News

Pope OKs probe into West Virginia bishop as he meets with US delegation

Pope Francis prays during an audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on July 31, 2018. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis on Thursday (Sept. 13) accepted the resignation of a West Virginia bishop, Michael Bransfield, and at the same time authorized a fellow bishop to investigate allegations that Bransfield sexually harassed adults, Vatican officials said.

The development, announced just as a highly anticipated meeting between Francis and U.S. cardinals and bishops was getting under way, lent a dramatic twist to the emergency gathering, called to address another scandal involving an ex-U.S. cardinal.

Bransfield had been implicated in 2012 in an infamous Philadelphia priestly sex abuse case, but he denied ever abusing anyone and claimed vindication years ago. He continued with his ministry until he offered to retire, as required, when he turned 75 last week.

The Vatican said Francis accepted his resignation Thursday, announcing the decision at the exact moment that the U.S. delegation was arriving at the Apostolic Palace for the meeting with the pope.

Francis appointed Baltimore Bishop William Lori to take over Bransfield’s Wheeling-Charleston diocese temporarily. Lori said in a statement that Francis had also instructed him to “conduct an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment of adults against Bishop Bransfield.”


RELATED: Abuse scandal hits diocese of cardinal set to meet with pope


Lori set up a hotline for potential victims to call and vowed to conduct a thorough investigation into what he said were “troubling” claims against Bransfield.

The revelation was the latest development in an incredible turn of events in the U.S. that began with the June 20 announcement that one of the most prestigious U.S. cardinals, Theodore McCarrick, had been accused of groping a teen-age altar boy in the 1970s.

Francis removed McCarrick as a cardinal in July after a U.S. church investigation found the allegation credible. After news broke of the investigation, several former seminarians and priests came forward to report that they too had been abused or harassed by McCarrick as adults.

The McCarrick affair — coupled with revelations in the Pennsylvania grand jury report detailing decades of abuse and cover-up in six dioceses — has fueled outrage among the rank-and-file faithful who had trusted church leaders to reform themselves after the abuse scandal first erupted in Boston in 2002.

The outrage has also been directed at Francis and the Vatican and has fueled conservative criticism of Francis’ pontificate.

The head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Houston Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, had requested the papal audience last month after revelations that McCarrick had risen through church ranks even though the allegations of sexual misconduct were known in U.S. and Vatican circles.

DiNardo requested a full-fledged Vatican investigation into the McCarrick affair and said he also wanted answers to allegations that a string of Vatican officials knew of McCarrick’s misdeeds since 2000 but turned a blind eye.

The Vatican hasn’t responded to allegations by its former ambassador to the U.S., Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, that Francis effectively rehabilitated McCarrick from sanctions imposed by Pope Benedict XVI over allegations McCarrick would routinely invite seminarians to his beach house and into his bed.

Francis has, however, responded to the overall scandal with a series of initiatives aimed at trying to convince the faithful that he “gets it” and is prepared to take measures to put an end to what he has called the “culture of cover-up” in the church.

On the eve of the U.S. audience, Francis announced he was summoning the presidents of bishops conferences around the world to a February summit to discuss prevention measures and protection of minors and vulnerable adults.

The surprise announcement was largely dismissed as a belated damage control effort by victims’ advocates. Church historians questioned why such an urgent problem was being scheduled for discussion six months from now with the very bishops who are blamed for much of the scandal.

“Where are the laity and others who might provide both new and uncomplicit voices and insights into the process?” asked Margaret Susan Thompson, associate professor of history at Syracuse University.

Even DiNardo’s own record on protecting children has now come into question. On the eve of his audience with Francis, The Associated Press reported that two victims in Houston had accused him of not doing enough to stop a priest who was arrested this week on sexual abuse charges.

The archdiocese issued a statement Wednesday confirming that both people had come forward to report abuse by the priest, the Rev. Manuel LaRosa-Lopez, one of them in 2001. The priest is now the pastor at St. John Fisher Catholic Church in Richmond while also serving as the archdiocese’s episcopal vicar for Hispanics.

