Francis recently has been seen shunning the Vatican's fleet of luxury cars in favor of a more modest Ford Focus. He has been shuttled around in a Fiat during his recent trip to Brazil.
"A car is necessary to do a lot of work, but, please, choose a more humble one," Francis told a group of young and trainee priests and nuns earlier in July. "If you like the fancy one, just think about how many children are dying of hunger in the world."
Bransfield's personal car is a 2004 Buick Park Avenue. He is often driven in diocese cars, either a GMC Yukon or a Cadillac.
"Bishop Bransfield has a priest secretary, currently it's a deacon," Minor said, "[who] also drives the bishop from time to time between his many appointments, most of which are not in Wheeling."
Bransfield also has dinner prepared at his residence four days a week by a personal chef. The chef also cooks lunch for the bishop and others at the cathedral rectory four days a week. Minor said that that is a money-saver because the chef also acts as a caterer for diocese events and special functions.
In 2010 there were more than 112,000 Catholics in West Virginia, an increase of more than 10,000 since 1980. But over that same period the number of priests in the state has fallen by more than 25 percent, from 218 to 160.
The pastors at both Our Lady of Fatima, a congregation of about 600 families in Huntington, and St. Leo, a congregation of about 1,200 in Inwood, have recently departed.
The Rev. Brian Shoda, the priest at St. Leo for 22 years, left the Catholic Church entirely and is now a priest at Mount Zion Episcopal Church in Hedgesville. Shoda did not return repeated requests for comment.
"He said his theology and some of the teachings of the Catholic Church didn't mesh anymore," Abrahamian said. "He was a good priest, he gave 22 years of his life to St. Leo, there were times when he probably needed help, could have used an associate pastor."
The Rev. Jim Sobus had been at Our Lady of Fatima and St. Stephen's Catholic Church in nearby Ona for nine years, before he was transferred to Assumption Parish in Keyser in June.
Sobus, who said he has not left the church but would not otherwise comment on the record, has not reported to Assumption Parish.
Parishioners at Our Lady of Fatima say Sobus was unjustly transferred for, among other things, speaking out against the church and running the parish school strictly.
Dr. Kellee Abner-Karimpour, who serves on the Catholic Schools Advisory Committee at Our Lady of Fatima, said that the diocese had a "witch hunt" against Sobus.
Abner-Karimpour and others said that the Advisory Committee (equivalent to a school board) stopped meeting last fall after someone filed an anonymous and opaque letter of complaint against Sobus that was investigated and found baseless. The committee has not met since.
Minor denied those allegations. He said that Sobus had been at Our Lady of Fatima for nine years and that priests are frequently transferred after six to eight years.
"Priests have a duty of obedience, which is part of a priest's vow at his ordination," Minor said in an email. "By not reporting to his new assignment without any notice, the Diocese says that Father Sobus is leaving the faithful parishioners of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Keyser without a pastor."Reach David Gutman at david.gut...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5119.