Pope Orders Probe of Sex-Harassment Claims against W.V. Bishop

Pope Francis meets Italian youths at the ancient Circo Massimo in Rome, Italy August 11, 2018. (Max Rossi/Reuters)

Pope Francis has ordered an investigation into allegations that Bishop Michael Bransfield of West Virginia sexually harassed a number of adult seminarians.

Bransfield was accused in 2012 of consorting with a fellow priest accused of molesting minors and failing to report the abuse, some of which allegedly occurred at his beach house on the Jersey Shore. The Pope has accepted his resignation and ordered William Lori, the archbishop of Baltimore, to oversee the investigation into his conduct and temporarily take over his post leading West Virginia’s 75,000 Catholics.

“I pledge to conduct a thorough investigation in search of the truth into the troubling allegations against Bishop Bransfield and to work closely with the clergy, religious and lay leaders of the diocese until the appointment of a new bishop,” Lori said in a statement posted on the archdiocese’s website.

News of the investigation comes as the Pope begins a closed-door meeting with leaders of the U.S. Bishop’s Conference assembled in response to allegations of widespread sexual abuse within the clergy and high-level cover-ups of that abuse.

In an eleven-page letter last month, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò accused Pope Francis of rehabilitating Cardinal Theodore McCarrick to a position of prestige within the church after his predecessor, Pope Benedict, sanctioned McCarrick due to claims that he had sexual relations with a number of seminarians and molested a 14-year-old altar boy. Those allegations closely followed the release of a Pennsylvania grand-jury report that detailed the sexual abuse of more than 1,000 minors by more than 300 priests in the state.

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

The Other Case against Reparations

Reparations are an ethical disaster. Proceeding from a doctrine of collective guilt, they are the penalty for slavery and Jim Crow, sins of which few living Americans stand accused. An offense against common sense as well as morality, reparations would take from Bubba and give to Barack, never mind if the former ... Read More
Politics & Policy

May I See Your ID?

Identity is big these days, and probably all days: racial identity, ethnic identity, political identity, etc. Tribalism. It seems to be baked into the human cake. Only the consciously, persistently religious, or spiritual, transcend it, I suppose. (“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor ... Read More

White Cats and Black Swans

Making a film of Cats is a bold endeavor — it is a musical with no real plot, based on T. S. Eliot’s idea of child-appropriate poems, and old Tom was a strange cat indeed. Casting Idris Elba as the criminal cat Macavity seems almost inevitable — he has always made a great gangster — but I think there was ... Read More


Someone tweeted this cartoon today, which apparently is intended to depict me. A few thoughts: I love the caricature. It’s really good. I may steal the second panel and use it for advertising. I hear this line of criticism fairly often from people who are not very bright or well-informed; in truth, I ... Read More