The delegation of U.S. bishops announced no plans to speak to the media after their audience.

About the author

Nicole Winfield

52 Comments

Click here to post a comment

  • West Virginia? Germany? what they hey?!?!?!

    Sex abuse: A report on sexual abuse inside the Catholic Church in Germany says 3,677 people were abused by clergy between 1946 and 2014, two leading German media outlets said Wednesday. Spiegel Online and Die Zeit said the report they obtained — commissioned by the German Bishops Conference and researched by three universities — concludes that more than half of the victims were 13 or younger and most were boys. Every sixth case involved rape and at least 1,670 clergy were involved, both weeklies reported. Die Zeit wrote that 969 abuse victims were altar boys.

  • They also stated that the numbers are on the low side because the church doctored documents and lost some. So there are many many more victims and abusers out there.

  • And so where is Michael Bransfield now? Typically the Pope only accepts resignations in person, which conveniently means the rapist/molester is safely out of reach of law enforcement of the locale where they committed their heinous crimes.

    This has been the Church’s strategy for decades. The most egregious example recently was Chile earlier this year. All 34 Bishops offered their resignation to the Pope. All 34 left Chile for Italy just as the scandal was becoming well known. 3 had their resignations accepted by the Pope. They…simply disappeared.
    As did the other 31.

    So when you see in the media that priests & bishops are offering their resignation, read that as, “The Vatican is assisting the molesters escape local law enforcement and legal prosecution, thus enabling and encouraging the problem to continue”.

  • All this makes you a happy camper indeed.

    Mind if we see how it compares with LBGT on LBGT violence in that community?

    Can we compare those numbers with ANYTHING ANYWHERE to get some sense of the magnitude of the problem and some perspective, Mr WhatAboutIsm?

  • If they doctored documents and lost some, how would we know the numbers are on the low side and by how much?

  • This will be the new agenda, not the agenda of “joy, joy, joy” that the pope so wanted…but truth, truth, truth.

    the end of the Agenda.

  • Let’s see …. “most were boys”, priests are male …. hmmm.

    That sounds like predatory homosexuals.

    Are you sure you wanted to post this?

  • Of the 34 Chilean bishops, five (not three) have had their resignations accepted.
    Do you believe that all 34 have ‘disappeared’? I think we’d know about that, if it were true.

  • Mostly in Chile, I’d say.
    For example, they held a meeting (of their bishops’ conference) in early August 2018. In Chile.
    Following words are from the photo-caption in the ‘Crux’ report dated August 5, 2018:-
    “Bishop Santiago Silva of the Military Diocese of Chile, president of the Chilean bishops’ conference, right, and Auxiliary Bishop Fernando Ramos, apostolic administrator of Rancagua, Chile, participate in a press conference after the 116th Extraordinary Plenary Assembly of the Episcopal Conference in Punta de Tralca, Chile, Aug. 3.”

  • Laurie Goodstein cites historian Christopher Bellitto, who says we’re now seeing a “long expected reckoning of leadership” in the U.S. Catholic church. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/13/us/bishop-bransfield-pope-francis.html

    I agree. This reckoning has been long expected by many of us.

    I keep racking my brain and trying to remember what pope or popes created this crisis in the leadership of the U.S. Catholic church by the men they appointed to episcopal sees and cardinalates.

    What pope made Bransfield a bishop? And DiNardo, the USCCB president about whom there are now serious cover-up allegations: who made him a bishop and gave him a cardinal’s hat?

    Oh, wait, I remember now: it was Saint John Paul the Great who made Bransfield a bishop. Saint John Paul the Great also made DiNardo a bishop, and Benedict XVI gave him a cardinal’s hat. Wuerl and Burke consecrated DiNardo when he was made bishop.

    Saint John Paul the Great made Wuerl a bishop and Benedict XVI made him a cardinal. Saint John Paul the Great made Burke a bishop and Benedict XVI made him a cardinal.

