F Rosa Rubicondior: Catholic Abuse News - Another Bishop Resigns

Monday 17 September 2018

Catholic Abuse News - Another Bishop Resigns

Bishop Michael J. Bransfield, under investigation
Pope accepts resignation of US bishop accused of sexual harassment | CatholicHerald.co.uk

Only hours after announcing an investigation into 'financial irregularities' (i.e fraud, embezzlement and money-laundering) in the running of the Sistine Chapel Choir, Pope Francis had to accept the resignation of yet another bishop involved in a sexual abuse scandal.

This time, as the self-inflicted implosion in the American Catholic Church gathers pace, the bishop to offer his resignation is Bishop Michael Bransfield of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia. In a slightly unusual and somewhat refreshing variation on the usual sexual abuse and coverup scandal, Bishop Bransfield's victims were adults whom he allegedly sexually harassed.

According to the Catholic Herald Papal nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, announced Bishop Bransfield’s 'retirement' on September 13 and the appointment of Archbishop Lori as apostolic administrator of Wheeling-Charleston. Archbishop Lori is currently archbishop of Baltimore and has been personally charged by Pope Francis to investigate allegations against Bishop Bransfield.

Archbishop Lori has declared:

My primary concern is for the care and support of the priests and people of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston at this difficult time. I further pledge to conduct a thorough investigation in search of the truth into the troubling allegations against Bishop Bransfield and to work closely with the clergy, religious and lay leaders of the diocese until the appointment of a new bishop.

Bishop Bransfield, a native of Philadelphia, was formerly rector of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. Coincidentally no doubt, he has just reached the age of 75, the age at which bishops are required by cannon law to tender their resignation.

Although the current batch of allegations against Bransfield concern his sexual harassment of adults, he was accused in 2012 of having sex with a minor by an anonymous witness in an unrelated sex abuse trial - an accusation that he vigorously denied and for which no action was taken.

It was also alleged that he knew of the sexual predation on minors of his 'personal friend', Father Stanley Gana who was convicted of sexual abuse of minors in 2012, some of the offenses having occurred in Bransfield's house.

It is not yet clear whether Archbishop Lori's investigation will include the 2012 allegations.

Meanwhile, the embattled Archbishop Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, whom the Vatican was rumoured to be trying to smuggle out of America to the Vatican, where he would be immune from prosecution, has announced that he will indeed soon be going to the Vatican to discuss his resignation with the Pope.

Wuerl is accused of knowing about and covering up the abuses of disgraced Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, who was stripped of his title earlier this year after details of decades of abuse of minors and young seminarians emerged. Like Bransfield, Wuerl formally offered the Pope his resignation when he turned 75 but the Pope has so far declined to accept it. It is not clear why Wuerl needs to discuss his resignation with Pope Francis in person unless some confidential bargaining for conditions is needed. It remains to be seen whether Wuerl will return to the USA where he risks arrest and trial or will remain safely in the Vatican to spend his days in an apartment where he can reflect on his sins.

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