Church must deal with ‘fear factor’ keeping bad bishops in power


Dec. 27, 2019

By Charles Collins

“Fear” is a word you see a lot in the 60-page report on Bishop Michael Bransfield, which was published on Monday by the Washington Post.

The report into the former bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, which encompasses the entire state of West Virginia, was commissioned by Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, who was tasked by the Vatican to investigate allegations of sexual and financial misconduct during the 13-year reign of Bransfield, who retired in 2018.

The Post had reported on the document previously, having been leaked a copy in June, but decided to publish the full report two days before Christmas.

The report is a tale of an often-intoxicated predator, freely spending the diocese’s money, with no check on his power.

This behavior, according to the report, even predated Bransfield’s time as a bishop, with reports of misbehavior going back to his time at Washington’s Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, where he spent most of his priestly career before his episcopal appointment.

Witnesses reported sexual comments, unwanted touching, and other harassment and abuse throughout Bransfield’s career, but no one said anything.

Why? Fear.

Priests and seminarians knew their careers were in the hands of the bishop; this is especially true of seminarians, who could easily be denied ordination if they reported Bransfield’s behavior.

Note: This is an Abuse Tracker excerpt. Click the title to view the full text of the original article. If the original article is no longer available, see our News Archive.