Pope Lowers Toy Hammer On Bishop Bransfield

by Susan Matthews

The IHM nuns who taught me doled out tougher punishments for uniform violations than the sanctions Pope Francis just placed on Bishop Michael J. Bransfield.

According to Vatican news released today, the pope’s sanctions on the former bishop are in response to findings from a preliminary investigation into allegations of Bransfield’s sexual harassment of adults and financial improprieties. Archbishop William E. Lori of the Baltimore Archdiocese headed the internal investigation.

You might remember that Bransfield allegedly gave lavish financial “gifts” to successfully buy the silence of fellow bishops. So who would be better than a fellow bishop to conduct the internal investigation? Totally makes sense.

What were the findings? Those details didn’t make it into the “communique.” Windex, please. There’s still no transparency to laity. But the Vatican did share the details of these not-so scathing sanctions.

The former bishop is no longer allowed to live in the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, WV. He is prohibited from presiding or participating anywhere in any public celebration of Mass. And, the following is quoted from the letter issued today by the Apostolic Nunciature and posted on the WV Diocese’s website.

He has an obligation to make personal amends for some of the harm he caused; the nature and extent of the amends to be decided in consultation with the future bishop of the diocese.

In taking these concrete actions, the Holy See expresses its sincere concern for the clergy, religious and laity of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.”

The defrauded parishioners who donated to Sunday collections in West Virginia have zero chance of getting their money back. His adult victims can cool their heels, too. I’m not feeling the Holy See’s concern. Are you?

These “concrete actions” are more like blowing smoke. As we know from other removed priests, including those in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Bransfield can still score swanky digs, hang out on altars and collect his sizable pension. How long does it take to recover from a slap on the wrist. Seconds?

When my daughter was a toddler, she served longer sentences on a cute Time-Out Teddy chair. Seems Pope Francis found an adult-sized version for Bransfield. But the pope isn’t raising a fairly well-behaved child. Reforming immoral clergy will require meaningful consequences.

No one should forget the facts. Read previous blog posts on Bransfield and his co-conspirators:

Rigali Bypassed Review Board In Clearing Bransfield – 2012

Witness Links West Virginia’s Bishop Bransfield to Abuse – 2012

ON THE ROCKS: Cocktails at Bishops’ Conference Belies Church Suffering – 2019

The God Fathers: Time for RICO Investigation of U.S. Catholic Church – 2019

The Bishop Is Back in Town – 2019

Major Flaw In Pope’s Promising New Law

This week Pope Francis issued a mandatory reporter law requiring all Catholic diocesan priests and religious orders, including sisters, to inform Church authorities when they have “well-founded motives to believe” abuse has occurred. It also directs them to obey civil reporting requirements where they live. This Church law is retroactive and includes past abuse.

Those reporting will receive whistle-blower protection and dioceses must have a confidential reporting system in place by June 1, 2020.

But there is a glaring flaw in the new law.

The Definition of Insanity

Bishops will continue to investigate reported bishops. History has proven this fails. Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick is an excellent point in case. Fellow bishops knew about McCarrick’s predatory behavior. Worse than doing nothing, they put him in the role of spokesman on the subject of child sex abuse prevention measures.

Truth Or Consequences

We might get somewhere if the bishops who didn’t report McCarrick were laicized as well. That’s not happening.

Speaking of the failure to report, there is no punishment for an individual who neglects to report abuse or for dioceses that don’t have a confidential reporting system.

Laws without consequences are ineffective, if not useless.

Clericalism Strikes Again

Instead of merely allowing lay experts to assist, Pope Francis should have made it law that qualified laity investigate all cases. But clericalism got the last word in this law.

With These Shepherds, Whose Afraid of Wolves?

by Susan Matthews

Pope Francis directed U.S. bishops to postpone decisions regarding clergy child sex abuse accountability as they gathered in Baltimore for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. They had planned to vote on a code of conduct and to establish a lay commission to investigate misconduct from within their ranks. They will obey the pope and these measures were taken off the agenda.

My headline is borrowed from a comment posted by a C4C Facebook follower in response to the news. He’s right. This latest development makes me wonder if an entire institution can be classified as sociopathic.

The Vatican ambassador to the United States reiterated the pope’s wishes and warned bishops not to rely on lay investigations.

The Washington Post quotes him…

“There may be a temptation on the part of some to relinquish responsibility for reform to others from ourselves, as if we were no longer capable of reforming or trusting ourselves,” said Archbishop Christophe Pierre.

“Assistance is both welcome and necessary, and surely collaboration with the laity is essential. However, the responsibility as bishops of this Catholic Church is ours.”

He went on to quote a French author who said that “whoever pretends to reform the church with the same means to reform temporal society” will “fail.”

Damn straight. Civil law, ethics and morality mean absolutely nothing within their arrogant clerical bubble. And, they’ve also proven time and again that they aren’t capable of reforming themselves.

So now what?

The “change” in Catholics4Change does NOT refer to a change in the Church. It refers to the change within each of us that has been brought about by the abuse and the hierarchy’s criminal coverup.

  1. Demand that your senators pass window legislation for justice and prevention.
  2. Demand thorough federal, state and county investigations.
  3. Demand the full measure of the law be applied to those found guilty of covering up the sexual abuse of children.

We aren’t sheep.

Coming soon: Coverage from the concierge lounge and lobby bar at the Bishops’ Conference. C4C’s Kathy Kane investigates.

Clergy Sex Abuse Not On Pope’s Official Philadelphia Agenda

As a child, I was among the million Catholics lining the parkway for Pope John Paul’s visit in 1979. My father propped me up on a mailbox. The sea of people was a sight to behold – one huge Catholic family. That memory is marred by what I now know as an adult about our institutional Church. It had very little regard for that “family” in so many instances around the globe and here.

According to a recent article in the Washington Post, the official itinerary for the Pope’s visit to Philadelphia on September 25 and 26th does not include clergy sex abuse. What topic could be more timely or appropriate to the World Meeting of Families? What is the short-term plan for the 1,446,508 Catholics in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia whose trust has been betrayed by the institutional Church and whose children were put at risk in parishes and schools?

The Vatican Commission and Tribunal may be workable long-term solutions, but Pope Francis could give practical meaning to his pastoral message of love and mercy by offering triage here at ground zero.

Three Grand Jury Reports (2003, 2005 and 2011) revealed case after case of allegations of clergy sex abuse covered up by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia under three Cardinals (Krol, Bevilacqua and Rigali). Abuse and cover ups occurred in several other US dioceses and globally.

This isn’t a problem in the distant past. Our Archdiocesan children were potentially put at risk here as recently as 2013. Father John Paul was allowed to remain pastor of Our Lady of Calvary for over a year while under investigation. Eventually several people came forward with allegations and he has since chosen voluntary laicization. The Statute of Limitations prevents further criminal or civil action. He is able to live anywhere he’d like without monitoring.

To add injury to injury, The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference continues to lobby against the safety interests all children and against justice for the victims of all child sex abuse (not just clergy) in the Commonwealth. The Church seeks refuge from financial and criminal responsibility under the current Statute of Limitations knowing that it allows child sex abusers to remain unidentified in our communities.

Divorce, marriage, abortion, homosexuality, poverty — all these issues and many more are so important. But as a Catholic mother, none of these things matter if my child isn’t safe. A Church that doesn’t honor and protect its children will one day be empty. It’s worth a conversation or at least a mention during this visit. Don’t you think?