The head of the Catholic Church in West Virginia resigned this week. The pope announced the acceptance of his resignation Thursday while also announcing an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment.
The Bishop of the Wheeling-Charleston Catholic diocese, Michael Bransfield, turned 75 last weekend, and as per Catholic canon law, he submitted a letter of resignation to the pope in Rome. The resignation was officially accepted yesterday morning along with an announcement that the bishop is under investigation because of allegations of sexual harassment lodged against him.
Communications director for the diocese Tim Bishop says work the Catholic Church does supporting communities throughout the state will continue, but that Bransfield is no longer living in the region.
“Bishop Bransfield has been instructed to live outside the diocese,” Bishop explained, “pending the completion of the investigation.”
The pope named the archbishop of Baltimore William Lori temporary apostolic administrator of the diocese, and instructed him to investigate claims. Lori arrived in Wheeling this week to begin his investigation. The Vatican has instructed Lori to make his investigation public.
Lori has also set up a hotline for potential victims: 1-833-272-4225.
This is not the first time Bransfield dealt with allegations of sexual misconduct. He was investigated in 2007 for alleged groping. In 2012, he was implicated in a Philadelphia sex abuse case. He’s denied all allegations.
Bransfield has been bishop in West Virginia since 2009.