Bishop-Elect Resigns Over Sex Abuse Accusation

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by William Mahoney, Ph.D.  •  •  September 8, 2020   

8th US prelate to succumb to sex scandal

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DULUTH, Minn. ( - A priest scheduled to become a bishop is now the eighth U.S. prelate to resign since the revelations of disgraced ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick surfaced in the summer of 2018. 

Bp. Peter Muhich and Fr. James Bissonette

Bishop-elect Michel J. Mulloy will not be consecrated or installed as the 10th bishop of the Duluth diocese in Minnesota owing to an accusation of sexually abusing a minor in the Rapid City diocese of South Dakota.

Pope Francis appointed Mulloy the bishop of Duluth in June and accepted his resignation this week.

On Aug. 7, the Rapid City diocese said it received the allegation that Fr. Mulloy sexually abused a minor in the 1980s. The diocese did not specify if Mulloy is accused of abusing a boy or girl.

"Following the established procedure, Bp. Peter Muhich, bishop of Rapid City, informed law enforcement of this development [the allegation]. Fr. Mulloy was directed to refrain from engaging in ministry," read an official statement.

We grieve with all who have suffered sexual abuse and their loved ones.

"The diocese then commissioned an independent investigation to determine whether the allegation warranted further investigation under canon law," it added.

As a result of that inquiry, the statement said,

the results were shared with the Rapid City Diocesan Review Board, a lay-majority interdisciplinary body, in accordance with the standard of canon law and the policies of the diocese of Rapid City. The Review  Board agreed with the investigation's conclusion ... Fr. Mulloy received a summary of the specific allegation against him and submitted his resignation as bishop-elect of the diocese of Duluth to the Holy Father.

The Duluth diocese also published a statement.

"I have learned that our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has accepted the resignation of bishop-elect Michel Mulloy," said Fr. James Bissonette, diocesan administrator for the Duluth diocese. "Sadly, that notification was accompanied by an announcement from the diocese of Rapid City of an accusation of sexual abuse of a minor made against Fr. Mulloy as a priest of that diocese."

"We grieve with all who have suffered sexual abuse and their loved ones," Bissonette continued. "I ask you to pray for the person who has come forward with this accusation, for Fr. 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."

Former Bosses, Appointments

In his priestly tenure, Mulloy has worked for Bp. Harold Dimmerling (deceased), Bp. Charles Chaput (retired), Cdl. Blase Cupich of Chicago and Bp. Robert Gruss of Saginaw, Michigan.

Bp. Robert Gruss of Saginaw, Michigan

Bishop Gruss was forced to apologize in February 2019 to Roman Catholic Faithful — a watchdog group fighting corruption among Church hierarchy — for blasting the organization as "evil" in a statement read at parishes. Gruss also mentioned Church Militant in that statement.

In the apology letter, Gruss wrote, "I am very sorry that my comments were offensive to all of you and I apologize. They were strong and reactionary, and I am sorry that so many felt hurt by them."

Gruss issued a follow-up statement in diocesan monthly newspaper, West River Catholic, to defend why he opposes RCF, claiming its work goes beyond criticism and seeks to "destroy the reputation of Cdl. Cupich."

In June 2019, a poll showed Cupich as the worst bishop in the nation based on trustworthiness and orthodoxy.

"Complete HYPOCRITE. Money grubbing, liar," read one comment regarding Cupich's trustworthiness.

Bp. Robert Gruss criticized organizations like Church Militant that uncover corruption among the hierarchy


Other comments read: "He teaches heresy and he is not honest"; "He quiets dissenters and is an ideological bully"; and "Money grubbing, McCarrick supporter. False prophet."

"A man who seems to have had his faith withdrawn from him if he ever had it in the first place," read one comment regarding Cupich's orthodoxy.

Other comments read: "Cardinal Blase Cupich has no respect for the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church!"; "He is not Catholic. He is evil. He works to destroy the Truth"; and "He is part of the McCarrick gang and should be laicized for teaching heresy."

When you have someone come forward [with an accusation], it often encourages others to come forward as well.

Mulloy was vocations director in Rapid City from 1989–1992. He has also worked as director of spiritual life and liturgy and on various boards.

Mulloy was named vicar general and vicar for clergy for Rapid City in 2017. In 2019, Mulloy was elected diocesan administrator for Rapid City until Bp. Muhich filled the episcopal seat in July.

SNAP Reacts

Verne Wagner, who volunteers in Northland for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said he "would've thought this guy would've been vetted and vetted over and over again."

"When you have someone come forward [with an accusation], it often encourages others to come forward as well," he continued. "We'll see if that happens in this case."


Bp. Paul Sirba

(Photo: 2019 file/Forum News Service)

Wagner pointed out Bp. Muhich only became the local ordinary of Rapid City in July. He noted this situation will test his merits and called on Muhich to be transparent and release whatever documentation and personnel records he has on the accused.

"I'm just hoping, like everybody else, that the Church will come up with ways of being 100% accountable," Wagner said. "Words only go so far. I'll be judging them by their actions."

SNAP wrote in a statement it is "disturbing that a diocese like Duluth, which experienced its own share of clergy abuse cover-ups by Bp. Paul Sirba, would have been led by a prelate who himself has been accused of abuse."

"We hope that parishioners in Duluth are outraged by this news and will demand that their church officials improve their screening and elevation processes to ensure that no other diocese is led by an alleged child abuser," SNAP added.

Father Bissonette will remain as diocesan administrator of Duluth until the pope appoints a replacement for Mulloy.

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