BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore Archbishop William Lori said he made a mistake not revealing $7,500 in gifts he received from Bishop Michael Bransfield — who headed the West Virginia diocese — in a report investigating Bransfield’s sexual and financial misconduct.
Lori has since done so in a letter to parishioners in West Virginia.
“Look, in light of the need of increased transparency, that’s one of those decisions I would do differently if I could do it over,” Lori said. “We’re human beings. We’re fallible. We make mistakes. I just acknowledged my own mistake in this.”
After Archbishop Lori removed any mention of the gifts to himself and 10 other high-ranking church officials, The Washington Post uncovered an earlier draft naming the powerful Catholic leaders.
“Sometimes it takes something like this to see the optics,” Lori said. He did not feel the donations to him were inappropriate. They included a $5,000 check when he became Archbishop of Baltimore and $500 checks as several Christmas gifts.
He said he did not receive any gifts once the investigation began and it did not influence the outcome.
The Post reports none of the others on Lori’s investigative team — which included former Baltimore City States Attorney Gregg Bernstein — objected to the deletion of the names in the final report.
Lori tells WJZ he never expected anything in return for the money and donated it all to Catholic Charities in West Virginia.
The Post reports Bransfield’s out-of-control spending caught the attention of the Vatican — and included luxuries like chartered plane trips, $182,000 on fresh flowers and one thousand dollars a month on liquor.
Bransfield is also accused of sexually harassing young priests—in some cases inappropriately touching them.
He told The Post he denies the allegations—and says he was unable to fly in commercial economy because of back problems.
“It’s a sad story,” Lori said. “We have to be who we say we are and we have to be holding ourselves to a higher standard.”
Lori said Bransfield is now retired and prevented from active ministry in West Virginia.
In Baltimore, Lori said they have taken steps to handle abuses — including an independent site that handles allegations.
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Locally, the church has grappled with sexual abuse in the past and announced reforms earlier this year.
The archdiocese turned over documents about its handling of abuse cases in Baltimore dating back to the 1960s to Maryland’s attorney general.