    This reckoning of leadership has been long expected because the roots of the current crisis in leadership in the Catholic church in the U.S. run deep — into the last two papacies. Francis has inherited quite a … mess … from his predecessors, hasn’t he?

  • Reading a book now on the catholic churches enormous power all over the world. They gained their power mostly by buying up property, and by bullying govts to bend to their will.

    We have an embassy in the vatican and they have one here. They could claim their priests have diplomatic immunity, refuse to show their records to our courts, and be completely in their rights, because they are a sovereign nation.

    Torches and pitchforks is the only way, I say.

  • Your friends made a big deal of the Philadelphia report that the fact that most most of the victims were teenaged boys and older, that the abusers had to be gay men. But in this German report, the majority of the victims are prepubescent boys, so their abusers aren’t necessarily gay men. Most pedophiles are heterosexual males who have both male & female victims, so perhaps most of these perps were straight priests.

  • I wonder if the ‘reckoning’ has been delayed this long, because McCarrick’s money was so important to some people in Rome?
    What, if any, was the link between (a) the US Church’s financial support for the Vatican (and for specific people there), and (b) the Vatican seemingly having tolerated certain abusing bishops in the US Church for so long?
    The NYT report mentions that Bishop Bransfield “worked closely with Cardinal McCarrick at the Papal Foundation, which raises millions of dollars for Vatican projects.” McCarrick co-founded that Foundation.
    Also, a recent CNA report mentions that, in addition to the more formal fund-raising, McCarrick was in the habit when visiting Rome of handing out envelopes stuffed with cash, to Cardinals and others in the Curia. This is the same modus operandi that Marcial Maciel used, I recall. Was McCarrick doing this, even after Maciel had been exposed and disgraced?
    Quite a mess indeed.

  • My friends?

    Who might they be?

    I have never made a big deal out of the John Jay report.

    I simply point out that 80% of the acts described in that report, and this German report, are male-on-male.

    In other words, these were homosexual acts.

    My emphasis has been on the obvious violations of Canon Law in ordaining them, on not getting them out of the clergy when apprehended, and on not reporting them to the civil authorities.

  • This really is not about “what pope or popes created this crisis in the leadership of the U.S. Catholic church by appoin(t)ing these men to episcopal sees or making them cardinals.”

    What it is about is the reaping of the harvest of dissent, defiance, disobedience, and perfidy, the seamless garment of Judas Iscariot.

    There has been a contingent – supposedly in the Church – undermining it, defying it, mocking it, and falsifying it. They have claimed to be “Catholic” while at the same time preaching and working against it.

    For a good example consider Rembert Weakland, once the darling of the dissenters, who left in disgrace an archdiocese with essentially no young Catholics and almost no faithful Catholic priests.

    The focus has primarily been on the Church’s teachings on the sexes, their relationship to each other and to the creative role of the deity, commencing with Humanae Vitae but quickly spreading to fornication and to sodomy.

    http://bilgrimage.blogspot.com/2018/09/the-why-im-leaving-and-why-im-staying.html

    http://www.aggiornamento.net/2018/09/12/lgbtq-catholics-a-modest-proposal/

    Ultimately this led to a cult of defiance in which EVERY belief was up for grabs.

    http://www.ncronline.org

    It is impossible to logically attack a bishop for violating Canon Law and not booting an abuser while at the same time demanding to be treated with “mercy” for engaging in sodomy.

    It is impossible to logically demand that bishops get tough on perversion A while at the same demanding that the Church endorse perversion B.

    The teachings, the authority, and the discipline are of a piece.

    Having pulled their particular threads out of the fabric over the last sixty years, the lamenting that other parts of the garment are unraveling because other people with other interests pulled their particular threads out elsewhere in the garment is unseemly. What in the world did anyone of right mind expect?

    Don’t blame this Pope, or that bishop – blame yourself.

    And you won’t be part of the solution.

    The folks who attended church, and raised their children, and raised them in the Church, and had children, and grandchildren, and support their parish – they are the solution.

