Could Archbishop Gómez lead the US bishops out of the doldrums?

Catholic Herald

June 20, 2019

By Michael Warren Davis

From 2004 until his retirement last year, Michael J Bransfield served as Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston. It’s the perfect posting for a prelate who wants all the perks of the office without the distractions of being a pastor. The diocese in poverty-stricken West Virginia allegedly brings in $15 million from oil fields it owns in Texas, which goes to serve just 100,000 Catholics. Bransfield allegedly spent $1,000 on alcohol a month and $100 on fresh flowers every day – paid for, of course, from the diocesan treasury. Several younger priests have also reported him for sexual harassment. (He denies the allegations.)

The Bransfield disclosures came just before the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) convened in Baltimore for its spring plenary session, which continued to address the sex abuse crisis. From the bishops’ perspective, this is also a crisis of trust. Survey after survey shows that American Catholics’ confidence in their leaders has plummeted since the McCarrick revelations last year. And yet, with these new accusations of Bransfield, hopes of restoring trust may already have been dashed.

Reporters from the Washington Post also discovered that Bransfield gave substantial gifts to other clergy. Far from denying the Post’s claim, a few of the bishops promised to return the gifts. It also seems that Bransfield gave more than $1,000 to his cousin Mgr Brian Bransfield, the USCCB’s general secretary.

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