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Baltimore bishop named newest leader of West Virginia’s Roman Catholic diocese

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Posted at 8:23 AM, Jul 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-23 08:23:22-04

WHEELING, W.Va. (AP) — The Latest on the leadership changes at West Virginia’s Roman Catholic diocese:

6:10 a.m.

Pope Francis has named Baltimore Auxiliary Bishop Mark Brennan to lead the Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia diocese following a scandal over the former bishop’s sexual harassment of adults and lavish spending of church money.

The 72-year-old Brennan replaces Bishop Michael Bransfield, who resigned in September after a preliminary investigation into allegations of sexual and financial misconduct. Last week, Francis barred Bransfield from public ministry and prohibited him from living in the diocese, while also warning that he will be forced to make amends “for some of the harm he caused.” Brennan will now help decide the extent of those reparations.

Coming on the heels of a new wave of sex abuse allegations in the U.S., the Bransfield scandal added to the credibility crisis in the U.S. hierarchy since several top churchmen received tens of thousands of dollars in church-funded personal gifts from Bransfield during his tenure in Wheeling-Charleston, which is located in one of the poorest U.S. states.

A press conference was planned in Wheeling later Tuesday following the Vatican’s announcement.

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1 a.m.

West Virginia’s Roman Catholic Diocese says it’s set to discuss its “future leadership,” 10 months after the resignation of Bishop Michael Bransfield.

The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston says a news conference is scheduled Tuesday at the diocese offices in Wheeling. A diocese statement did not indicate whether a new bishop would be announced.

Bransfield resigned in September. An investigation authorized by Pope Francis found accusations that Bransfield sexually harassed adults were credible. It also found Bransfield misused church funds, spending them on dining, liquor, gifts and personal travel and luxury items.

Last week the pontiff issued disciplinary action against Bransfield, saying he cannot live within the diocese or participate in any public celebration of the liturgy, and must make amends “for some of the harm he caused.”

Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore has overseen the West Virginia diocese since Bransfield’s departure.

“I offer my deepest gratitude to our Holy Father, Pope Francis, on the naming of Bishop Mark Brennan as the new Bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston." said Archbishop Lori. "The Archdiocese of Baltimore has been blessed these past two years by his service as Auxiliary Bishop. During that time, I have witnessed his pastoral love for the people of God, who have accepted and embraced him for his kindness, humility and joyful witness to the faith. These gifts and so many others will bring healing and hope to the Church in West Virginia, which deserves a shepherd who bears so many of the qualities possessed by Bishop Brennan. While we are saddened to lose him here in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, we extend our gratitude and prayers to him in his new role.”