Duluth Bishop-Elect resigns amid sexual abuse allegation

By Ryan Haff
September 7, 2020

[with video]

DULUTH, MN-- Officials with the Diocese of Duluth announced Monday morning Bishop-elect Michel Mulloy has officially resigned following an accusation of sexual abuse of a minor.

A notification was accompanied by an announcement from the Diocese of Rapid City of an accusation of sexual abuse of a minor made against Father Mulloy as a priest of that diocese during the 1980s.

Pope Francis originally appointed Father Mulloy to the position back in June 2020 after Bishop Paul Sirba died unexpectedly in December 2019.

Mulloy was to be ordained and installed as Bishop of Duluth on October 1.

Father James B. Bissonette, the Diocesan Administrator for the Diocese of Duluth, released the following statement Monday morning:

"We grieve with all who have suffered sexual abuse and their loved ones. I ask you to pray for the person who has come forward with this accusation, for Father Mulloy, for the faithful of our diocese, and for all affected. We place our hope and trust in God’s providence as we await, again, the appointment of our next bishop."

Father Bissonette said Monday it's a difficult time for all involved, "for a young person or a child who has been abused by a priest, later on, to come forward is hard too, and it's hard for the priest who has been accused and it's hard for the rest of the faithful, in this case, our diocese."

The allegation made public over the weekend could mean the Diocese of Duluth will have to wait up to a year for a new bishop says, Father James Bissonette.

Though a difficult situation, Father Bissonette said he wants the truth to come out, always, "we want our young people and children to be safe."

Father Bissonette adds the Diocese of Duluth has policies in place to make sure of it.

"Everybody who is employed by us who even volunteers in our institutions, they sign off on the policy, it's renewed every five years," said Father Bissonette.

Though the sexual misconduct claim doesn't stem from an incident in Duluth, it isn't the church's first encounter with the issue.

An agreement reached in 2019, provided $40 million in compensation to more than 125 survivors who filed sexual abuse claims against the diocese of Duluth.

"We don't want this evil, and that's what it is, happens to anybody, it's happened in the past and we don't want it to happen now," said Father Bissonette.

The Diocese of Duluth will have to wait until a congregation of bishops vet a new candidate.

After that, Pope Francis has to give his final say, and then the process of being ordained and installed would begin.

Father Bissonette will continue to serve as Diocesan Administrator until Pope Francis appoints a new bishop.

The Catholic Diocese of Rapid City released a statement saying:

The Catholic Diocese of Rapid City is firmly committed to creating and maintaining the safest possible environment for our children and young people. Its clergy and lay leaders have followed the procedures outlined in the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Youth and the requirements of canon law as affirmed and supplemented by Pope Francis.

We encourage anyone who believes they have been abused by a member of the clergy or employee of the diocese, regardless of when the harm occurred, to first report the matter to law enforcement.   They are invited to contact the Diocese to receive the help and healing they deserve. To report allegations of sexual abuse by church personnel, contact the Victim Assistance Coordinator, Barbara Scherr. To ensure confidentiality in her outreach to victims, she can be contacted privately at 1-605-209-3418 (cell). Her phone has caller ID and messaging features. All information will be treated confidentially.


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