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Diocese names two Duluth priests as 'credibly accused'

(file / News Tribune)

A Duluth priest suing a man who has accused him of sexual abuse has been added to the Diocese of Duluth's list of priests it has determined to be "credibly accused."

The Diocese announced on Sunday that the Rev. William C. Graham, who is arguing in his lawsuit that he has been falsely accused, and the Rev. Roland Antus were found to be credibly accused of sexual abuse following the Diocese's investigation into the allegations.

Graham was credibly accused of sexually abusing a child in the 1970s at St. Benedict's Catholic Church in Duluth and Antus was credibly accused of committing the same crime in the 1980s at St. James Catholic Church in Duluth, according to the Diocese's statement.

Graham has been on administrative leave as pastor of St. Michael's Catholic Church in Duluth since the accusation was made and continues to be prohibited from public ministry, according to the Diocese. Antus retired from active ministry in 2008, but he has been prohibited from public ministry since the accusation was made, the Diocese said.

The addition of Antus and Graham to the credibly accused priests list was the result of the Diocese's "internal and confidential investigation" into the accusations against them.

The jury trial for Graham's lawsuit against his accuser is scheduled to begin Aug. 21. The lawsuit claims that the man's allegations interfered with Graham's contractual obligations to the church and inflicted emotional distress upon the priest.

Graham's name surfaced in a 2016 lawsuit, filed anonymously by a man identified as Doe 446, against St. John's Church, St. Benedict's Church and Marshall School (formerly Cathedral High School). Graham wasn't named as a defendant, but is mentioned in the lawsuit as the focus of the abuse allegations.

The alleged victim states in court records that Graham sexually abused him on three separate occasions in 1977 while Graham was helping him with his school work at the residence of St. Benedict's Church. Graham was a teacher at Cathedral High School at the time and Graham's uncle was the priest assigned to St. Benedict's Church, according to court records. The alleged victim states in court records that he told four people about the abuse beginning in the 1980s and that his father wrote a letter to the Diocese in 2010 to report the abuse.

Graham argues in court records that the accusation against him is false because he didn't live at St. Benedict's until 1979, two years after the alleged victim says the abuse took place there, and that the alleged victim can't describe some of the details about the circumstances in which the alleged abuse took place. Graham is also arguing that the accusation has cost him the loss of about $500 per month for living expenses and his pastoral duties at St. Michael's while he's on administrative leave. Being unable to administer any of the sacraments and daily Mass "have caused him devastating emotional pain," according to court records.

Judge Theresa Neo denied last year Graham's request to add defamation to his lawsuit claims and denied the alleged victim's request for a summary judgment in the lawsuit, paving the way for the jury trial later this month.

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