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Diocese Raising Awareness After Alleged Sexual Abuse

Posted at: 10/07/2013 3:42 PM
Updated at: 10/07/2013 9:13 PM
By: Laurie Stribling
lstribling@wdio.com



The Diocese of Duluth is working to raise awareness after a retired priest was credibly accused of sexually abusing a minor.

"As difficult as it is, as members of a family we need to talk about these things," Bishop Paul Sirba said. "These are issues in our church and in our society."

During a press conference Monday, clergy with the Diocese of Duluth addressed the accusation that they said happened decades ago. Sirba said Father Cornelius Kelleher sexually abused a girl while working at St. Joseph's Church in Chisholm from 1975 to 1986.

Sirba said Kelleher retired in July of last year and the victim came forward just a couple months later. In October, he said Kelleher was put on leave.

"Our first priority, once it was credible, was to remove him from ministry," Sirba said. "That we did rather quickly."

Kelleher served at a dozen churches over his career. Many were in the Northland. While no other victims have come forward, Sirba isn't ruling it out.

"This notification will help us see if there will be others that come forward," Sirba said.

Other priests at the press conference Monday said raising awareness is important in battling sexual abuse.

"We are very serious about this particular evil," Father James Bissonette said. "We want to make sure we do everything we can to make sure that people are safe, especially our children."

The victim in this matter is not pressing charges, according to Sirba. Sirba also said Kelleher has expressed remorse.

Sirba served at the following parishes: St. James, Duluth; St. Joseph, Crosby; Holy Family, Eveleth; St. Mary, Cook; St. Bridget, Greaney; St. Benedict, Duluth; St. Joseph, Gnesen; St. Joseph, Lakewood; St. Joseph, Chisholm; St. Andrew, Brainerd; St. Patrick, Hinckley; and St. Joseph, Beroun.