My Dear Friends in Christ,
First, I want to express my deepest gratitude for the warmth of your welcome, your kind and
thoughtful words and gestures of support and assurance of prayer in these early days of my
service among you as your friend, brother and new bishop.
I have been so impressed by the vibrant and active faith that I have experienced in my travels and visits across the Diocese and throughout this beautiful state. Suffice it to say, I have much more territory to cover and many more of you to meet. As I made clear in my first remarks following my appointment, it is my highest priority to get to know you, to listen intently, to pray with you and to work toward the healing and renewal that is so needed here in our Church in West Virginia. It has been such a joy to greet so many of our young people – elementary, high school and college students – as they begin a new year of learning and adventure in this new academic year; to also visit with those who spend their days working to alleviate the suffering of those in the grip of opioid addiction and to support their loved ones with understanding and assurance. I’ve enjoyed visiting with the senior members of our communities whose experiences and perspectives are so valuable, and whose lives reveal so much devotion and accomplishment. I’ve enjoyed visiting the southern region of our diocese, presiding at Liturgy at the Basilica of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Charleston and getting to know the parishioners, priests, teachers, and lay ministers across our Diocese who are serving Christ by serving others each and every day. Thank you for your commitment and for all that you are making possible in the lives of others.
As I made clear in my Installation homily, among my first priorities is to fulfill the Holy Father’s mandate to define the appropriate restitution that will be required of former Bishop Bransfield, in light of his lavish and inappropriate expenditure of Church funds for his personal comfort and enjoyment. I share your outrage that so much money was wasted on excessive luxury which is wholly inconsistent with Christ’s spirit of humility, and the expectation by Pope Francis that bishops and priests live a life of simplicity and service.
In addition to requiring an extensive audit of Diocesan finances during Bishop Bransfield’s
tenure, I have engaged in extensive discussions with the members of our Diocese Finance
Council, the priest Consultors, Chancery staff, lay professionals, parishioners, and also those who were victims of the former bishop’s sexual harassment. It is my intention in the coming days to define the terms of Bishop Bransfield’s required restitution for the harm he caused and the Church resources he squandered. It is my hope that the former bishop will see this as an opportunity to acknowledge his offenses and to truly make amends to the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston and the good people across this State who have been so deeply affected by this scandal.
It is to be expected that the news media will continue to report on the details of the former bishop’s abuses, which continue to be a cause of great scandal and shame for us all. In the meantime, we will continue to work toward a resolution that is not only fair but which begins to bring closure to this very tragic episode of our Diocese. You have my commitment to do so in a timely way and with the transparency that is required. I am pleased that we have been able to complete the sale of the former bishop’s residence for the amount of $1.2 million. The proceeds from the sale will be directed to establishing a special fund to provide for the professional counseling, psychological and spiritual support for victims of sexual abuse here in West Virginia.
It will be my constant determination to work with you – my fellow priests, religious, our professional staff and all of our Catholic faithful – to bring about true healing and to restore your confidence in those of us called to serve as leaders. Indeed, we are stewards who must use the resources of this Diocese to provide comfort and care, to educate, to alleviate hardship and suffering and enable those who need a helping hand, a meal or simply a place to rest.
With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, let us commit ourselves to the pastoral care of all God’s children, entrusted to us through His son Jesus Christ. Please know of my constant prayers for you, even as I humbly ask that you keep me also in yours. May God is his infinite goodness and mercy keep us all in his loving care!
Sincerely in Christ,
Bishop Mark E. Brennan