Newspaper publishes secret report on former W.Va. bishop
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A newspaper has published a secret church report about a former West Virginia bishop ousted for alleged sexual and financial misconduct that details how he allegedly groomed and inappropriately touched young men.
The Washington Post reports law enforcement does not have a copy of the report, which officials said could aid in their investigation into former bishop Michael Bransfield.
The Post said it received a copy of the 60-page report in June and has previously reported its contents. Bransfield is also accused of spending church funds on dining out, liquor, personal travel and luxury items, as well as personal gifts to fellow bishops and cardinals in the U.S. and Vatican.
Bransfield resigned in September 2018 amid allegations of sexual and financial misconduct. Earlier this year, Pope Francis barred Bransfield from public ministry and prohibited him from living in the diocese.
West Virginia’s attorney general and police in Washington, D.C., have issued subpoenas to church officials in Wheeling, West Virginia, and Baltimore, seeking the report. Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said the church has denied his request for it. He said he was told the report “is with the Pope and out of its hands.”
The report published by The Post said “no conclusive evidence was found that Bishop Bransfield committed sexual misconduct with minors.” But it said Bransfield “subjected multiple seminarians and priests to unwanted sexual overtures, sexual harassment and sexual contact.”
The newspaper does not specify how it obtained the report. A copy was published on its website this week.
Church officials in West Virginia have also said they don’t have a copy of the report.
“The Holy See commissioned the preliminary investigation, thus the report belongs to the Holy See,” Tim Bishop, a spokesman for the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, said in a statement to The Post.
Bransfield has denied wrongdoing. He had been investigated for an alleged groping incident in 2007 and was implicated in court testimony in 2012 in an infamous Philadelphia priestly sex abuse case. He strongly denied ever abusing anyone and the diocese said it had disproved the claims.