BALTIMORE – Several bishops and other Church leaders have said they will return money given to them by retired West Virginia Bishop Michael Bransfield, who is accused of serially sexually harassing or coercing seminarians and young priests, while misusing diocesan funds on a lavish lifestyle and five-figure “gifts” to Churchmen in leadership positions.
The Washington Post reported June 7 that Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, will return $29,000 to the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, after that amount was given to him by Bransfield.
Archbishop William Lori, apostolic administrator of Wheeling-Charleston and the bishop charged with overseeing an investigation into Bransfield, will return to the diocese $7,500 given to him by Bransfield.
Lori has faced criticism after removing from a draft report to the Vatican the names of those bishops who received large checks from Bransfield.
On Friday, Lori said that he should have left the names on the report, but removed them because he thought their inclusion would be a distraction, or imply that those who had received checks had been influenced by them.
“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, with some notation that there was no evidence to suggest that those who received gifts reciprocated in any way that was inappropriate,” Lori said.