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WHEELING-CHARLESTON, September 13, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – A West Virginia bishop resigned Thursday amid allegations he sexually harassed adults.

Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Bishop Michael Bransfield of the diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) announced September 13.

The Pope “has appointed Archbishop William E. Lori as Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. He will remain archbishop of Baltimore,” the USCCB press release stated.

“The Holy Father has additionally instructed Archbishop Lori to conduct an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment of adults against Bishop Bransfield.” 

Bransfield “has previously been accused of molesting teenagers and denied the accusations, according to church officials and court documents,” the Washington Post reported.

Bransfield, who turned 75 on September 8, was appointed bishop of the diocese in 2005 by Saint Pope John Paul II.

The announcement comes the same day a delegation led by USCCB president Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston met with the Pope to discuss the sexual abuse scandals rocking the Catholic Church in America. 

The scandal implicates the Pope himself after former US nuncio Carlo Viganò testified Pope Francis and other high ranking churchmen covered up the serial sexual abuse of seminarians and young priests by ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

The Thursday meeting was further overshadowed by allegations DiNardo previously covered up for a priest arrested Tuesday on charges of sexual abuse of minors, the Washington Post reported.

Lori, who was appointed archbishop of Baltimore in 2001, was a member of the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse and one of the drafters of the 2002 Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. 

“My primary concern is for the care and support of the priests and people of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston at this difficult time,” Lori said in a Thursday statement on the diocesan website

“I further 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.”

The statement includes a hotline number “established for those wishing to share any information related to this investigation.”

It states Lori will meet with clergy and lay leaders of the diocese Thursday and Friday. The Wheeling-Charleston diocese is a suffragan diocese in the Metropolitan See of Baltimore.

In a letter to priests and deacons in the diocese, Lori wrote he will be overseeing a lay-led investigation into the allegations.

“Aware of your faithful service to God’s people of this local church, I know how difficult these days are for you and the challenges you are left to face as a result of the action and inaction of others,” Lori wrote.

“I regret this undue pain and thank you for your courageous witness and leadership.”

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