DULUTH, Minn. (AP) — A priest recently tapped by Pope Francis to become a bishop for a northern Minnesota diocese has resigned after an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor in the 1980s surfaced before he could take up his post.
The Vatican announced Monday that Francis had accepted the resignation of Bishop-elect Michel Mulloy, whom the pope named in June to head the Duluth diocese. Mulloy was supposed to be elevated to bishop’s rank in an Oct. 1 ceremony in Duluth. The Vatican did not provide details.
At the time of his appointment, Mulloy was serving as diocesan administrator in Rapid City, South Dakota. The Diocese of Rapid City said in a statement that it received the allegation last month and that it dates back to the 1980s. It said there have been no additional allegations of abuse involving Mulloy.
The Associated Press left a message seeking comment Monday at Mulloy’s office in the Rapid City diocese.
It is highly unusual for a priest who has been selected to be a bishop to resign before that can happen. But the development underlines the pontiff’s oft-stated resolve to crack down on predator priests as well as insist that any allegation of sexual abuse be promptly investigated.
The Rapid City diocese said Bishop Peter Muhich informed law enforcement of the development and that Mulloy was “directed to refrain from engaging in ministry.”
“The diocese then commissioned an independent investigation to determine whether the allegation warranted further investigation under Cannon (church) Law,″ the Rapid City diocese statement said. The review found that ”the accusation met the standard for further investigation and conclusion and the Holy See was informed” by Muhich.
The Rapid City diocese said Mulloy received a summary of the specific allegation and submitted his resignation as bishop-elect to the pope.
Police in Rapid City said they have no report of allegations against Mulloy. It’s unclear where the 1980s allegation happened and which law enforcement agency received the report. A message left with the diocese to seek more details was not immediately returned Monday.
Monsignor James Bissonette will continue to serve as administrator for the Diocese of Duluth until a new bishop is appointed. In a statement Monday, Bissonette said the diocese grieves with all who have suffered sexual abuse.
“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,” he said. “We place our hope and trust in God’s providence as we await, again, the appointment of our next bishop.”
According to the Star Tribune, Mulloy, 67, most recently served as vicar general and administrator for the Rapid City diocese. He was ordained in 1979 and served in the Sioux Falls and Rapid City dioceses before joining the Rapid City diocese in 1986.