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DCI investigating allegation that priest abused child in Faith
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DCI investigating allegation that priest abused child in Faith

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Father Michel Mulloy.

The South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation is investigating an allegation that a Rapid City-based priest sexually abused a child in Faith in the early 1980s, according to the Meade County State’s Attorney.

States’s Attorney Michele Bordewyk said the Diocese of Rapid City contacted her office about the allegation against Father Michel Mulloy when he was working in Faith. She said she referred the case to DCI, which is under the Office of the Attorney General.

Bordewyk said her office would handle the prosecution if DCI discovered evidence of a crime within the statute of limitations.

Bishop Peter Muhich said he referred the allegation to the Office of the Attorney General. That office confirmed it received the allegation but would not comment on whether DCI opened an investigation.

Matthew Schackow, chief of the Faith Police Department, said he was also alerted about the accusation but DCI will be handling most of the investigation.

Muhich declined an in-person or phone interview but answered some questions by email. He said while Mulloy resigned as Bishop-elect of Duluth, he remains a priest with the Diocese of Rapid City. Mulloy is not allowed to present himself as a priest or engage in priestly duties during the investigation.

“What happens next depends on the outcome of the investigation,” Muhich said about whether Mulloy will be laicized — permanently dismissed from priestly duties — if the Catholic or criminal investigation finds the allegation credible.

The allegation

Mulloy, a 67-year-old from Mobridge, was ordained in the Diocese of Sioux Falls in 1979 before becoming a priest in the Diocese of Rapid City, according to the July edition of West River Catholic.

He’s held multiple leadership positions, including serving as the leader of the diocese between July 2019, when Bishop Robert Gruss was reassigned to Saginaw, Michigan, to July 2020 when Muhich was installed.

Pope Francis appointed Mulloy to serve as the Bishop in Duluth on June 19 and the Diocese received the allegation on August 7, according to a Monday news release from the Diocese. The allegation is that Mulloy sexually abused a child in the early 1980s and it’s the only allegation they diocese received against him.

Muhich declined to answer questions about where and exactly when the alleged abuse took place, where Mulloy was stationed and what his role was at the time, the age and gender of the alleged victim, and who made the report (the alleged victim or a third party).

But Bordewyk shared that the alleged abuse occurred in Faith, and the Faith police chief acknowledged being alerted about the accusation.

Mulloy became the administrator of St. Joseph Parish in Faith in 1983, according to a June 19 news release from the Diocese of Sioux Falls. He served as the parish’s pastor from 1986-1989.

Even if criminal investigators find evidence that Mulloy committed a sex crime, he may not be allowed to be charged due to South Dakota’s statute of limitations.

Charges can be brought any time against someone accused of raping someone under the age of 13 or raping someone through force, coercion or threats.

But people can only be charged with the following crimes if the victim reports it within seven years of the crime or before they turn 25: making sexual contact with a minor, raping someone between 13-16 when the perpetrator is at least three years older than the victim, and raping someone who is unable to give consent due to physical or mental incapacity or because they're intoxicated.

Investigation, resignation

After receiving the allegation on Aug. 7, Muhich contacted law enforcement and told Mulloy he couldn’t engage in ministry, according to a statement from the diocese.

The diocese then commissioned an internal investigation to determine if the allegation warrants further investigation under Canon Law. The investigation concluded that the allegation did deserve further investigation. 

The results of the internal invention were shared with the Rapid City Diocesan Review board, a lay-majority group, which agreed with the investigation's conclusions. Muhich then informed the Vatican about the finding that the investigation should continue.

Muhich did not respond to questions asking who conducted the initial investigation within the diocese and who will conduct the secondary one.

Mulloy submitted his resignation as Bishop-elect of Duluth to Pope Francis after the diocese gave him a summary of the specific allegation against him.

The Diocese of Duluth announced on Monday that Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Mulloy, who was set to be installed on Oct. 1. Monday was the first time the Diocese of Rapid City publicized the allegation against Mulloy to its parishioners and the greater public, Muhich confirmed.

This contrasts to when Bishop Gruss announced an allegation against Father John Praveen on Oct. 2, 2018, one day after the Rapid City Police Department alerted the diocese of the accusation. 

Past cases

Praveen was sentenced in March 2019 to six years in prison after admitting to touching a 13-year-old girl’s breasts inside the Rapid City cathedral in fall of 2018. He is eligible for parole in August 2021.

In May 2019 Gruss published a list of 21 priests credibly accused of sexual abuse. All but Praveen are now dead.

Muhich did not say what kind of evidence it would take for Mulloy to be added to the list.

Muhich previously served in the Diocese of Duluth which reached a $40 million settlement with 125 people who said they were sexually abused by priests, according to a May 2019 story by Minnesota Public Radio. The diocese declared bankruptcy in 2015 after a jury awarded a man $8 million.

The Diocese of Rapid City says anyone who has been abused by clergy or employees should first report the incident to law enforcement. If they want to also report the abuse to the diocese, they can confidentially reach Victim Assistance Coordinator Barbara Scherr at (605) 209-3418.

— Contact Arielle Zionts at arielle.zionts@rapidcityjournal.com

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