WHEELING, W.V. (ChurchMilitant.com) - Bishop Michael Bransfield, who resigned in disgrace last year, is being forced to pay nearly $800,000 to the diocese along with a significant drop in his monthly stipend and loss of his car.
In a press conference Tuesday afternoon given at the chancery office, Bp. Mark Brennan of the diocese of Wheeling-Charleston announced the amends required of the accused homosexual predator. They're in addition to the penalties already imposed by Pope Francis in July, which included the inability to offer public liturgies and Bransfield's banishment from the diocese, where he had already obtained a retirement home he will now be forced to leave.
The pope had asked that Brennan determine the amends Bransfield must make to the diocese.
"I was asked to work out with him that he make personal amends for some of the harm that he has caused and to do it in conjunction with me, the next bishop of this diocese," Brennan said, noting that after a month of communicating with Bransfield, "He really hasn't come up with a plan on his own, so I created one."
After ordering Bransfield to apologize to those he sexually harassed, including priests and seminarians; to apologize to "the Wheeling-Charleston faithful for the scandal his behavior has caused"; and to apologize "to diocesan staff for creating an environment of intimidation and retribution," Brennan announced that Bransfield must repay the diocese $792,638 "for the diocesan funds that we are determined were used for personal expenses not discernibly related to Church business."
In addition, Bransfield's monthly stipend will be cut down to $736 per month, the same amount "a priest serving 13 years in the diocese ... would get upon retirement," along with stripping him of all benefits. The diocese will continue to pay "a small Medicare supplemental insurance premium," but Bransfield will be responsible for "his pharmaceuticals and longterm health and disabilities policies."
Bransfield will also be forced to return the diocesan car, or "buy it at fair-market value."
"I really take no joy in doing this because ... he's still a brother in Christ, he's still a man who has served the Church," said Brennan, "but it's a duty."
Church Militant spoke with Tim Bishop, communications director for the diocese, to ask what repercussions Bransfield will suffer if he fails to pay back the $792,638.
"Bishop Brennan is confident that the amends process that he laid out earlier today is fair and just," Bishop told Church Militant, "and that the former bishop can undertake them in their entirety."
Asked whether the diocese believes Bransfield has the means to pay the full amount demanded by the amends, Bishop responded that Brennan believes "that the bishop would have no problem satisfying them in their entirety."
Church Militant asked whether the diocese would pursue criminal charges if Bransfield fails to pay the money, Bishop said, "That's yet to be determined."
Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò has called Bransfield a "perfect example" of the corrupt gay mafia running the Church.
"Bishop Bransfield is a perfect example of what I was referring to," Viganò wrote in remarks following his Washington Post interview, where he had referred to a "corrupt gay mafia" in charge of the Church. The papal nuncio-turned-whistleblower confirmed that Bransfield is part of a wider network of corrupt gay clergy in positions of power, connected to Theodore McCarrick, Cdl. Donald Wuerl and others.
A Vatican investigation earlier this year revealed millions of dollars misappropriated by Bransfield to spend on a lavish homosexual lifestyle, which also included alleged homosexual assault of priests and seminarians.
The investigation showed that Bransfield spent $100 a day on flowers, $1,000 a month on alcohol, employed a personal chef and chauffeur, and spent $2.4 million on first-class travel — all using diocesan funds.
He also spent $4.6 million on a renovation of his living quarters — all while bishop of one of the nation's poorest dioceses.
Bransfield also used diocesan funds to give $350,000 in gifts to priests and seminarians he harassed, as well as high-ranking bishops and cardinals. The diocese would reiumburse him the cost of the gifts through a method called "grossing up," in which the diocese would increase Bransfield's salary by the same amount he spent in gifts.
A recent Washington Post exposé reveals that Bransfield diverted some of those funds from Wheeling Hospital, where Bransfield was chairman of the board of trustees, funneling them through his own charity, the Bishop's Fund, and then writing checks from that fund to give as gifts to others.
Among his beneficiaries was Cdl. Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Vatican's Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, and current Camerlengo, who received a total of $29,000 to help furnish his Rome apartment.
"I fixed that room up for him," Bransfield told The Washington Post.
A total of $321,000 of Bishop's Fund money was sent by Bransfield out of West Virginia, in spite of the charity's purpose as being "to provide for the pastoral care of the diocese" and the "charitable care of the people of the diocese."
Tax filings and hospital audits show that a total of $21 million were funneled from Wheeling Hospital through the diocese or various non-profits, eventually to wind up in the Bishop's Fund, and a chunk of it ultimately landing in Bransfield's own bank account.
The Department of Justice has been conducting an ongoing investigation into Bransfield's spending "as part of a lawsuit that accuses the hospital of defrauding the federal government of millions of dollars by filing false claims for Medicare reimbursement."