Pope laicizes priest accused of sexual abuse


October 28, 2021

Joseph Gallatin, who was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in 1997 and has been prohibited from public ministry since 2014, has been dispensed from the obligations of the clerical state, Archbishop Bernard Hebda announced in a statement Oct. 25.

Pope Francis recently granted the change in Gallatin’s status, which Gallatin requested, Archbishop Hebda said. “That means that the canonical status of Joseph Gallatin, who has not exercised public ministry since 2014, is that of a lay person,” he said. “He will no longer serve as a priest of the Archdiocese. I am hopeful that Pope Francis’ decision may alleviate some of the pain and prove beneficial for all involved.”

Gallatin was accused in 1998 of inappropriate contact with a minor. Three Archdiocesan Review Boards reviewed the matter, in 1998, 2002 and 2014. According to Archbishop Hebda’s statement, each board “concluded that there was not sufficient evidence to support a finding of sexual abuse of a minor,” he said. “The 2014 Board recommended that he be permitted to engage in limited ministry. His ministry was restricted accordingly.”

After the 2014 review, however, new information was presented to the archdiocese, and then brought to the review board, about the 1998 incident, and Gallatin was again removed from ministry. In a 2015 review of the case, the Ministerial Review Board concluded the allegation was credible. Information relating to the allegation was provided to law enforcement. A criminal prosecution was not brought. The entire case, including the new information, was submitted to the Vatican, which authorized a three-judge tribunal to review the case under canon law. The tribunal upheld the charges. Gallatin initially appealed the decision, but later renounced the appeal to petition Pope Francis for laicization.

“Throughout these processes, Joseph Gallatin has firmly denied the allegation,” Archbishop Hebda said.

Gallatin ministered as parochial vicar of St. Hubert in Chanhassen (1997-1998), St. Bernard in St. Paul (1998-2003), St. Boniface in St. Bonifacius and St. Mary of Czestochowa in Delano (2003-2008), St. Peter in Mendota (2008-2014) and Faithful Shepherd Catholic School in Eagan (2010-2014).