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Bishops to return ‘gifts’ from disgraced Bishop Bransfield

Bishop Bransfield (file photo)

Cardinal Kevin Farrell and Archbishop William Lori are among senior clergy who received gifts from the bishop

Several cardinals, bishops, and priests, have said they will return money given to them by Bishop Michael J. Bransfield, the former head of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, after an article published by the Washington Post reported lavish spending and gift-giving by the West Virginia bishop.

Cardinal Kevin Farrell, the Vatican Prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, will return $29,000 given to him by Bransfield for renovations of his Rome apartment, reported the Washington Post.

Archbishop William E. Lori, the Archbishop of Baltimore and Apostolic Administrator of Wheeling-Charleston tasked with investigating Bransfield, said he would return $7,500.

The former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, said he donated the $6,000 given to him shortly after he received the gifts from Bransfield.

Catholic News Agency reported that Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the former Archbishop of Washington, received $23,600 and is planning on returning the money to the diocese.

Several priests from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., where Bransfield previously served as rector, are also returning $10,800 given to them.

After removing the names, including his own, of those who had received gifts from Bransfield in a Vatican report, Lori has come under fire for his decision.

“If I had to do it over again, especially at a time when we’re trying to create greater transparency and accountability, the report would have included the names of those bishops who received gifts, including my own,” he said.

“Transparency also includes admitting when a mistake in judgment has been made and that is certainly the case here.”

Lori’s report comes after a months-long investigation into the former Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston after allegations of sexual misconduct with seminarians and young priests and excessive spending.

Bransfield has repeatedly denied claims of sexual misconduct and is reported to have spent nearly $182,000 in fresh flowers for the diocesan chancery, $4.6 million to renovate his residence, and $2.4 million in travel.

Lori wrote in a letter that “the accounts of those who accused Bishop Bransfield of sexual harassment are credible” and that the team of investigators “uncovered a consistent pattern of sexual innuendo, and overt suggestive comments and actions toward those over whom the former bishop exercised authority.”

“There is no excuse, nor adequate explanation, that will satisfy the troubling question of how his behavior was allowed to continue for as long as it did without the accountability that we must require of those who have been entrusted with so much – both spiritual and material – as bishops and pastors.”