Pope Francis accepted the resignation of West Virginia Bishop Michael Bransfield on Thursday and authorized an investigation into allegations he sexually harassed adults, adding awkward drama to an audience with US church leaders over the abuse and cover-up scandal roiling the Catholic Church, the AP reports. Bishop Bransfield—a major fundraiser for the Vatican—had been investigated for an alleged groping incident in 2007 and was implicated in court testimony in 2012 in an infamous Philadelphia priestly sex abuse case. He strongly denied ever abusing anyone and the diocese said it had disproved the claims. He continued with his ministry until he offered to retire, as required, when he turned 75 last week. Baltimore Archbishop William Lori will take over Bransfield's Wheeling-Charleston diocese temporarily and investigate accusations against him.
The revelation was the latest twist in an incredible turn of events in the US church that began with the June 20 announcement that one of the most prestigious US cardinals, Theodore McCarrick, had been accused of groping a teenage altar boy in the 1970s. Francis removed McCarrick as a cardinal in July. The McCarrick affair—coupled with revelations in the Pennsylvania grand jury report detailing decades of abuse and cover-up in six dioceses—has fueled outrage among the rank-and-file faithful who had trusted church leaders to reform themselves after the abuse scandal first erupted in Boston in 2002. In Germany, a new report on sexual abuse inside the church says clergy members in that country abused 3,677 people between 1946 and 2014.
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