Matt C. Abbott
Accused priest appealing to Rome
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By Matt C. Abbott
May 20, 2020

In 2018, I featured the case of Father William C. Graham of the Diocese of Duluth, Minn. Graham was “designated as 'credibly accused' of sexual misconduct by the Diocese of Duluth,” after which he “successfully sued the man who made the allegations against him.”

Click here to read my Oct. 4, 2018 column on the matter.

I recently asked Graham for an update on his priestly status, and he responded in an email dated May 19, 2020 (lightly edited):

    Here is a synopsis of where my case is.

    I am a priest of the Diocese of Duluth and pastor of St. Michael Parish, Duluth, Minn. I am seeking my right of due process, currently suffering under a dismaying disregard for the presumption of innocence and the right to a good name, both of which, along with due process, are not only rights accorded in ecclesiastical law but also are natural human rights that I possess.

    The Diocese of Duluth has failed to follow their own published policy, as found on the diocesan website, in regard to accusations regarding sexual abuse by a cleric. At no time, past or present, have I received the assessment and advice of the review board in this matter. I have never been interviewed by the review board. Indeed, I don’t even know the names of the members of the review board and thus, there is no manner of independent, unfiltered contact with the review board.

    I am dismayed that I have been given no idea of why Terrence J. Davis’s frivolous accusation was treated by the late Bishop Paul D. Sirba as somehow credible, or what even he meant by credible. Bishop Sirba did not speak with me or Mr. Davis, nor did he avail himself of the hundreds of hours of depositions, and the thousands of pages of testimony available in the civil court testimony that led to the jury’s unanimous decision, a decision that was upheld at the highest level of the State of Minnesota’s appellate level, that Mr. Davis lied.

    Suing my accuser, I faced him in a civil court and proved that he lied in making the accusation against me. Not only did an eight-person, layperson jury, after three days of trial and several hours of deliberation, unanimously determine that my accuser lied; they then imposed a judgment of compensatory damages upon the accuser.

    Further, the decision against Mr. Davis has been affirmed by the Trial Court as well as upheld by the Minnesota Court of Appeals. Again, there remains a complete dismaying disregard of my right to due process, right of defense, presumption of innocence (even more than a presumption given the exhaustive trial and appeals in the civil forum), and right to a good name.

    My diocese has failed to take the ecclesiastical steps necessary for me to vindicate my rights in a competent ecclesiastical forum. After four years of being held in a state of ‘limbo’ or abeyance, the chief executive of the Diocese of Duluth has refused to proceed to a penal process in accord with the norm of law that would discover the truth and resolve this matter ecclesiastically. Justice delayed is justice denied.

    I have appealed to Rome, and await their decision.

© Matt C. Abbott

 

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Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication, media and theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He also has an Associate in Applied Science degree in business management from Triton College. Abbott has been interviewed on MSNBC, Bill Martinez Live, WOSU Radio in Ohio, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's 'Unsolved' podcast, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) and WISC-TV (CBS) in Madison, Wis., and has been quoted in The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, and other media outlets. In 2005 and 2006, he was among the first writers to expose former cardinal Theodore McCarrick's abuse of power with and sexual harassment of seminarians. He can be reached at mattcabbott@gmail.com.

(Note: I welcome thoughtful feedback and story ideas. If you want our correspondence to remain confidential, please specify as such in your initial email to me. However, I reserve the right to forward and/or publish emails that are accusatory, insulting or threatening in nature, even if they're marked confidential. Also, if you give me permission to publish a quote of yours, please do not contact me at a later time to request that I delete your name. Only in limited circumstances will I quote anonymous sources. Thank you and God bless!)

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