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

Vatican agrees to weakened restitution for West Virginia bishop accused of sexual and financial misdeeds

Aug 20, 2020

By Michelle Boorstein

The Vatican has approved much-reduced reparations, including an apology letter that takes no direct responsibility, for a former West Virginia bishop accused of misusing millions in church money and sexually harassing fellow clerics.

Bishop Michael J. Bransfield stepped down in September 2018 as leader of the Wheeling-Charleston diocese amid allegations that he spent millions on personal extravagances and gifts to fellow clerics and that he harassed seminarians and young priests who worked for him.

After an internal Vatican investigation concluded that the allegations were true, Bishop Mark Brennan, Bransfield’s successor in West Virginia, drew up a restitution plan in November that he said would be “an act of restorative justice” for Bransfield to accept.

“It is also for his own spiritual good and his own healing as a man who professes to follow Christ,” Brennan wrote when announcing the plan last fall.

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