We touched briefly on the Bransfield affair last September. The bishop of Wheeling-Charleston WV turned 75, had his resignation swiftly accepted by Pope Francis, then found himself the subject of an investigation led by the Archbishop of our province, William Lori of Baltimore.
Turns out that Bishop Bransfield spent freely, drank heavily, and groped while in his cups.
How do we know this?
Your humble servant, as well as anyone else who spent any amount of time in the sacristy of the National Shrine during Msgr. Bransfield’s nineteen-year tenure there as rector, could have told you: that’s what the man is like.
Another person who could have told you that, at any point during the 1990’s: William Lori.
I daresay that everyone involved in putting Michael Bransfield’s name on the list of candidates for an episcopal see with a $200 million+ endowment (thanks to a nineteenth century heiress)–everyone knew perfectly well what their old friend Monsignor Bransfield was like.
Yesterday, Archbishop Lori, wrote to the people of our sister diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. His letter highlights some of the grievous shortcomings of Michael Bransfield’s free-spending, free-drinking “normal.”
Now, what moved Archbishop Lori to write to the Catholic people of West Virginia yesterday?
If you answered, Zeal for their souls! you missed an important simultaneous event. Someone on the team that had investigated Bransfield sent two copies of their secret report (completed in March, and heretofore unremarked-upon by Archbishop Lori) to a reporter for the Washington Post.
Someone on that investigative team had run out of patience with the feckless dithering of Archbishop Lori.
One copy of the report that the reporter got included a list. A list of prelates who had received large cash gifts from Bransfield over the years. The other copy did not include that list.
The first copy was the original report. The second was the modified version which Lori sent to the Vatican.
Lori’s name was on the list.
… We poor Catholic peons find ourselves passengers on the ecclesiastical-history version of United flight 93, my dear ones. Hold on and pray.