Ex-Valley Priest Faces Sex Charges
Texas Officials Say Former Diocesan Man Attacked Teen Boy

By Christine Schiavo
Morning Call (Allentown, PA)
October 9, 2002

A former Allentown Diocese Catholic priest, who was the subject of rumors in Lehigh County, was charged Friday with sexually assaulting a teenage boy in Texas.

The Rev. Edward R. Graff, 73, was charged with a June assault on a boy in Briscoe County, about 60 miles east of Amarillo. Graff has not been active in the Allentown Diocese since 1988 when he was sent to New Mexico for treatment of alcoholism, according to diocesan spokesman Matt Kerr.

Kerr said the Allentown Diocese told church officials in Amarillo in 1993 about rumors of "inappropriate activity" that had surfaced after Graff was sent to New Mexico.

Graff's file was among two dozen turned over to district attorneys in Lehigh, Northampton, Berks, Carbon and Schuylkill counties in April when prosecutors asked the church to reveal sexual abuse cases that had surfaced against priests in the 41-year history of the Allentown Diocese.

Allentown Bishop Edward P. Cullen has dismissed seven priests since 2000 on allegations of sexual abuse. An eighth priest resigned amid allegations in August. All of the cases date beyond the state's statute of limitations, which gives adults until they are 23 to file abuse charges from their childhood.

Kerr said Lehigh County District Attorney James B. Martin referred to Graff during a May news conference when Martin said he had reviewed the files of eight priests and had found none to be prosecutable.

Martin said then that a pastor had passed on rumors about a priest who was living in the Southwest and hadn't been active in Lehigh County since 1979. He did not name the priest.

Briscoe County District Attorney Becky McPherson is asking for any alleged victim of Graff to contact her office. She would not say how the allegations against Graff came to light, but said police believe Graff assaulted the boy on more than one occasion.

Graff was born in Philadelphia and ordained in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 1955. His first assignment was at Annunciation Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Shenandoah. He was pastor of Annunciation Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Catasauqua in 1973 when the parish swapped an acre with the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority so that the authority could gain more runway space.

From 1957 to 1983, he was at St. Anthony's in Easton, St. Elizabeth's in Pen Argyl, Our Lady Help of Christians in Allentown, St. Peter's in Coplay, and Holy Rosary and St. Margaret's, both in Reading. He also was an assistant principal at Pius X High School in Bangor in 1958 and Reading Central Catholic High School in 1965, and was principal at Holy Name High School in Reading in 1966. His last assignment was at Holy Guardian Angels parish in Reading, 1983-88.

Kerr said Graff had no other assignments in the Allentown Diocese after 1988 and did not return to the diocese. He received a pension after his retirement in 1992. When officials here found out in 1993 that Graff had taken an assignment in the Amarillo Diocese, they contacted church officials in Amarillo about the rumors, Kerr said.

The Amarillo Diocese made no mention of a 1993 report by the Allentown Diocese in a news release issued Monday. After first saying in July that Graff had retired for health reasons, Amarillo Bishop John W. Yanta said Monday that he received written notice from the Allentown Diocese in July that Graff "may have been guilty of sexual misconduct with youth."

Based on that information, Graff was immediately retired from ministry, Yanta said in the release. His retirement came a month after U.S. bishops agreed to remove from ministry priests with credible allegations of sexual abuse against them. Yanta has since removed nine priests.

Kerr said Allentown's response in July came after the Amarillo Diocese asked church officials here about Graff. Kerr stressed that the diocese's response in July marked the second time officials had passed on information about the rumors to officials in the Amarillo Diocese.

Briscoe District Attorney McPherson said Graff served two parishes, one there and one in neighboring Hall County. She would not say if the alleged victim was a parishioner.

McPherson described the area as rural and sparsely populated. "We probably have more cattle than people," she said.

She said Graff was in a Texas hospital Wednesday after falling and injuring his hip in Swisher County Jail, where he was being held under $75,000 bail.

She asked anyone with information about Graff to call her office at 806-983-2197.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.