Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore has released a letter to the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston addressing the findings of a preliminary investigation into the former head of the diocese, Bishop Michael Bransfield.
In the June 5 letter, the archbishop states that accusations of sexual and financial misconduct by Bransfield had been determined to be “credible” by an independent investigation. Investigators discovered that Bransfield had managed to erode and evade oversight and policy controls by fostering “a culture of fear of retaliation and retribution” in the diocese.
“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,” Lori wrote in the letter, addressed to the clergy and faithful of the diocese.
Lori was named apostolic administrator of the diocese in September 2018 by Pope Francis, following a series of allegations made against Bransfield including sexual and financial misconduct.
Bransfield’s resignation was accepted by Pope Francis last September, eight days after he turned 75, the age at which diocesan bishops are required by canon law to submit a letter of resignation to the pope. Lori subsequently barred him from public ministry in both Wheeling-Charleston and Baltimore.
Lori said he was writing the letter to share the conclusions of a five-month preliminary investigation into the former diocesan bishop which concluded in March and had been transmitted to Rome.
“In the spirit of transparency and based on my many conversations during various visits to the diocese these past months, it is clear to me that more must be said about the report’s findings and about the steps being taken to address them,” Lori wrote.
Lori said that while there was no “conclusive evidence” of sexual misconduct with minors, the investigation – led by five lay experts – had found indications of consistent sexual misconduct and harassment by Bransfield against adults.
“The team uncovered a consistent pattern of sexual innuendo, and overt suggestive comments and actions toward those over whom the former bishop exercised authority,” Lori said.
Read more at Catholic News Agency.