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Pope accepts resignation of U.S. bishop accused of sexual harassment

A U.S. bishop accused of molesting adults resigned on Thursday, in the latest sex abuse scandal to rock the Catholic Church.

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Monsignor Michael J Bransfield as bishop of Wheeling-Charleston in the U.S. state of West Virginia, a Vatican statement said.

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Separately, the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston said on its website that Bransfield, 75, will be investigated over “allegations of sexual harassment of adults.”

The probe is to be led by Baltimore Archbishop William Lori, who was named interim leader of the diocese.

He pledged to “conduct a thorough investigation […] into the troubling allegations.”

“A hotline has been established for those wishing to share any information related to this investigation,” the diocese added.

According to clergy sex abuse monitoring website BishopAccountability.org, Bransfield was previously accused of molesting teen boys in the late 1970s or early 1980s.

The hearsay allegations surfaced during a 2012 trial of other Catholic priests, but the alleged victim rejected them as false, and Bransfield professed his innocence.

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Bransfield’s ouster was announced on the day leaders of the U.S. Catholic Church were meeting Pope Francis at the Vatican to discuss a response to other sex abuse scandals.

In August, a grand jury report in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania concluded that the US Catholic Church systematically hushed up sex abuses committed by 301 priests over a period of 70 years.

A month earlier, retired Washington Archbishop Theodore McCarrick was stripped of his cardinal title after being outed as a serial abuser of young priests and seminarians.

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