Catholics express anger, sadness over Bransfield’s spending

WHEELING — The latest revelation about lavish spending by former bishop Michael Bransfield is drawing reactions of anger and sadness from the Catholic faithful in Wheeling.

The Washington Post newspaper last week published a lengthy article detailing Bransfield’s extravagant expenditures for luxury hotel accommodations, private jets and other perks while heading the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. He resigned from the position a year ago and later was barred from active ministry by Pope Francis.

Reaction was mixed Tuesday outside the Cathedral of St. Joseph, where about 25 people attended the noon Mass. Most people declined to comment on the Post story, or asked not to be identified.

“No, I’m upset about things, and I don’t want to comment right now,” one woman said as she headed into the cathedral.

Others merely shook their heads as they hurried into the side entrance or slowly made their way up the exterior steps. Some church-goers were unaware of the new revelation.

A handful of people spoke about Bransfield’s lavish lifestyle, but they refused to disclose their names.

“He should have to pay all that money back,” said a middle-age man, who was sitting on the cathedral’s front steps before entering the Mass. “Before they worry about his spending, they ought to put him in prison.

“Everything he touched, he ruined. … He didn’t care about the poor,” the man added.

Regarding the excessive spending by Bransfield, another man said, “Of course that’s not acceptable. It’s terrible. I hope Bishop (Mark) Brennan will heal the people here. It’s really sad.”

An elderly man said, “Some of my thoughts when I first met him (Bransfield), I thought he was doing a lot of good, fixing up things. His personal matters are none of my business.

“I hate to see things like that happen,” he said regarding alleged misdeeds. “But the less that is publicized — it’s really none of my business.”

Meanwhile, a decision has yet to be made on further punishment or repayment to diocesan coffers for Bransfield’s questionable spending.

Mark E. Brennan, who was installed as the diocese’s ninth bishop in August, has said the terms of Bransfield’s required restitution will be forthcoming soon. Brennan issued a letter Friday to Catholics throughout the diocese.

In that letter, Brennan said proceeds from the $1.2 million sale of the former bishop’s residence on Elmwood Place will be used to provide professional counseling.