Former Northland Priest Accused of Sexual Abuse of a Minor

Duluth News Tribune
October 6, 2013

A retired Catholic priest who served much of his career in the Northland is facing accusations of sexual improprieties.

The Diocese of Duluth announced Sunday that Father Cornelius Kelleher “has recently been credibly accused in the sexual abuse of a minor female during his time as pastor of St. Joseph’s Church in Chisholm from 1975 to 1986.”

A report from the diocese said that when the accusation came to light, Kelleher was immediately removed from public ministry and has been stripped of his abilities to function as a priest in retirement. Kelleher retired July 11, 2012.

No formal criminal charges or litigation in connection with the accusation of past sexual abuse have yet been initiated.

Kelleher worked in the diocese as a priest from 1956 to 2012. He served at the following parishes: St. James, Duluth; St. Joseph, Crosby; Holy Family, Eveleth; St. Mary, Cook; St. Bridget, Greaney; St. Benedict, Duluth; St. Joseph, Gnesen; St. Joseph, Lakewood; St. Joseph, Chisholm; St. Andrew, Brainerd; St. Patrick, Hinckley; and St. Joseph, Beroun.

The diocese issued a statement, saying: “The Diocese of Duluth is committed to helping identify sexual misconduct on the part of all those who work with children and youth, to offering help and healing to anyone who has been a victim of sexual misconduct on the part of clergy, and to preventing this terrible crime from happening in the future.”

“I deeply regret the long-lasting and devastating effects of sexual misconduct on the part of clergy and am completely committed to assisting its victims and preventing any recurrence of these crimes,” Bishop Paul Sirba wrote in a letter to members of the diocese. “I ask you to join me in prayer for all those who have been wounded by sexual misconduct on the part of the clergy.”

A press conference with Bishop Sirba has been scheduled for Monday at the diocese’s Pastoral Center.

The diocese urges anyone who has suffered such abuse to report it to the civil authorities and to the diocese at 2830 E. 4th Street, Duluth, MN 55812; at (218) 724-9111; or through one of the Diocesan Assistance Coordinators whose contact information is available in the diocesan newspaper, The Northern Cross, and on the diocesan website,


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