Pope Francis accepts resignation of Duluth Bishop-elect Michel Mulloy after abuse allegation

Bishop elect Michel Mulloy Credit Diocese of Duluth Fr. Michel Mulloy. Courtesy of the Diocese of Duluth.

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of the Bishop-elect of Duluth, Minnesota, Michel J. Mulloy, after an accusation that he abused a minor in the 1980s surfaced in early August.

Mulloy, 66, was appointed to lead the Minnesota diocese on June 19, and his consecration and installation as bishop were scheduled to take place Oct. 1.

According to a statement, the Diocese of Rapid City on Aug. 7 "received notification of an allegation against Father Mulloy of sexual abuse of a minor in the early 1980s."

The diocese said it "has no other allegations of sexual abuse involving Father Mulloy."

Press releases from the Vatican and from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops did not state a reason for the bishop-elect's resignation.

The Rapid City diocese said it is "following the established procedure" and informed law enforcement about the allegation. Mulloy was also directed to refrain from engaging in ministry.

The diocese commissioned an independent investigation into the allegation, which a review board then agreed merited a full investigation according to canon law. The diocese informed the Holy See about the development.

Mulloy received a summary of the allegation against him and subsequently submitted his resignation as the bishop-elect of Duluth.

Mulloy had been vicar general and vicar for clergy in the Diocese of Rapid City since 2017, and served as diocesan administrator while the diocese was without a bishop.

His appointment as bishop of Duluth almost three months ago followed the unexpected death of Bishop Paul Sirba on Dec. 1, 2019, at the age of 59.

With the resignation of Mulloy as bishop-elect, Msgr. James Bissonnette will continue to administer the Diocese of Duluth until the appointment of a new bishop.

Bissonnette said in a brief statement Sept. 7, "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."

At a televised press conference in Duluth after his appointment June 19, a visibly emotional Mulloy said "it's truly amazing, I give thanks to God for this opportunity."

"I'm humbled. I'm deeply grateful that the Holy Father, Pope Francis, thought I could handle and take on this opportunity."

Mulloy was born in Mobridge, South Dakota, in 1954. He said that during his childhood his family moved houses a lot. He also lost his mother at an early age; she died when he was 14.

He received a bachelor of arts degree from St. Mary University in Winona, Minnesota, and was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Sioux Falls on June 8, 1979.

Mulloy was assigned to assist the Diocese of Rapid City at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help immediately after his ordination.

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In July 1981, he returned to the Diocese of Sioux Falls, where he served until July 1983 as a parochial vicar at Christ the King Parish in Sioux Falls.

Apart from that two-year period, Mulloy has spent his whole priestly life in the Diocese of Rapid City. 

In a Sept. 7 statement, the Diocese of Sioux Falls said that it "has no record of having received complaints or allegations regarding the conduct of Father Mulloy during his assigned ministry" in the diocese.

After serving at several parishes in the Diocese of Rapid City, including the mission parishes of St. Anthony in Red Owl and Our Lady of Victory in Plainview, Mulloy was incardinated in the diocese on October 17, 1986.

He was then appointed pastor of St. Joseph's church with continued ministry at the two mission parishes.

The 100-year-old Our Lady of Victory parish in Plainview was closed by the diocese in 2018 due to a declining rural population in the area.

The priest has been pastor at several other parishes in the Rapid City diocese. He also served as director of vocations from 1989 to 1992, and director for the office of worship in 1994.

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Mulloy was also director of spiritual life and liturgy at the Terra Sancta Retreat Center in 2018.

This report has been updated to clarify details of Fr. Michel Molloy's priestly ministry in the Diocese of Sioux Falls.

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