  • Whatever “the solution” may be, it is certainly not you ‘Bob’.
    All your comments show that you are as far from Christianity as it is possible to be.

  • The priesthood and the altar are homosocial environments. Just like prisons. Do you think all the homosexual acts committed in prisons are by gay men? Or could many of those acts be acts of the powerful over the weaker using sex as the tool?

  • I think there’s a lot of mutual blackmail going on as well. The kind of blackmail that runs a long the lines of I’ll keep your secrets if you keep mine.

  • Maybe Bob is just showing us how far from Christianity his version of catholicism is. When you make an idol of religious dogma you don’t have time to contemplate God.

  • Gosh, you really don’t get to church very often, do you?

    In most places in the USA the altar is at least half girls and has been for some time.

    The Altar Guilds are usually women.

    There’s a ton of women in the parish school.

    The parishes are simply crawling with females of all shapes, sizes, ages, and predilections.

    The question was NOT whether “all the homosexual acts committed in prisons are by gay men”, first because a parish is most assuredly NOT a prison, and second because no one brought up the question of motivation or orientation.

    What was mentioned is that 80+% of the were male-on-male, which meets the definition of homosexual acts.

    As I understand all acts of adults on minors are acts of the powerful over the weaker.

    That also is not the question.

    I wrote “’most were boys’, priests are male”.

  • There were no altar girls during the height of the crisis. Gosh you really do try to avoid really dealing with points from commenters you feel you can easily dismiss. The priesthood is a homosocial environment. Homosocial environments are known to produce male on male sexual acts, usually in context of abuse, but not always. You may not like having to consider my point, but that hardly invalidates it.

  • There have been altar girls for 25 years.

    When do you think the “height of the crisis” was?

    Do you think the priests hung around the altar day and played strip pinochle with the altar boys?

    The priesthood is a male environment.

    Thank for your speculations, but 80+% speaks for itself.

  • Your comments show that you haven’t even read the report commissioned by the German bishops.
    The report covers the period 1946 to 2014.
    There is no “80+%” in the overall findings.
    And, in any event, ‘male on male’ is not evidence for homosexuality. It is evidence that power relationships have been abused (most victims being under age 13); and that some offenders were immature in their own personal development, and poorly trained and managed by the Church.

  • OK, then what I am pointing out is that in the German report, since a majority of the victims are pre-pubescent boys, and as you point out they are “homosexual acts” that they are not necessarily gay men committing them. I say that because I believe the evidence that the majority of pedophiles are men who identify as heterosexual and often have adult heterosexual relationships.

  • “I say that because I believe the evidence that the majority of pedophiles are men who identify as heterosexual and often have adult heterosexual relationships.” is spin.

    The monicadeangelis poster was spinning that one and misquoting the John Jay report.

  • That appears to have been what was going on in Milwaukee under Rembert Weakland.

    His frolics with his boy toy were so well known that priests could get away with nearly anything.

    In fact Weakland was observed destroying non-confidential files on abusers and this came out in the lawsuits there.

  • Christ did NOT say:

    “Roll in the hay, the Kingdom has arrived!” or “Smoke if ya got’em!”.

    It isn’t mere “religious dogma” to observe “all that I have commanded”.

    What it shows is just how far from Catholicism

    http://bilgrimage.blogspot.com/2018/09/the-why-im-leaving-and-why-im-staying.html

    is and those who imbibe at that well have drifted.

    A steady diet of

    https://www.ncronline.org/

    for 40, 50, or 60 years will do that.

    That is not where the solution is going to come from.

  • Hey DonnyBoy, this Bob Arnzen he is great mouthpiece and boy toy for you yes. Does good work with mouth and keyboard. Even helps you get off hook for no support of Poorco Rico. We bring him to Moscow do more “internet research” for team Russiamerica yes?
    -Vlad

    Pootie Baby, I have problems now with my Team Swamp. Paul turned and Bobby is last of remaining members who service members. Maybe better have him in Moscow before he turn tail too.
    Luv Ya,
    DT

  • It’s not. Ask just about any police jurisdiction who the pedophiles are.

