Bishop Michael Bransfield Biography
An investigation into former Roman Catholic Bishop Michael Bransfield in West Virginia found he misused church funds, spending $2.4million on personal travel – including charter jets and luxury hotels – $4.6million on renovations for his church properties, and $1,000 per month on liquor for himself and subordinates.
A report obtained by the Washington Post Wednesday claimed abuse of booze, oxycodone, and other prescription drugs ‘likely contributed to his harassing and abusive behavior’ during his 13 years as Wheeling-Charleston Diocese bishop.
Update on a story we have been following all day. Archbishop Lori reacting to a report that his name and those of other high ranking clerics were redacted from a report on former West Virginia Bishop Michael Bransfield. Lori took $7500 in gifts from Bransfield https://t.co/wAUNDWxfNq
— Robert Lang WBAL (@Reporterroblang) June 6, 2019
It’s also claimed Bransfield, 75, used $182,000 to have fresh flowers delivered to his chancery office daily.
It’s not clear what all of the $350,000 in gifting was for but Bransfield was paid more money to cover gifting which he was later reimbursed for, plus additional funds to cover the tax burden that would come with it.
The Church Says Bransfield Likely Didn’t Molest Minors but Had a Pattern of Harassing Adults Under His Authority
According to an internal church report obtained by the Washington Post, Bransfield has a “pattern” of harassing adults under his authority. The report said, in part,
“Regarding allegations of sexual harassment of adults by Bishop Bransfield, the investigative team determined that the accounts of those who accused Bishop Bransfield of sexual harassment are credible. The team uncovered a consistent pattern of sexual innuendo, and overt suggestive comments and actions toward those over whom the former bishop exercised authority.”
— Crux (@Crux) June 6, 2019
Bransfield has been repeatedly investigated for charges of sexual harassment. He was investigated in 2007 for an alleged groping incident. Then in 2012, his name came up in court testimony as part of a priest sex abuse case in Philadelphia. He denied the claims and continued in his position as the top bishop in West Virginia until he turned 75, the age when bishops are required to retire.
Bransfield Spent $2.4 Million on Travel & Shelled Out $1,000 a Month for Alcohol, a Report Says
According to an internal report conducted by bishops in the Catholic church, Bransfield spent millions of dollars on travel and luxuries. The report paints a picture of a luxurious lifestyle which, bishops say, was not in keeping with the values he should have been representing. “Bishop Bransfield adopted an extravagant and lavish lifestyle that was in stark contrast to the faithful he served and was for his own personal benefit,” the bishops wrote in the final report.
Baltimore Archbishop William Lori responding to why his name and those of other high ranking clerics were redacted from a report on former West Virginia Bishop Michael Bransfield. Lori says yesterday he returned a $7500.00 financial gift he received. pic.twitter.com/dcvjN2pr9D
— Barry Simms (@BarrySimmsWBAL) June 6, 2019
Bransfield spent $2.4 million in church money on travel, including chartered jets and luxury hotels; $1,000 a month on alcohol; $4.6 million on renovating a church; and $182,000 on flowers delivered daily to his office, the report said.
A Lawsuit Charges that Bransfield Sexually Assaulted Seminarians & Was a ‘Sexual Predator’
In March 2019, a former seminarian filed a lawsuit against Bransfield. The suit charged that Bransfield had harassed the seminarian for years before sexually assaulting him.
The plaintiff, who identifies himself only as “J.E.,” says he served as the bishop’s altar server and personal secretary. He said Bransfield came home drunk one night in 2014 and groped J.E. He says the bishop also exposed himself.
3/3 In the @OntheRecordWYPR interview, Lori did discuss new systems for holding bishops accountable, but they were not in place when the church’s investigation of the fmr. bishop (Michael Bransfield), which Lori led, began last fall. Hear the interview: https://t.co/Kh3poH8NrG
— WYPR (@WYPR881FM) June 6, 2019
J.E. said that he wasn’t the only seminarian the bishop harassed. He said Bransfield often got drunk on orange liqueur and made advances on the seminarians.
Bransfield Was Born in 1943 in Philadelphia & Was Appointed Bishop of West Virginia in 2004
Bishop Michael Bransfield was born on September 8, 1943 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was ordained a priest in Philadelphia in 1971. In 2004, Bransfield was appointed bishop of Wheeling-Charleston in 2004.
Bransfield Says People Are Trying to Destroy His Reputation
Bransfield has consistently denied all the accusations of sexual harassment against him, claiming them to be “completely false.” He has said that the allegations are part of a conspiracy to destroy his reputation.
“Everybody’s out to destroy my reputation,” Bransfield told the Washington Post, after the newspaper obtained an internal report setting out the latest allegations against him. He did not explain who he believed was trying to destroy his reputation
Fast Facts You Need to Know
- Bishop Michael Bransfield misused church funds for fine dining, liquor, gifts, personal travel and luxury items, according to the report
- Bransfield also made expensive renovations to his private residences
- Church members accused of misconduct were gifted as were those being promoted in the church, and Bransfield’s family members
- Church allegedly used ‘grossing up’ method for tax relief via gifting money
- Former Archbishop of Baltimore took over when Bransfield resigned September after 13 years, and alleged Bransfield abused oxycodone and other drugs
- Wheeling-Charleston Diocese Archbishop released a report calling sexual harassment accusations against ex-Bishop Michael Bransfield credible
- There’s no conclusive evidence for sexual misconduct involving minors
- Bransfield says back problems mean he can’t travel economy and denied claims
Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore released additional details June 5 about the investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct and financial improprieties against Bishop Michael Bransfield. https://t.co/uPYCxOeke1
— NCR (@NCRonline) June 6, 2019