Matt C. Abbott
Vatican acquits Minnesota priest accused of sex abuse
By Matt C. Abbott
March 30, 2024

The last several years I’ve been covering the case of the Rev. William C. Graham, who in 2016 was removed from active ministry for what the Diocese of Duluth, Minnesota, deemed a credible allegation of abuse. (My past columns on Graham’s case can be read here, here, here, here and here.) Graham subsequently appealed to the Vatican, which – as I reported in late December 2022 – found Graham “not guilty.”

In a decree dated March 28, 2024 (below), Bishop Daniel J. Felton announced that he’s returning Graham to active ministry.

Deacon Kyle Eller, spokesman for the diocese, released the following statement:

    On Monday, March 18, 2024, the Diocese of Duluth received official notification from the Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome regarding the ongoing appeal of the Reverend William C. Graham, a priest of the Diocese of Duluth.

    The Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith decided that there was not sufficient evidence presented to arrive at moral certainty that Father Graham was guilty of the accusation made against him, and therefore he was acquitted with a decree of absolution.

    As a result of this decree, Bishop Daniel Felton has been directed by the Dicastery of the Doctrine of Faith to take steps to restore Father Graham’s reputation and his ability to exercise his priestly ministry. The Dicastery stated that this should be done according to the way that Bishop Felton decides is most appropriate to guarantee the public good and that of Father Graham. With that being the case, in response to the directive of the Dicastery, Bishop Felton is taking several steps to do so, most notably the following:

    1. All canonical restrictions in place on Father Graham’s exercise of his priestly ministry are lifted.

    2. Father Graham’s name has been removed from the Diocese of Duluth’s list of Clergy with credible claims against them concerning sexual abuse of a young person.

    3. Father Graham is to be restored to active ministry as Pastor of St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Duluth, MN, as soon as this is feasible.

Bishop Daniel Felton quotation:

    Now that a final decision and decree of absolution has been issued by the Dicastery of the Doctrine of Faith, I will do all that I can to attend to the pastoral needs of those impacted by this very long and difficult process.”


Graham issued the following statement in response to his acquittal:

    I am delighted, and grateful to God and to the Vatican, for the declaration of my innocence after a painful seven years and ten months of suffering under a demonstrably false accusation.

    I look forward to returning to Duluth and to my parish. I am grateful for the great and unwavering support of family, friends and parishioners.

    I am saddened that the announcement from the diocese and bishop contains no hint of regret for the injustice I have suffered, and for their failure to show any mercy in the last 94 months.

© 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 HLN, MSNBC, Bill Martinez Live, WOSU Radio in Ohio, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's 2019 ‘Unsolved’ podcast about the unsolved murder of Father Alfred Kunz, Alex Shuman's 'Smoke Screen: Fake Priest' podcast, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) and WISC-TV (CBS) in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s been quoted in The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and other media outlets. He’s 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

(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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