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BIO

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Investigative Report Recommendations

     The overriding theme revealed in our investigation is that Bransfield used the considerable and significant power bestowed upon him as Bishop to intimidate ad sexually harass numerous young seminarians and priests. It is clear that Bransfield was readily willing to pursue these victims in increasingly sexual interactions as far as they would allow, in most instances, the victims were abel to reject the Bishop's advances after repeated efforts on his part, but in other cases, the sexual harassment and interaction was more advanced. 

     Bransfield used the funds of the Diocese and related entities as if they were his own, ignoring any review by the Finance Council or Boards in order to advance his own projects and using Diocese funds to pay for extravagant personal expenses that included gifts and expensive personal trips.

Recommendations:

MICHAEL BRANSFIELD

Suspension 

Counseling

DIOCESE OF WHEELING-CHARELSTON

Restitution

Bransfield's sexually harassing and intimidating behavior constitute an abuse of power in which he was entrusted, and which caused significant emotional harm to many. Accordingly he should be prohibited in acting in any ministry duties including, at a minimum, performing mass of participating in religious services; attendance at church related meetings; and participating on any church related boards, nor should he be permitted to use the title "Bishop" in any public or private settings.

Bransfield should be required to pay restitution to the church for his excessive personal spending, in an amount commensurate with his income and assets.

Counseling should be offered to the victims of Bransfield's sexual harassment and verbal abuse, including all priests and lay personnel at the Chancery who interacted with him, with mental resources of their choosing, and a permanent program should be developed and advertised to seminarians and priests that such services are available.

Reporting and Accountability

The Diocese should implement a system for reporting allegations of inappropriate behavior and financial improprieties by a bishop to independent third parties and ensure that victims of abuse are not subject to retaliation.

The Diocese should replace the three Chancery Monsignors (the Vicar General, the Judicial Vicar and the Vicar for Clergy) and where permitted should institute governance policies for all Diocese-related entities. By failing to take any action the Chancery Monsignors enabled the predatory and harassing conduct of Bishop Bransfield and allowed him to recklessly spend Diocesan funds for his own personal use. Further, independent and  qualified lay and clergy board members should be selected to serve appropriate advisory roles in connection with actions taken by Diocese-related entities and should receive support for their proper functions. Further, all board members should be reviewed for their competency to serve in the role for which they are assigned, and a competency screening process should be instituted for all nominated board members. Statutes should be implemented consistent with the USCCB Diocesan Financial Guide to Best Practices for the operation of the Diocese's Financial Council. Finally with regard to the Bishops's Fund a committee should be appointed to review its appropriateness for distributing funds to the Diocese.

By failing to take any action, the Chancery Monsignors enabled the predatory and harassing conduct of Bishop Bransfield and allowed him to spend Diocesan funds for his own personal use. They failed to perform their duties as Board members, which required them to review the Bishop's financial decisions. Further, they helped to create a toxic atmosphere in the Chancery by allowing of the Bishop's decisions to go unchallenged, leaving the impression that no one could question what the Bishop wanted at any given time.

A complete change of leadership is necessary to begin restoring trust throughout the Diocese and to help the new Bishop heal a community that must reckon with the betrayals and transgressions of its spiritual leader. The Vicar General, the Judicial Vicar and the Vicar for Clergy should be relived of their positions in the Chancery as well as their current Board duties within the DWC (the Diocesan Financial Council, The West Virginia Catholic Foundation, The Priests Health and Retirement Association, and Sacred Heart Riverview Terrace) as well as related entities (Wheeling Hospital, Wheeling Jesuit University, Welty Trust and the DRE).

Replace Vicars

Replace
External auditing firm

NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL CHURCH LEADERSHIP

Training
Psychological testing for
prospective Bishops

A program of training on awareness of the issue of adult sexual harassment should into the curriculum for seminarians and continuing education and training should be provided for all clerics to ensure that they understand the issues of sexual harassment, feel empowered to report it should they or others experience victimization, and take steps to prevent it.

Prospective bishop candidates should be required to undergo psychological testing to determine whether they are susceptible to sexual harassment or other abuses of power. 

Replace the current auditing firm. As with the Chancery staff the Diocese outside auditing firm which had been used by the Diocese since before 2005, deferred to the Bishop with regard to financial decision, thereby compromising its independence.

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