Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling–Charleston

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Diocese of Wheeling–Charleston

Dioecesis Vhelingensis–Carolopolitanus
St. Joseph Cathedral Wheeling WV 1.jpg
St. Joseph Cathedral
Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling–Charleston.svg
Country United States
Territory West Virginia
Ecclesiastical provinceBaltimore
MetropolitanWilliam E. Lori
Area24,282 sq mi (62,890 km2)
- Total
- Catholics
(as of 2018)
77,874 (4%)
Sui iuris churchLatin Church
RiteRoman Rite
EstablishedJuly 19, 1850 (170 years ago)
CathedralCathedral of Saint Joseph (Wheeling)
Co-cathedralBasilica of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart (Charleston)
Current leadership
BishopMark E. Brennan
Bishops emeritusMichael Joseph Bransfield
Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston map.png

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling–Charleston (Latin: Dioecesis Vhelingensis–Carolopolitanus) is an ecclesiastical territory or diocese of the Roman Catholic Church comprising the U.S. state of West Virginia. The bishop is Mark E. Brennan while the Cathedral of Saint Joseph is in Wheeling, West Virginia.


Basilica of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart

The Diocese of Wheeling was canonically erected on July 19, 1850, by Pope Pius IX. Its territory was taken from the Diocese of Richmond. Its name was changed to the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston on August 21, 1974, by Pope Paul VI.[1][2] At the same time, its boundary was shifted to coincide with the state of West Virginia.

On September 13, 2018, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Bishop Michael J. Bransfield and appointed the Metropolitan Archbishop William E. Lori as apostolic administrator. Pope Francis then instructed Archbishop Lori to investigate allegations of sexual harassment of adults against Bishop Bransfield.[3]

Reports of sex abuse[edit]

On November 29, 2018, the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston released the names of 18 clergy who had been "credibly accused" of sexually abusing minors while serving in the Diocese.[4][5] The list also revealed the names of 13 priests who were transferred to the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston after being accused of committing sex abuse in other Catholic Dioceses.[4][6] One of the accused clergy on the list, Rev. Felix Owino, taught at the Diocese's Wheeling Jesuit University and was deported to Africa after being convicted in 2010 in the neighboring state of Virginia for sexually abusing a girl.[7][5] Reported incidents of sex abuse on this list also go as far back as 1950.[5] 11 of the clergy on the list who were accused of sex abuse while serving in the Diocese are deceased.[5]

Bransfield removed from Diocese[edit]

On July 19, 2019, Pope Francis removed Bransfield from public ministry in the Catholic church and also barred him from residing in the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.[8][9][10] It was also agreed that a new Bishop would be installed, Bransfield must also consult a settlement on how to make amends for his actions.[8] On July 23, 2019, Baltimore Auxiliary Bishop Mark Brennan was appointed Bishop and was installed on August 22, 2019. On 22 August 2019, Brennan was officially installed as Bishop,[11][12] On August 21, 2019, the first sex abuse case against Bransfield was settled.[13] On November 26, 2019, Bransfield was ordered by Brennan to pay more settlements, and also forfeit financial and personal benefits he obtained from the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.[14]


In March 2019, the same month that the first sex abuse lawsuit was filed against Bransfield,[13] West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey filed a civil lawsuit on behalf of the State of West Virginia against the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston and Bransfield, alleging violations of West Virginia consumer protection laws.[15] The complaint filed by the state specifically alleges that the diocese advertised itself as a safe place for children while "knowingly employed pedophiles and failed to conduct adequate background checks" on workers in Catholic schools and camps.[15] The lawsuit was groundbreaking because it named a diocese as a defendant, rather than individual priests, and because it sought to make use of consumer-protection law to obtain discovery of church records.[15]

On August 21, 2019, the first sex abuse lawsuit against Bransfield was settled.[13]

On 30 September 2019, it was revealed that a second sex abuse lawsuit had been filed against Bransfield.[16] It was also revealed that both sex abuse lawsuits against Bransfield included the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.[16]

Criminal investigation and subpoena issued[edit]

In June 2019, after details of the report became public, West Virginia Attorney General Morrisey called for the report to be publicly released, and the SNAP, the Survivors Network called for a law enforcement investigation.[17]

In October 2019, the Washington Post reported that police were investigating an allegation that Bransfield molested a 9-year-old girl during a September 2012 pilgrimage to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., while on a trip led by Bransfield.[18] The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston was subpoenaed for documents in connection with the investigation.[18] Bransfield denied the allegation.[18]

Church-ordered payments and forfeitures[edit]

On November 26, 2019, Bishop Brennan ordered Bransfield to pay restitution to the diocese in the amount of $792,638 (and $110,000 to the IRS) and to issue an apology "for the severe emotional and spiritual harm his actions caused" to his victims and to the diocese.[14] Brennan also revoked certain retirement benefits of Bransfield and barred him from being buried in the diocesan cemetery.[14] The directive is believed to be a rare or unprecedented example of a bishop being ordered to pay restitution.[14] The survivors' group SNAP criticized the measures as insufficient because they suggested "that Bransfield alone should make reparations"; the group called for consequences for Church officials who concealed, or failed to address, Bransfield's conduct.[14]



