was accused of sexual harassment by at least one of his travel companions.
The bishop spent thousands of dollars on jewelry and other clothing, including spending more than $60,000 of diocesan money at a boutique jeweler in Washington, DC during his time in office.
Bishop Brennan said the diocese believes a request for the $792,000 restitution from Bransfield constitutes “a fair and just amends” to the diocese for “what were clearly and solely personal expenses.” His letter detailed the results of the diocese’s financial reviews and consideration of his personal expenses and expenditures on his “luxurious lifestyle.” The proposed restitution does not include the $110,000 penalty Bransfield owes the IRS.
All proceeds would go to a special fund to provide counseling, care and support for sexual abuse victims, Brennan said.
Instead of receiving an ordinary bishop’s stipend, Bransfield must accept a stipend of only $736 per month, equal to the stipend of a retired priest who has served 13 years in the diocese. The diocese will still provide his Medicare supplemental health care coverage, but Bransfield must pay for his pharmacy benefit plan and must be personally responsible for long-term health care and disability policies.
Bransfield must either purchase or return the car he was provided upon his retirement. He may not be buried within the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston’s diocesan cemetery upon his death.
“I wish to make clear that it is not my intention to impoverish the former bishop,” Brennan said.
“While not a dollar-for-dollar restitution for the former bishop’s excessive expenditure of diocesan funds, I believe that this amount reflects the spirit of Pope Francis’ requirement that Bishop Bransfield make ‘amends for some of the harm that he has caused’.”
If Bransfield accepts the proposed effort to make amends, it would be “an act of restorative justice” from him. The proposal “is also for his own spiritual good and his own healing as a man who professes to follow Christ,” Brennan said.
It is now up to Bransfield whether to accept these measures and “accept responsibility for his actions which have caused grave harm to this diocese he once led.”
“I have strongly encouraged the bishop to do so and put the well-being of this diocese ahead of his own personal considerations,” said Brennan, who prayed that God’s grace will allow the Catholics of West Virginia to move forward.
(Story continues below)
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In his letter, Brennan noted that the liturgical season of Advent will soon begin. He described Advent as “a time of renewed hope and anticipation” that culminates in Christmas, “the assurance of a new beginning.”
Brennan’s letter drew a response from West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who said it was “a step forward.”
Morrisey called on the diocese to release “all of its investigative reports on Bishop Bransfield,” to tighten its child protection measures, and to implement “concrete measures to provide assistance to the many victims of sexual abuse and pedophilia needing medical, social, or mental health services.”
“It is time for the diocese to truly come clean and begin to put this horrific scandal behind it,” said Morrisey, who suggested that the diocese needs prodding from his office.
“The subpoena from our Office is likely the only reason we have a list of diocese (sic) priests who are credibly accused of sexually abusing minors,” said Morrisey.
In a Nov. 27 response, Brennan said the attorney general is aware of the diocese’s “rigorous controls regarding the protection of young people consistent with our Safe Environment program and policy to protect children and young adults.”
The diocese began to review and compile its list of credibly accused clergy in July 2018, several months before the subpoena.