Saturday, September 14, 2019

Bishop 'Living Large' Bransfield

Bishop Michael Bransfield, former bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston is in the news once again. News reports are showing how lavish the bishop lived during his tenure as bishop.  Pope Francis immediately accepted the bishop's resignation as called for by canon law last September. We can see why.  Not only was the bishop accused of sexual harassment by several adult males, but he was living like a king. 

The bishop reportedly spent almost one million dollars traveling on private jets and over $660,000 worth of airfare and hotel stays. Apart from this, during a diocesan pilgrimage to the Basilica of the National Shrine in Washington, DC, the bishop opted to use a private jet, limousine and stayed at a "presidential penthouse" in an expensive hotel. His entourage used a bus and stayed at a hotel for just $190 each. The drive is just five hours, yet the bishop took the jet instead which was a 33-minute trip. The bishop also spent over $60,000 in custom made jewelry from a boutique jeweler in Washington, DC, and several thousand on clothing, liquor and a rented car which was used for a month.  Archbishop Lori of the Baltimore diocese was ordered by Pope Francis to investigate the bishop and his mishandling of funds at the diocese.  Archbishop Lori reported the mismanagement was indeed factual and ordered the bishop to stop functioning publicly as a cleric. His successor would also apply the appropriate punishment to him.  This, of course, is Bishop Mark Brennan who took possession of the diocese on September 3 of this year.

Bishop Bransfield stands accused of sexual harassment by several adult men including young priests who accompanied him on trips to Europe during work and vacation stays. The bishop blames his expensive flights and hotel stays on staff members who booked them for him. There is no word as to whether or not the bishop will be made to repay the diocese back for all the costs. During his tenure, the diocese closed over 20 parishes and schools.

This news is troubling indeed. While diocesan or secular clergy do not take vows of poverty, they are expected to live modestly as all Christians are called to live. However, we have seen the same abuse of money in religious orders as well. These kinds of stories remind us how frail human beings are and how susceptible they are to the temptations of this world. If the allegations of sexual harassment are true, it also shows why ordaining homosexuals is not wise. The homosexual life is known to be hedonistic in nature. It thrives on riches and lavish lifestyles. In any event, bishop Bransfield is still a child of God and one of our priests. We have to pray for him and forgive him. Hopefully, he will spend his retirement making amends, both spiritually and financially in order to make things right with himself before God and before others. 

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