Catholic Groups Seek Apology From Brennan and Removal of His Enablers
By Alan Olson
Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register
September 12, 2020
A letter addressed to the Most Rev. Mark Brennan, bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, from two groups representing lay Catholics seeks further action taken in the wake of disgraced former bishop Michael Bransfield’s ignoble resignation.
The letter, which was sent Sept. 3 to Brennan, comes from Morgantown-based Lay Catholic Voices for Change, and ACT: A Church Together, which lists a Wheeling address, which represent lay, or non-clergy, members of the Roman Catholic Church.
“We speak for countless members of the Catholic Church in West Virginia when we say: ‘Our faith has not been destroyed but our trust in our church leaders has been devastated,'” the letter states.
The letter outlines several requests of Brennan and the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.
First, an apology from Brennan, on behalf of the diocese, is sought.
The letter states that while Brennan did not oversee Bransfield’s actions — which allegedly include a decades-long pattern of sexual harassment and abuse of men under his authority and wildly extravagant spending of church funds for the personal use of Brandfield and his friends — Brennan is now responsible for the actions and response of the diocese to his actions.
The letter cites embarrassment on the part of young Catholics to embrace their faith, due to Bransfield’s actions, the damage to the faith community due to his actions, and the decline of Wheeling University — formerly Wheeling Jesuit University — along with Mount de Chantal Academy, and Bishop Donahue High School, all of which suffered under Bransfield’s administration.
It also calls for the Revs. Frederick Annie, Kevin Quirk and Anthony Cincinnati to be removed from their posts throughout the diocese.
The three clerics were identified in an internal report as serving as Bransfield’s henchmen, recruiting young priests and seminarians to serve and suffer under Bransfield, dismissing reports and concerns about his abuses, and doing nothing while observing the man’s behavior.
The letter also calls for an inquiry into a potential pattern of child sexual abuse Bransfield may have undertaken. According to the internal investigation, Bransfield was allegedly described as acting in a predatory manner to altar servers at the Cathedral of St. Joseph. Quirk allegedly told investigators that he actively attempted to ensure Bransfield wasn’t left alone with the boys; despite this, the report indicates that no evidence existed to support the allegations, although there was “significant reason for concern that this occurred.”
Additionally, the group seeks for Brennan and the diocese to no longer refer to Bransfield as “bishop” or “bishop emeritus” in his retirement.
Finally, the letter calls for a plan to allow for the installation of independently-chosen lay representatives on all diocesan boards and committees, such as the finance council and board of consultors, and the establishment of a diocesan pastoral council consisting of lay members from across the diocese.
“We pray you will be moved to act in these simple yet powerful ways to rebuild the trust of the faithful. The need is urgent, and the time is now,” the letter concludes.
Diocese spokesman Tim Bishop declined to comment on the matter Friday.
Bransfield was sanctioned by the church last month and asked to make amends. Bransfield issued a four-paragraph letter to the congregation, in which he denied intent in making anyone feel harassed and denied that his spending was appropriate. Bransfield also paid back $441,000 to cover his personal expenses paid for by the diocese, which included jewelry, alcohol, first-class flights, personal gifts and renovations to three properties of his.