Auxiliary Bishop in Philadelphia Accepted Cash Gifts from Bishop Under Investigation for Abuse
Philadelphia's top Catholic official should suspend one of his auxiliary bishops, based on a new investigative report by the Washington Post, that shows the prelate had accepted cash gifts from a now-disgraced bishop who has been accused of abuse.
From February 2009 through last year, then-Monsignor Timothy C. Senior (promoted to bishop in later in 2009) accepted $3,750 from former Bishop Michael Bransfield. For years, Senior was responsible for helping to assess sexual abuse claims against clerics in Philadelphia under Archbishop Charles Chaput, who still heads the archdiocese.
Notably, Bransfield is accused of sexually abuse in both Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Did Senior handle the first known abuse report against Bransfield? Despite repeated pledges to be "open" about abuse and cover up cases, church officials in Philadelphia refused to say. We hope that parishioners and the public will demand answers from their prelates.
In addition, Bransfield
- once taught Senior in high school,
- “was very friendly with (Senior),” and is "a very close friend" of his,
- said the cash gifts had no connection to the claim against him.
All of these facts create, at a bare minimum, the appearance of conflict of interest. It also casts serious doubts about how Senior handled perhaps dozens of abuse reports. And regardless of how those cases were handled, this conflict of interest creates a cloud that will likely deter others from reporting abusers to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
The Post reports "Bransfield cultivated seminarians and young priests and subjected them to unwanted attention, including sexual remarks and intimate touching, according to the confidential investigative report. In some cases, he groped or kissed them, (a church investigation) said. He also allegedly exposed himself and made sexually charged remarks about their bodies."
"At the same time, Bransfield drew on diocese funds "to send cash gifts to influential clerics who had sway over his career. They included tens of thousands of dollars sent to the nuncios in Washington and more than a dozen cardinals in the United States and at the Vatican, some of them aides to the pope."
Given all of this information, we call on Archbishop Chaput to suspend Senior until there's more clarity about Senior's dealings with abuse reports. This must happen now if children and the vulnerable in Philadelphia are to be properly protected.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)