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Spendthrift Shepherds & Pervert Priests: Where Are They Now?

A FOLLOW-UP ON SOME DISGRACED PRELATES AND THEIR HELPERS

By Pieter Vree | June 2020
Pieter Vree is Editor of the NOR.

Mark Medvetz, an NOR reader from Henniker, New Hampshire, sent a letter to the editor requesting additional information about some of the ecclesial “personalities” I discussed in my March column, “Million-Dollar Bishops.” In that column, I addressed the outrageous spending sprees and sickening sexual perversions of Theodore McCarrick, former cardinal archbishop of Washington, D.C.; Michael J. Bransfield, former bishop of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia; and Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ. “Money has become a serious stumbling block to many priests and prelates,” I concluded. “Wealth comes with inherent temptations; it has a tendency to corrupt. It’s no coincidence that financial corruption walks hand in hand with sexual immorality. Where you find one, you’ll often find the other.” (A notable exception is Jean Vanier, the subject of my May column, “A Deficit of Heroes.” Vanier was a Catholic layman, founder of l’Arche, and a sexual predator who, by all accounts, appears to have chosen to continue living a relatively modest existence, even after fame called his name.)

Regarding Bransfield, Mr. Medvetz asks, “Where is the now-retired bishop at the present moment? Is he still living on the fruits of his fraudulent criminal behavior?”

Regarding the Legion of Christ, Mr. Medvetz wants to know: “Where are Maciel’s lieutenants now, the priests who did his dirty work, the inner circle, the men who actually bought the drugs and the women? Some of these men are still breathing, you can bet on that.”

Pursuing answers to these questions, Medvetz suggests, “would make for a most-interesting follow-up.”

I’m happy to oblige, insofar as I can.

Bishop Bransfield retired in September 2018 when he reached the mandatory age of 75. Contrary to typical Roman heel-dragging, Pope Francis immediately accepted his resignation. And no wonder: Troubling rumors had long been swirling around America’s own “Bling Bishop.” In July 2019, after reviewing the results of an investigation into Bransfield’s, uh, extracurricular activities, Pope Francis imposed restrictions on the former bishop, barring him from residing in his former diocese and from presiding over or participating in “any public celebration of the liturgy.” He also directed Bransfield’s eventual successor to determine how Bransfield should “make personal amends” for his actions.

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