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New Beginning

Church needs to put safeguards in place

Many West Virginians, both Roman Catholics and others, remain outraged about former bishop Michael Bransfield. Virtually every new report concerning him reveals some new outrage.

But Bransfield is history. It has been well over a year since he stepped down as bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. A new leader, Bishop Mark Brennan, was installed last August.

Some people view a new year as a time for new beginnings, whether in school, career, personal health or relationships. Perhaps Brennan and other Catholic leaders can use 2020 for a new beginning in earning the trust of the faithful, both within and outside their church.

Because it was their money Bransfield squandered and members of their clergy on whom he preyed, Catholics of course have special reasons for being angry, not just with Bransfield but with a church hierarchy that allowed his misbehavior for so long.

Some in other denominations are upset, too. Without venturing to speak for them, we suspect they view Christianity as a whole, not as any single system of observance such as that offered by the Roman Catholic Church. In that light, the anger is simply because the faith was abused.

As both the spiritual and administrative leader of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, the task of restoring trust falls primarily on Brennan.

A start could be made in being totally transparent regarding Bransfield. To date, the church has not been so. Just a few days ago, we reprinted information on a 60-page report about the former bishop, written by church investigators. It was revealed not by the Roman Catholic hierarchy, but by a source within the church who provided it to the press.

A second step could be explaining how Bransfield got away with his misconduct for so long.

Finally, regarding predators within the church, Roman Catholic leaders need to provide assurances that adequate safeguards are in place.

It is a heavy burden for Brennan — and others, both in the clergy and as laypeople — to shoulder. We, in the company of many others, hope sincerely they can make a new beginning.