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Newspaper publishes secret report on former W.Va. bishop

FILE - This Feb. 21, 2005, file photo, shows incoming bishop of the Wheeling-Charleston diocese, W.Va, Michael Bransfield in his new office, in Wheeling, W.Va. (AP Photo/Dale Sparks, File)
Bishop Michael Bransfield. (Dale Sparks/Associated Press/File/2005)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A newspaper has published a secret church report about a former West Virginia bishop ousted for alleged sexual and financial misconduct that details how he allegedly groomed and inappropriately touched young men.

The Washington Post reports law enforcement does not have a copy of the report, which officials said could aid in their investigation into former bishop Michael Bransfield.

The Post said it received a copy of the 60-page report in June and has previously reported its contents. Bransfield is also accused of spending church funds on dining out, liquor, personal travel, and luxury items, as well as personal gifts to fellow bishops and cardinals in the United States and Vatican.

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Bransfield resigned in September 2018 amid allegations of sexual and financial misconduct. Earlier this year, Pope Francis barred Bransfield from public ministry and prohibited him from living in the diocese.

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West Virginia’s attorney general and police in Washington, D.C., have issued subpoenas to church officials in Wheeling, W.Va., and Baltimore, seeking the report. Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said the church has denied his request for it. He said he was told the report “is with the Pope and out of its hands.”

The report published by the Post said “no conclusive evidence was found that Bishop Bransfield committed sexual misconduct with minors.” But it said Bransfield “subjected multiple seminarians and priests to unwanted sexual overtures, sexual harassment and sexual contact.”

The newspaper does not specify how it obtained the report. A copy was published on its website this week.

Church officials in West Virginia have also said they don’t have a copy of the report.

Associated Press