Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori. CNS photo/Bob Roller

Archbishop Lori, Baltimore, admits to mistakes

By  Rhina Guidos, Catholic News Service
  • June 12, 2019

WASHINGTON -- The archbishop of Baltimore has expressed regret after he redacted his name from documents related to an investigation he led into an alleged financial and sexual misconduct scandal.

In a video released June 7, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, who was tasked with overseeing a scandal investigation in West Virginia, said it was a mistake to redact his name, along with the names of other bishops and Church officials who received personal financial “gifts” from Bishop Michael J. Bransfield, the former bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.

Lori was appointed apostolic administrator of the West Virginia diocese after Bransfield resigned last fall amid allegations of sexual and financial misconduct. In his video Lori said transparency requires admitting mistakes. 

A five-member lay committee formed by Lori to investigate Bransfield concluded that Bransfield acted inappropriately towards several priests and seminarians, and that he misspent millions in Church funds. Included in the spending was more than $350,000 to other bishops and Church officials.

 “If I had to do it over again, especially at a time when we’re trying to create greater transparency and accountability, the report would have included the names of those bishops who received gifts, including my own, with some notation that there was no evidence to suggest that those who received gifts reciprocated in any way that was inappropriate.”

The preliminary investigation, he said, found that allegations of sexual misconduct by Bransfield toward adults were “credible” and it also determined that “during his tenure, he engaged in patterns of excessive and inappropriate spending, misused Church funds for personal benefit” that included travel, liquor, dining, financial gifts and luxury goods.

“There is no excuse nor adequate explanation that will satisfy the troubling question of how Bishop Bransfield’s behaviour was allowed to continue for as long as it did without the accountability that we must require from those who have been entrusted with so much, both spiritual and material, as pastors,” Lori said.

The Baltimore archbishop faced scrutiny after the Washington Post published a story June 5 that said Lori had been one of several bishops and high-ranking officials who received financial gifts from Bransfield and whose named was redacted from the report.

Others who received financial gifts, according to the Post, included Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, who recently retired as Washington’s archbishop; New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan; U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke; Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, a former apostolic nuncio to the United States; and Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell, a former bishop of Dallas who is now prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life at the Vatican.

Lori said he has returned the amount of his gifts, $7,500, to the West Virginia diocese and asked that it be donated to Catholic Charities.

Lori said the Vatican now has all the information that was gathered. 

“Those findings go directly to the Holy See for further judgment and action of the Holy Father,” he said in the video.

The Vatican has not announced what action, if any, it will take. Lori said he could not address the matter previously without permission, which was granted “this week.” He said he is working with members of the financial council in the West Virginia diocese to assess lapses in financial control and to “revive good practices” to avoid similar incidents.

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