WHEELING, W.Va. (AP) — Pope Francis has named Baltimore Auxiliary Bishop Mark Brennan to lead the Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia diocese following a scandal over the former bishop’s sexual harassment of adults and lavish spending of church money.
The 72-year-old Brennan replaces Bishop Michael Bransfield, who resigned in September after a preliminary investigation into allegations of sexual and financial misconduct. Last week, Francis barred Bransfield from public ministry and prohibited him from living in the diocese, while also warning that he will be forced to make amends “for some of the harm he caused.” Brennan will now help decide the extent of those reparations.
Coming on the heels of a new wave of sex abuse allegations in the U.S., the Bransfield scandal added to the credibility crisis in the U.S. hierarchy since several top churchmen received tens of thousands of dollars in church-funded personal gifts from Bransfield during his tenure in Wheeling-Charleston, which is located in one of the poorest U.S. states.
A press conference was planned in Wheeling later Tuesday following the Vatican’s announcement.
West Virginia’s Roman Catholic Diocese says it’s set to discuss its “future leadership,” 10 months after the resignation of Bishop Michael Bransfield.
The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston says a news conference is scheduled Tuesday at the diocese offices in Wheeling. A diocese statement did not indicate whether a new bishop would be announced.
Bransfield resigned in September. An investigation authorized by Pope Francis found accusations that Bransfield sexually harassed adults were credible. It also found Bransfield misused church funds, spending them on dining, liquor, gifts and personal travel and luxury items.
Last week the pontiff issued disciplinary action against Bransfield, saying he cannot live within the diocese or participate in any public celebration of the liturgy, and must make amends “for some of the harm he caused.”
Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore has overseen the West Virginia diocese since Bransfield’s departure.
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Source: Religion News Service