UPDATE: Former bishop disciplined after preliminary sexual harassment investigation
The former bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston has been disciplined after a preliminary investigation into alleged sexual harassment.
According to the Diocese, a preliminary investigation of Michael Bransfield's actions was completed after 5 months of interviews with over 40 individuals. Due to the request of those interviewed, the diocese is not releasing information about the allegations.
Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, who was appointed by Pope Francia as Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston after Bransfield resigned last year, has directed that Bransfield not be allowed to "exercise any priestly or episcopal ministry within the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston" pending the assessment of the Holy See.
Lori says he has also directed the diocese to use a third-party reporting system.
“I have further directed the Diocese to implement a third-party reporting system for any sexual or financial impropriety on the part of its bishop, clergy, religious and lay employees and volunteers," Lori said.
Officials say the diocese is providing counseling to those who have been harmed. Those individuals are urged to call the Safe Environment Office at (833) 230-5656.
“I apologize to any who have suffered harm and express my gratitude to the five men and women who conducted the investigation, as well as to those who participated in this difficult process,” Lori said. “It is my privilege to serve the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston as the journey toward healing begins anew and as we anticipate the appointment of a new bishop.”
Following the resignation of Bishop Michael Bransfield from the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, Pope Francis has appointed Archbishop William Lori Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese.
The Pope also instructed Archbishop Lori to conduct an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment of adults against Bishop Bransfield.
“My primary concern is for the care and support of the priests and people of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston at this difficult time,” Archbishop Lori said in a press release. “I further pledge to conduct a thorough investigation in search of the truth into the troubling allegations against Bishop Bransfield and to work closely with the clergy, religious and lay leaders of the diocese until the appointment of a new bishop."
Archbishop Lori will meet with clergy and lay leaders of the Diocese Thursday and Friday. He will celebrate Mass in Wheeling on Saturday at the Cathedral of St. Joseph.
A hotline has been established for those wishing to share any information related to this investigation. The hotline number is 1-833-272-4225.