Rev. Marvin T. Knighton

Summary of Case: In 1993 a man confronted Knighton with allegations that Knighton had sexually abuse the man's high school aged son in 1988 and 1989. Knighton himself told the Milwaukee archdiocese about the allegations to "clear this up". The archdiocese didn't act because, they said, there was not a formal complaint. The son went to the archdiocese in 2002 with the same allegations. After a second (anonymous) person alleged past child sexual abuse, the archdiocese removed Knighton from ministry and reported him to the District Attorney. Knighton was criminally charged and put on trial. He was acquitted by a jury in 2003. Despite the acquittal, the archdiocesan review board upheld the allegations, saying there was a "preponderance of evidence" of child sexual abuse. At least one more person surfaced with allegations by 2004. Knighton has since been fully restricted from ministry. He moved to Phoenix in 2002 with his then 9 year old adopted son. He had raised two other adopted sons, having gotten permission from the Vatican to adopt.

: 1975


Start Stop Parish Town/Accusations State Position Notes


Milwaukee archbishop was William Edward Cousins (1958-1977)

1976 St. Anne's


The archdiocese received a report in 2002 that Knighton had sexually abused a minor in 1975.

WI 3/3 Parish had a school with 452 students.


Cousins was succeeded by Rembert George Weakland, O.S.B. (1977-2002)

1987 St. Pius XI High School Milwaukee WI Counselor, Teacher, Campus Minister School had 1,726-1,901 students.
1987 1988 Absent on Leave       Knighton adopted two Korean boys in 1088.
    Whitnall High Schools Milwaukee WI    
1988 1991 St. Pius XI High School


In February 2002 a 28 year old former St. Pius student told the archdiocese that Knighton sexually abused him in 1988 and 1989. Per his accuser, Knighton had befriended him in 1986 when he was 12 years old and his mother was dying of cancer. The accuser testified that the first inappropriate touch was when Knighton kissed him on the lips the day his mother died.

WI Counselor, Teacher, Campus Minister

School had 1,827-1,705 students.

Archdiocesan officials didn't notify the District Attorney until April 2002. Knighton was criminally charged in June of that year.

1991 1992 Awaiting Assignment        
1992 1994 Mount Mary's College Milwaukee WI Campus Minister

School had 1,531-1,533 students.

In 1993 the father of the boy who said he was abused by Knighton in 1988-1989 told Knighton of the allegations and Knighton, in turn, told the archdiocese to "clear this up". Archdiocesan officials said they did not act because there was not a formal complaint.

1994 1995 On Leave        
1995 1995 St. Martin de Porres (African American) Milwaukee WI 1/2 Knighton adopted a two year old boy in 1996.
1995 1997 All Saints Milwaukee WI  

Knighton is not indexed in the 1997 Directory.

This assignment is per the Milwaukee archdiocese.

1997 1998 Awaiting Assignment        
1998 2000 Dominican High School Whitefish Bay WI  

Knighton is not indexed in the 1999 or 2000 Directories.

This assignment is per the Milwaukee archdiocese.


Phoenix bishop was Thomas Joseph O'Brien (1981-2003)

2001 St. Mary's High School Phoenix AZ Campus Minister

School had 825 students.

Milwaukee vicar for clergy, Rev. Joseph F. Hornacek, wrote in a June 2000 letter to the Phoenix diocese that Knighton was a priest in good standing and that there was "nothing in his background that would require us to limit any ministry with children".

2001 March 2002 Archdiocesan Office for Schools and Child Youth Ministry Milwaukee WI Consultant  


Weakland was replaced in Milwaukee by Timothy Michael Dolan (2002-2009)

2003 On Leave

Phoenix AZ  

Knighton was restricted by the archdiocese from contact with minors in February 2002 after he was accused of sexually abusing a minor in 1988 and 1989. Archdiocesan officials didn't notify the District Attorney until April 2002, when a second allegation surfaced of abuse of a minor dating to 1975. At that point Knighton was removed from public ministry. He was criminally charged in June of that year. He then moved to Phoenix with his 8 year old adopted son.

Knighton was acquitted in August 2003 by a Milwaukee County jury.


Milwaukee archbishop Dolan was succeeded by Jerome Edward Listecki (2009-)

Phoenix bishop O'Brien was replaced by Thomas James Olmsted (2003-)



By 2004, there was at least one more allegation against Knighton.


Despite Knighton's 2003 acquittal, the Milwaukee Archdiocesan Review Board upheld the allegations of child sexual abuse against him, citing a "preponderance of evidence." He remained fully restricted from ministry. His name does not appear in the Directories after 2003.

After the Milwaukee archdiocese filed for bankruptcy in January 2011, Knighton told a bankruptcy judge that the archdiocese owed him $450,000.


Sources: Official Catholic Directory (New York: P.J. Kenedy and Sons, 1976-2003)

Priest Charged with Youth Sex Assault, By Marie Rohde, Journal Sentinel Online, June 18, 2002
Accused Priest Was Phoenix Educator, By Joseph A. Reaves and Kelly Ettenborough, Arizona Republic, February 15, 2003
Priests with troubled pasts, By Joseph A. Reaves and Kelly Ettenborough, The Arizona Republic, May 4, 2003
Sexual Abuse Trial against Priest Opens, By Reid J. Epstein, Journal Sentinel Online, August 21, 2003
Jury Finds Priest Not Guilty, By Reid J. Epstein, Journal Sentinel Online, August 22, 2003
Archdiocese Upholds Abuse Allegations against Priest, By Tom Heinen, Journal Sentinel Online, April 8, 2004
Milwaukee Archdiocese Statement, July 9, 2004 (as updated November 26, 2007)
The 11 abuse cases the P-I examined, By Michelle Nicolosi and Claudia Rowe, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 19, 2004
Priest Says Milwaukee Archdiocese Mishandled Case, Owes Him $450,000, By Annysa Johnson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, January19, 2011
Priest ‘concerned’ about $450,000 in Back Pay from Milwaukee Archdiocese, By Jacqueline Palank, Wall Street Journal, January 20, 2011

Priests in a Parish: We use the following convention to show a priest's place among the clergy of a parish: 1/2 means that he is the first priest listed in the Official Catholic Directory (usually the pastor) and that there is a total of two priests at the parish. The shorthand 3/4 means that the priest is listed third on a four-priest roster. See our sample page from the Directory.

Note: The Official Catholic Directory aims to report the whereabouts of Catholic priests in the United States on January 1 of the Directory's publication year. Our working assumption is that a priest listed in the Directory for a given year was at the same assignment for part of the previous year as well. However, Kenedy and Sons will sometimes accept updates well into the year of publication. Diocesan clergy records are rarely available to correct this information. The Directory is also sometimes misleading or wrong. We have tried to create an accurate assignment record, given the source materials and their limitations. Assignment records are a work in progress and we are always improving the records that we post. Please email us with new information and corrections.

This assignment record collates Knighton's career history as it is represented in the Official Catholic Directory with allegations as reported in the media. We make no representation regarding the truth of the allegation we report, and we remind our readers that the U.S. legal system presumes that a person accused of or charged with a crime is innocent until proven guilty. Similarly, individuals who may be defendants in civil actions are presumed not to be liable for such claims unless a plaintiff proves otherwise. Admissions of guilt or liability are not typically a part of civil or private settlements. For more information, see our posting policy.

This assignment record was last updated on March 20, 2012