Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston Announces “Amends Plan” for Ex-Bishop Michael Bransfield
The disgraced former bishop of a West Virginia diocese has been subjected to an “amends plan” as determined by the Congregation for Bishops in Rome following scandals related to financial impropriety and sexual abuse.
It is all well and good that former Bishop Michael Bransfield has issued an apology, but a three-paragraph letter cannot absolve the man of the crimes committed, especially when that letter is written more as a defense than a true apology. A true apology from Bransfield would not contain any equivocation or whines about his intent being mis-perceived, but a simple and straightforward acceptance of his wrongdoing. That is not what parishioners in West Virginia received from Bransfield.
We are glad that Bransfield is being made to return the money he stole from parishioners to fund his lavish lifestyle, but this financial impropriety is the lesser of his alleged crimes. Ultimately, Bransfield has been accused of both sexually harassing seminarians and abusing young children. These are not things that can simply be waved away with an apology and we would prefer that Bransfield make his amends through the criminal justice system, not a typewritten letter.
We hope that police and prosecutors in West Virginia are continuing to pursue the complaints against Bransfield. True change will come when powerful men are held accountable for abusing their power, and we do not believe that the amends plan laid out by the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston is close to real accountability.
(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)