Bishops of Wheeling[edit]

  1. Richard Vincent Whelan (1850–1874)
  2. John Joseph Kain (1875–1893), appointed Coadjutor Archbishop and later Archbishop of Saint Louis
  3. Patrick James Donahue (1894–1922)
  4. John Joseph Swint (1922–1962), appointed Archbishop (personal title) in 1954

Bishops of Wheeling-Charleston (renamed as such in 1974)[edit]

  1. Joseph Howard Hodges (1962–1985)
  2. Francis B. Schulte (1985–1988), appointed Archbishop of New Orleans
  3. Bernard William Schmitt (1989–2004)
  4. Michael Joseph Bransfield (2004–2018)
  5. Mark E. Brennan (2019–present)

Coadjutor bishop[edit]

Auxiliary bishops[edit]


There are seven vicariates in the Diocese:

  • Wheeling Vicariate
  • Parkersburg Vicariate
  • Charleston Vicariate
  • Beckley Vicariate
  • Weston Vicariate
  • Clarksburg Vicariate
  • Martinsburg Vicariate [2]

Parishes by Vicariate[edit]

There are 111 Parishes and 23 missions in the Diocese.

Wheeling Vicariate[edit]

There are 18 parishes and 2 missions in the Wheeling Vicariate.

  • Cathedral of St. Joseph Parish, Wheeling
  • Corpus Christi Parish, Wheeling
  • Immaculate Conception Parish, New Cumberland
  • Our Lady of Peace Parish, Wheeling
  • Sacred Heart Parish, Chester
  • Sacred Heart of Mary Parish (Polish), Weirton
  • St. Alphonsus Parish, Wheeling
  • St. Anthony Parish, Follansbee
  • St. Francis Xavier Parish, Moundsville
  • St. James Parish, McMechen
  • St. John Parish, Benwood
  • St. John the Evangelist Parish, Wellsburg
  • St. Joseph Parish, Proctor
  • St. Joseph the Worker Parish, Weirton
  • St. Jude Parish, Glen Dale
  • St. Martin of Tours Parish, Cameron
  • St. Michael Parish, Wheeling
  • St. Paul Parish, Weirton
  • St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Wheeling
  • Holy Family Mission, Beech Bottom
  • Our Lady of Seven Dolors Mission, Triadelphia [3]

Martinsburg Vicariate[edit]

There are 11 parishes and 1 mission in the Martinsburg Vicariate.

Charleston Vicariate[edit]

There are 23 parishes and 7 missions in the Charleston Vicariate.

Beckley Vicariate[edit]

There are 15 parishes and 2 missions in the Beckley Vicariate.

Clarksburg Vicariate[edit]

There are 21 parishes and 3 missions in the Clarksburg Vicariate.

Parkersburg Vicariate[edit]

There are 11 parishes and 3 missions in the Parkersburg Vicariate.

Weston Vicariate[edit]

There are 12 parishes and 5 missions in the Weston Vicariate.

High schools[edit]


Former schools[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston". Catholic-Hierarchy. Retrieved 2013-06-06.
  2. ^ "Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston". Giga Catholic. Retrieved 2013-06-06.
  3. ^ Keane, Judy. "Pope Francis Accepts Resignation of Bishop Michael Bransfield; Archbishop Lori Instructed to Conduct Investigation into Allegations of Sexual Harassment". USCCB. Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  4. ^ a b "Wheeling-Charleston Diocese Releases List of Priests Accused of Sexual Abuse Since 1950". Retrieved Jul 13, 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d [1]
  6. ^
  7. ^ Raby, John (Nov 29, 2018). "West Virginia diocese releases names of accused priests". AP NEWS. Retrieved Jul 13, 2019.
  8. ^ a b
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ a b c John Raby, Lawsuit accusing ex-West Virginia bishop of drunken sexual assault settled; replacement to be installed today, Associated Press (August 22, 2019)
  14. ^ a b c d e Michelle Boorstein, West Virginia bishop calls for predecessor, accused of sex and financial misconduct, to pay $792,000 in restitution and to apologize, Washington Post (November 26, 2019).
  15. ^ a b c Michelle Boorstein, Sarah Pulliam Bailey & Tom Jackman, West Virginia accuses Catholic diocese and former bishops of sex abuse cover-up in unusual consumer protection lawsuit, March 19, 2019.
  16. ^ a b
  17. ^ Linda Comins, 'Credible' Accounts Accuse Sexual Harassment From Former Bishop Michael J. Bransfield, The Intelligencer (June 6, 2019).
  18. ^ a b c Shawn Boburg & Robert O'Harrow Jr., Former W.Va. bishop Michael Bransfield is under police investigation for alleged abuse of 9-year-old girl on church trip, Washington Post (October 3, 2019).

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°04′13″N 80°41′55″W / 40.07028°N 80.69861°W / 40.07028; -80.69861