By Michael Brice-Saddler
The Vatican on Friday announced sanctions against retired West Virginia bishop Michael Bransfield, but stopped short of defrocking him, after investigating accusations of sexual harassment and financial misconduct.
The sanctions, ordered by Pope Francis and detailed in a letter posted to the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston’s website, prohibit Bransfield from public ministry and from residing in his former West Virginia diocese. Bransfield also has “the obligation to make personal amends for some of the harm he caused,” the nature of which will be decided by the new bishop.
Bransfield stepped down in September when an aide came forward with an inside account detailing years of alleged sexual and financial misconduct, including a claim that Bransfield sought to “purchase influence” by giving hundreds of thousands in cash gifts to senior Catholic leaders. News of the allegations rocked parishioners in Wheeling-Charleston diocese, which Bransfield has led since 2005, and left other Catholics in the state feeling betrayed.
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