Archdiocese Upholds Abuse Allegations against Priest
Former Pius XI Teacher Was Acquitted of Criminal Charge in 2003

By Tom Heinen
Journal Sentinel Online
April 8, 2004

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee has upheld allegations that Father Marvin Knighton sexually abused at least two people years ago when they were minors, even though a Milwaukee County jury acquitted him of a criminal abuse charge last summer.

The predominantly lay review board that handles such matters reviewed the report of the church's private investigator and concluded that the allegations were supported by a "preponderance of evidence," archdiocesan spokeswoman Kathleen Hohl said.

The action likely will lead to Knighton's involuntary removal from the priesthood. In the meantime, he is prohibited from wearing clerical garb or identifying himself as a priest. Knighton could not be reached for comment.

[Photo caption] [Redacted 2] (center), father of [Redacted 1] (left), who has accused Father Marvin Knighton of sexually abusing him as a child, reads a statement in front of Pius XI High School Thursday. Photo/Erwin Gebhard

One of his accusers praised the development.

"This has been a very long and tough journey, but I feel very confident, as I have felt in the past, that my willingness and persistence to hold a sexual perpetrator responsible for his actions would pay off," said [Redacted 1], 30, one of Knighton's accusers. "I didn't have a lot of faith throughout this process, but I'm very happy today of the outcome. This is a crucial step, an extremely important step, in protecting children."

Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan has accepted the review board's conclusion and, in accordance with Vatican and U.S. bishops procedures, has forwarded it to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Italy.

That Vatican department could accept the decision or give Knighton a canonical trial in Rome or Milwaukee. Priests with even one substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a child are now permanently removed from public ministry.

Knighton, 54, was charged in June 2002 with second-degree sexual assault after [Redacted 1] accused the priest of abusing him in 1988 and 1989 when [Redacted 1] was a student at Milwaukee's Pius XI High School while Knighton was on the faculty there. He has worked at other high schools. A jury acquitted Knighton of that charge in August.

Assistant Milwaukee County District Attorney Paul Tiffen, who issued the charge against Knighton, said Wednesday that he had also filed motions to admit into evidence two other people's claims that Knighton had abused them - one clearly a crime, if true, but too old to prosecute, and the other ambiguous - but the judge ruled that their value in helping to prove the case was outweighed by their prejudicial effect.

Knighton, who reportedly is living in or near Phoenix, has been on leave from ministry with full restrictions since April 2, 2002, Hohl said.

He served as assistant principal of a Catholic high school in Phoenix three years ago before returning to Milwaukee and serving as a consultant to the archdiocesan office of youth and child ministry, according to The Arizona Republic.

It could not be learned whether he was still living with a now 9- or 10-year-old boy he adopted in 1996. He previously adopted two biracial Korean boys, both now adults.

An African-American, Knighton admired Father George Clements, an African-American priest who gained national attention by adopting four sons in Chicago and co-founding what became One Church, One Child, an organization that urges adoptions of black children living in foster care.

Hohl said more than one victim had filed allegations against Knighton, but she was unable to say how many.


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