Former West Virginia
Group's $25,000 check went into Bransfield’s personal bank account
bishop Michael J. Bransfield says a group’s $25,000 donation was a personal gift.
As Michael J. Bransfield prepared to become West Virginia’s bishop in 2005, a small charitable foundation devoted to Catholic causes cut a $25,000 check. The John A. Quinn Foundation recorded the money in public tax filings as a charitable donation to the Diocese of Wheeling- Charleston, Bransfield’s new home.
Instead, the money went into Bransfield’s personal bank account, Bransfield acknowledged in a recent interview with The Washington Post.
Bransfield stepped down as bishop in September 2018 amid allegations that he misspent millions of dollars in church money and that he harassed or abused young priests and seminarians, triggering a scandal that has resonated far beyond West Virginia. Bransfield has denied the allegations.
Bransfield said the $25,000 check was intended to help with the move to West Virginia. He said it was as a gift from foundation board members he had come to know during his 25 years in various positions at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.
“It went to me to pay for my expenses and help me to do the things I wanted to do and buy the things I wanted to buy,” he said. “I needed all new things to go there. It was money I used to pay for things, clothes, paraphernalia.”
Quinn Foundation President Eileen Quinn told The Post in a brief telephone interview that she does not recall the gift. Other board members from that period did not return calls.
The group’s treasurer, Margaret M. Comstock, declined to say whether the money was intended as a donation to the diocese or as a personal gift to Bransfield. She declined to say who the check was made out to.
She told reporters to stop calling members of the group.
“Mr. Bransfield will receive the justice he deserves, and the Foundation will assist the appropriate authorities if called upon,” she wrote in a statement.
Under Internal Revenue Service regulations, foundations may use their money only for charitable purposes and not to enrich individuals.
The Post discovered the gift from the Quinn Foundation while examining Bransfield’s financial activity before and during his 13-year tenure as bishop in West Virginia.
The foundation, a longtime donor to Catholic institutions in Washington, reported in its tax filings for 2005 that it had given $25,000 to the West Virginia diocese, describing the money as a grant to a tax-exempt charity.
But the West Virginia diocese said it never got the money.
“No grant was received by the Diocese of Wheeling- Charleston from the Quinn Foundation in 2005 or since,” said spokesman Tim Bishop. “As such, any questions should be referred to Bishop Bransfield directly.”
Bransfield told The Post that he knew the Quinn family from his long tenure in Washington.
The foundation was established in 1968 by John A. Quinn, the founder of a mechanical contracting firm in Maryland that is no longer in business. The foundation has donated millions of dollars to the Archdiocese of Washington, Catholic University and other Catholic organizations, tax filings show.
Bransfield said he sometimes gave the foundation advice on where to donate its money. He said the 2005 check was the only money he personally received from the foundation.
As bishop in West Virginia, Bransfield spent millions of dollars of diocese money on personal travel, renovations to his church residences and cash gifts to other Catholic clerics, an internal church investigation found.
Last month, following an internal audit, new West Virginia Bishop Mark Brennan called on Bransfield to repay the diocese more than $792,000. Brennan also said Bransfield will have to pay $110,000 to the IRS in taxes on church money that was used for personal spending and that should have been reported as income.