In a first, WV bishop demands his predecessor apologize, pay restitution

In a first, WV bishop demands his predecessor apologize, pay restitution November 26, 2019

“We regard the former bishop’s acceptance of this plan of amends as an act of restorative justice. It is also for his own spiritual good.”

From The Washington Post: 

West Virginia’s new bishop Tuesday called for his predecessor, Michael Bransfield, to pay $792,000, apologize to victims and to the diocese, and lose his place in the diocese’s cemetery as part of a restitution package for alleged financial and sexual misconduct that some church experts say is a first for a bishop.

The announcement by Bishop Mark Brennan follows a statement in July by Pope Francis that Bransfield’s replacement should decide how the ousted leader “make personal amends.”

Brennan, who was named earlier this fall as bishop, on Tuesday afternoon issued a nine-point list of amends that requires Bransfield to:

  • Lose the normal retirement package for bishops and instead get the monthly stipend of a retired priest who had worked 13 years, which equals $736 per month.
  • Be responsible for his own long-term health care, pharmacy and disabilities benefits.
  • Lose the right to be buried in the diocesan cemetery.
  • Issue apologies to the diocese staff, Catholics of the diocese and those he allegedly sexually harassed “for the severe emotional and spiritual harm his actions caused.”

“I wish to make clear that it is not my intention to impoverish the former bishop,” wrote Brennan, saying the dollar figure isn’t exactly the amount of diocesan money Bransfield is accused of misspending or using for lavish personal expenses. “We regard the former bishop’s acceptance of this plan of amends as an act of restorative justice. It is also for his own spiritual good and his own healing as a man who professes to follow Christ. All proceeds from Bishop Bransfield’s repayment will be directed to a special fund to provide for the counseling, care and support of those who have suffered sexual abuse.”

It wasn’t immediately clear what Bransfield’s response will be to the proposal. Brennan’s letter said he had offered Bransfield the chance to give input on what restitution should be and that Bransfield declined.

A message left with Bransfield was not immediately returned Tuesday.

Kurt Martens, a canon law professor at the Catholic University of America, said this is the only case he’s heard of involving a bishop being made to pay restitution — publicly or privately.

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