Update on Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston

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February 07 2021 06:00 pm

Archbishop of Baltimore William E. Lori, who is also serving as the Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, released a statement Wednesday updating the community on several issues. He addressed former Bishop Michael J. Bransfield’s sexual harassment allegations and made a surprising announcement regarding a historic residence.

According to Archbishop Lori, the investigative team looking into those allegations determined that the accounts of those who accused former Bishop Bransfield of sexual harassment are credible. The Archbishop says that the team “uncovered a consistent pattern of sexual innuendo and over suggestive comments and actions toward those over whom the bishop exercised authority.”

However, the investigation did not find any conclusive evidence of sexual misconduct with minors by former Bishop Bransfield. Archbishop Lori says that because of privacy concerns, the Diocese will not release the names of the alleged victims and their personal accounts.

The Diocese has asked for a permanent program to be developed and advertised to seminarians and priest that such services are available. For known victims, the Diocese will commit to reimbursing the costs for mental health assistance for a provider of their choosing. The Diocese has mandated a third party reporting system for any allegation against a bishop. This will allow anonymous complaints to be made. 

On another note, the investigative report determined that Bransfield had a habit of excessive and inappropriate spending while he was Bishop.

Here is more of Archbishop Lori’s statement.

“I am deeply pained by and sorry for the harm that the former bishop caused to those he was charged with shepherding in a spirit of Christ-like humility, service and pastoral care and charity. There is no excuse, nor adequate explanation, that will satisfy the troubling question of how his behavior was allowed to continue for as long as it did without the accountability that we must require of those who have been entrusted with so much – both spiritual and material – as bishops and pastors… We are committed to bringing about the healing that the good people of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston require and can only pray for and work relentlessly to regain their renewed trust and confidence.

In addition, Archbishop Lori made a significant announcement regarding the Wheeling-Charleston bishop’s residence.

“Finally, I have made the determination in my role as Apostolic Administrator to immediately list for sale the Wheeling-Charleston bishop’s residence. Built between 1908 and 1910, and located in the Parkview/Elm Grove section of Wheeling, the home originally belonged to William E. Weiss, a founder of Sterling Drug Co., formerly one of the largest patent drug firms in the United States. The home, replete with many original furnishings, was purchased from Linsly Institute in 1963 for $63,000.00 by the late Bishop Joseph H. Hodges and has served that time as the residence of four bishops of Wheeling-Charleston. It will serve this purpose no longer.”

Stay with 7News for more information. 

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