Serious allegations by a newspaper: first the bishop molested young priests, then gave them gifts of money and finally had the expenses reimbursed by his diocese. Now his official residence is to be sold.
The former bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston in the U.S. state of West Virginia, Michael Joseph Bransfield (75), allegedly used church funds over a period of years to finance cash gifts to young priests whom he sexually molested, according to media reports.
As the "Washington Post" reported on Wednesday (local time), cardinals in the U.S. and in the Vatican had also been considered. The newspaper cites church documents it has obtained.
According to the report, Bransfield, who retired in September 2018, had received checks worth up to
565 checks – including to cardinals
15.000 dollars signed from his personal account, the sums of which were subsequently reimbursed to him by the diocese, he said.
In total, the bishop is said to have ied 565 checks.
Among the recipients are believed to be 11 prominent clerics whose names were redacted from the investigation documents, said Baltimore Archbishop William Lori, who was appointed apostolic administrator of the diocese by Pope Francis after Bransfield's departure. Also he himself had received money from Bransfield.
Among the dignitaries said to have received checks are former Washington Archbishop Cardinal Donald Wuerl, New York Archbishop Cardinal Timothy Dolan and former Vatican nuncio to the U.S. Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano.
Five lay investigators concluded, according to the report, that the cash gifts constituted abuse of power.
Official residence to be sold for compensation
Bransfield himself is suspected of sexually molesting adult priests and financial irregularities.
He led an "extravagant and opulent lifestyle," according to the investigation report. In his time as a bishop, he said, he had spent about $2.4 million in church funds on travel.
This reportedly included $100 a day for fresh flowers and 1.000 dollars a month for alcohol.
Archbishop Lori announced Wednesday that he has permission to sell Bransfield's former official residence. The proceeds should be used to compensate victims of abuse. The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston counts 78.000 Catholics.