An American bishop-elect has resigned just weeks before he was due to start the job, following an allegation that he had sexually abused a minor, Catholic Church officials said on Monday.
Father Michel Mulloy, 66, was appointed by Pope Francis on June 19 to be bishop of Duluth, Minnesota and was due to be formally installed in a ceremony on Oct. 1.
It is almost unheard of for a bishop-elect to resign between the time of his appointment and installation. The episode pointed to the continuing impact the abuse scandal is having on the 1.3 billion-member Roman Catholic Church.
It was not immediately possible to contact Mulloy or his lawyers for comment early on Monday, a public holiday in the United States.
A Vatican statement said Pope Francis had accepted Mulloy’s resignation, but gave no more details.
The diocese of Rapid City, South Dakota, where Mulloy had served as a priest, released a statement saying it had last month “received notification of an allegation against Father Mulloy of sexual abuse of a minor in the early 1980’s”.
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The diocese said that when it received the allegation, police were informed and Mulloy was instructed to refrain from public ministry while a Church investigation determined if the allegation was credible.
A diocesan board made up of mostly lay members reviewed the investigation’s findings and concluded that the accusation “met the standard” for further investigation, the diocese said.
Mulloy submitted his resignation after he received a summary of the allegation, the diocese added.
Police in Duluth and Rapid City did not immediately respond to calls for comment early on Monday.
For the past two decades the Roman Catholic Church around the world has been hit by a raft of sexual abuse cases and has spent billions of dollars in settlements, expenses that in many cases have led to the closing of parishes and schools.
The U.S. Church is still reeling from a Pennsylvania grand jury report that revealed that priests had abused about 1,000 people over seven decades in that state alone.