    That they aren’t heterosexual men is the spin.

  • If you think Weakland is somehow the poster child for this you need to take off your filters. He’s a small fish in that scheme of things. You could start with Cardinals Spellman, and Cushing, in the US, and Groer, and Sodano in Europe. And then there was dear old Bernie Law and his whole line of succession, which includes Rigali and Burke. But you just keep on chewing on the Weakland thing.

  • I assume that you’re referencing the John Jay Report.

    The report also seems to conclude that the permissive society of the 1960s was to blame for the rise in sexual offenses.

    Do you also find that credible?

  • Poster child ≠ ring leader, although Weakland is reported to have been part of the homosexual clique.

    Did Spellman, Cushing, Law, Rigali, or Burke undercut the Church’s moral teachings in their jurisdictions?

    Did Spellman, Cushing, Law, Rigali, or Burke have a boy toy and pay him $400k+ to keep his mouth shut?

    Did Spellman, Cushing, Law, Rigali, or Burke leave their respective jurisdictions with empty seminaries, few young Catholics, and outright defiant clergy?

    Weakland did all of these things and more, but you just keep chewing on Spellman, Cushing, Law, Rigali, and Burke.

  • To add: Transparency involves coming clean, naming names, putting some priests in prison where they belong, apologizing face to face with victims, and compensating them for their suffering and mental anguish. You help the victims by making the perpetrators accountable for their unforgivable criminal aggressions against the most innocent among us.

  • Sometime I would love to hear an explanation of how someone can:

    – give the Church’s entire body of teaching on the sexes and the proper use of the sexual faculty the one-finger salute

    – reject the notion of an infallible Magisterium

    – claim primacy of conscience on all things visible and invisible

    – routinely consider the Church’s disciplines as poofery

    – mock the Church and its leadership

    and then have the chutzpah to critique one or or more bishops for failing to observe Canon Law.

    Let’s consider this from a bishop’s position. First he considers

    “Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.’” – Matthew 18:21-22

    Then he listens to mind mavens – both psychiatrists and psychologists – purporting to be able to diagnose, treat, and return an abuser “cured”.

    And he falls for it.

    I will give him more slack by far than someone who would write:

    “Clerical sexual abuse is not an orientation problem, it is a power problem. I would take this analysis one step further. It is most definitely a problem of lots of ‘beta’ males being given a status through ordination, that made them ‘alpha’ males without the maturity or personality development to handle that sudden elevation. They were used to abuse and they seemed to understand that their sudden access to power should be exercised by abusing others. The sexual abuse crisis is just a distilled aspect of the larger issue of clerical abuse. Pope Francis is right to go after clericalism as the root cause of what is the cancer killing Catholicism. Unfortunately the cells supporting that cancerous tumor are loud and wealthy…..which says what about their own cancerous orientation.”

    https://disqus.com/home/discussion/bilgrimage/bilgrimage_joelle_casteixs_clear_informed_response_to_vigano_crowd_feeds_old_stereotypes_silences_vi/#comment-4096266356

    The “root cause” is a disobedient defiant “I know all the answers” “don’t tell ME what to do” attitude which has damaged the foundation of doing the right thing despite the fact it is difficult.

  • Why yes, lets turn to one of the most biased anti-LGBTQ organizations to provide us with “proof.” They always prove what they set out to prove. Uncanny how that is.

  • I presented some evidence.

    You presented nothing.

    The organization in question provides citations.

    You provide nothing.

  • It would seem likely that data opposing your views would lead to the epithet “most biased anti-LGBTQ organizations”.

    I assume that, like Ben, you’d put the Catholic Church and the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints in the same category.

    Nothing surprising there and nothing worth responding to beyond noting it.

  • Funny, the organization you’re kvetching about and the Catholic Church and the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints are all on the same page on the issues being discussed.

  • I haven’t been kvetching about anything. I explained something about the German report and have only been responding to you since that comment.

ADVERTISEMENTs