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 2019 "Unsolved" podcast about the unsolved murder of Father Alfred Kunz, 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. He is mentioned in the 2020 Report on the Holy See's Institutional Knowledge and Decision-Making Related to Former Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick (1930 to 2017), which can be found on the Vatican's website. He can be reached at mattcabbott@gmail.com.

(Note: I welcome and appreciate thoughtful feedback. Insults will be ignored. Only in very select cases will I honor a request to have a telephone conversation about a topic in my column. Email is much preferred. God bless you and please keep me in your prayers!)

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