"Interior of St. Andrew's Catholic Church in Roanoke, Virginia" by Joe Ravi / CC BY-SA 3.0

Disgraced West Virginia bishop Michael Bransfield was told a year ago to make restitution. His successor says Bransfield has gone incommunicado.

Aug 11, 2020

By Michelle Boorstein

More than a year after Pope Francis ordered ousted West Virginia Bishop Michael Bransfield to make personal amends for alleged sexual and financial misconduct, his successor bishop says he has yet to hear from Bransfield about a restitution proposal.

Last Tuesday, MetroNews, a West Virginia news site, quoted Bishop Mark Brennan as saying that he had not heard from Bransfield in “many months, and I would not expect to. … Whatever he is doing, he is doing and is in a dark hole. We do not know exactly what he is up to; we have not been in communication.”

In July 2019, Francis forbade Bransfield, a well-connected Philadelphian who had held prominent national spots in the Catholic Church, from celebrating Mass and from living in West Virginia. Bransfield had led the church there for 13 years. In November, Brennan had proposed, per Francis’s demand, a specific proposal for Bransfield’s restitution.

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One comment on “Disgraced West Virginia bishop Michael Bransfield was told a year ago to make restitution. His successor says Bransfield has gone incommunicado.”

  • 1
    Cairsley says:

    This strikes me as a straightforward case of theft by embezzlement, and the evidence is readily available. It would be a fairly straightforward, successful courtcase, if the diocese filed charges. This is what needs to be done if the Catholic Church wishes to protect its institutions from such criminal activity being carried out by its own bishops. But the said Church is not a straightforward entity. If a Catholic bishop were sued in a secular court by a Catholic diocese, the Church would be implicitly conceding the secular court’s authority to decide a matter of law internal to the Church’s affairs. The accused in this case knows this and is betting on the church authorities preferring to deal with him through the traditional means of church discipline and canon law. That accusations of sexual misconduct have also been made against the episcopal absconder must only increase the unwillingness of Catholic hierarchs to have secular authorities nosing into the matter, even though the secular authorities have the practical means to deal effectively with absconders and deniers of evidence. Gone are the days when the Church could call on the “secular arm” to do its bidding in accordance with canon law. Now, interestingly, the Church finds itself on the horns of a dilemma.


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