TRIGGER WARNING: sexual assault
On August 7th, the Diocese of Rapid City, South Dakota was made aware of sexual abuse allegations against a minor that occured in the early 1980s. The priest that was named: Father Michel Mulloy, Bishop-Elect of the Diocese of Duluth, Minnesota. The Diocesan Review Board deemed the allegations warranted further investigation, and when presented with its findings, Father Mulloy submitted his resignation to Rome which was accepted by the Holy Father exactly one month after the allegations were first brought to the Diocese of Rapid City. As has been pointed out by others, this is the first time that a Bishop-Elect has resigned for reasons of sexual abuse before his ordination and installation. It is unprecedented. But, even more than that, it is a reminder. It is a reminder that we must continue to pray.
Many months ago, I wrote an article about a new Facebook group I had started called the Perpetual Novena for the Vacant U.S. Diocese’s. This was in direct response to the McCarrick scandal and all the questions which that whole mess has left and is still giving. It was a response to the very legitimate concerns of who would become the new Archbishop of Washington and replace Cardinal Wuerl, himself dealing with the fallout of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report. And it was a response to the fact that the faith of the laity in the episcopacy had almost reached shatterpoint. And now, we see this. So the question is: what does this tell us and what do we do from here?
The answer to both those questions is actually very simple: we must continue to pray.
But of course, there is more to that answer than just that. To answer part of what this situation tells us, is that the new system put in place by Pope Francis in Vos Estis Lux Mundi, seems to be having its desired effect. Since Father Mulloy was not an ordained Bishop at the time of the accusation, it was handled by his own Ordinary, the Bishop of Rapid City Peter Muhich, himself only ordained to the episcopate on July 9th (talk about a baby Bishop being thrown right into the thick of it). The time between when the allegation was first received and the resignation of Mulloy was announced by Rome was exactly a month. Mulloy was immediately barred from doing any kind of ministry as soon as the allegation was brought forward, and the findings were presented to a lay Review Board who agreed that the allegation needed a full investigation. Upon this decision and being made known of the full accusation against him, is what led Mulloy to resign. This also says how serious the Church is now in stopping abusers from climbing higher on the ecclesial ladder. What happened with Mulloy (being stopped dead in his tracks) is what should have happened with McCarrick.
Another part of the question of “what does this tell us” is “What does this say about the knowledge of the pror Bishops concerning Mulloy”? Mulloy, as a priest of Rapid City, served under 4 Bishops, 3 of whom are still alive. Now, depending on what side of the isle you tend to fall, your response is going to be either: 1. It’s Cupich’s fault or 2. It’s Chaput’s fault. And then of course there is Bishop Gruss, recently transferred to Saginaw Michigan. Archbishop Emeritus Chaput served Rapid City from 88-97 and Cardinal Cupich served from 98-2010. Bishop Gruss served from 2011 – 2019. As much as we try to place the blame on the Bishops, deservedly or not sometimes, the Diocese of Rapid City made it clear that this is the only accusation ever brought forth against Mulloy. Which means that Bishop Muhich most likely went digging through all the records to make sure of that. Mulloy was not on the credibly accused list of priests released by Rapid City in 2019 under Bishop Gruss. The Bishop who served at the time the alleged abuse occurred died in office in 1987. So it’s clear that, most likely, no one besides Mulloy and the victim knew anything before August 7th, 2020. So this means, no conservatives, we can’t blame Cupich, and no liberals, you can’t blame Chaput. And no we can’t blame Gruss either. They simply did not know. Now, will Cardinal Cupich potentially have to answer for this news in Rome? There’s a good chance of that. Being that he will be the only member of the United States cardinalate to be on the Congregation for Bishops come November when Cardinal Wuerl turns 80, and that he most likely recommended and knew Mulloy, it is possible that Cupich may have things to answer for in Rome. While the McCarrick case threw the notion of “no accusation = no knowledge” right out the window, in this instance, that seems to be the case.
The other thing that this case tells us is that we need to pray. We must continue to pray! We must pray for victims, we must help them in any way we can. We must pray for the accused, for repentance and conversion. And we must pray for the Church to heal from these wounds. The fight against clerical sexual abuse is far from over. If a man who was accused of abuse was almost ordained a Bishop, that tells us that there is still a lot of work to do. While the process for selecting Bishops has gotten more thorough, there are still mistakes that happen that should not happen. This evil must be eradicated from the Church and from the world. Sexual abuse of minors by those in the Church is abhorant, disgusting, and vile. It is sickening and infuriating. But we must pray! We must pray for the victims, we must pray for the accused, we must pray for the faithful affected by this scandal, and we must pray for all the Church. We must not allow our anger and our fury to turn into sin. We must not allow our sadness to turn into despair. But, we must not allow the suffering to turn into rejection, but instead, we must embrace the Cross that we as a whole Church bear and continue to bear it to Calvary for everlasting life. We must embrace each other with love, comfort, understanding, and healing. We must not leave the barque of Peter due to corrupt first mates, but we must persevere in prayer. We must push on and continue to cry out if there is to be the calming of the storm.
In his book, Letter to the Suffering Church, Bishop Robert Barron states, “There is simply never a good reason to leave the Church. Never. Good reasons to criticize Church people? Plenty. Legitimate reasons to be angry with corruption, stupidity, careerism, cruelty, greed, and sexual misconduct on the part of the leaders of the Church? You bet. But grounds for turning away from the grace of Christ in which eternal life is found? No. Never, under any circumstances”. Jesus is not asleep in the boat as we cross this stormy sea in which we’re in. Christ is with us. Christ commands the waters be still, but it is we who must be his instruments of that here and now. Let us be His instruments of, not only action, but of prayer. Because no good action will come without first there first being prayer. Cardinal Robert Sarah said, “If you think that your priests and bishops are not saints, then be one for them”. This is our call, our mission today. We must be the saints that our priests and bishops have not been. We must be the ones to defend the Church from all those who seek to destroy her, including those Bishops who have sinned so horrendously. And it all starts with prayer. Prayer for our priests, prayer for our Bishops, prayers for all those without a Bishop, because at this point, what faith is there among the laity in the episcopacy right now? Are we glad that Mulloy was stopped before becoming a Bishop? Yes, absolutely. But that doesn’t change the fact that this shows the weakness of human beings and their need to be strengthened and lifted up in prayer. And this is our duty. We are called the Church Militant for a reason, and so we must fight for the sanctity of our church with the greatest weapon in our arsenal: prayer. Pray for all those affected by abuse. Pray for the Diocese of Duluth who lost their beloved Shepherd Bishop Sirba so suddenly in December and now must confront this sorrow and sadness. Pray for the priests of the Diocese of Rapid City from where Mulloy comes from, and think of how they must feel during this time. We must pray. And so, as I have in the past, I invite you to join the Facebook group, Perpetual Novena for the Vacant U.S. Diocese’s where we will continue to pray every day that the Holy Spirit will send good and holy Shepherds, Shepherds after Christ’s own Heart, and not hired hands who run and leave the sheep for their own selfish gain. Men who will be inspired by the Holy Spirit to do what is right and just. Not wolves in shepherd’s clothing, but holy men that will guide the flock into eternal life. May God make it so and may God have mercy on His Church.
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673
USCCB chart with the contact information for the Victim Assistance Coordinators of each U.S. Diocese (scroll down) – https://www.usccb.org/offices/child-and-youth-protection/victim-assistance