Unintended Consequences: Dallas Charter Leaves Innocent Priests In Limbo

Rev. William C Graham : Rev. Pascal Pat Ipolito : Rev. Michel Mulloy : Anonymous

Courage (l to r): Rev. William C. Graham, Diocese of Duluth (Minnesota);
Rev. Pascal 'Pat' Ipolito, Diocese of Buffalo;
Rev. Michel Mulloy, Diocese of Rapid City (South Dakota); Anonymous

It might be human nature. Humans seem incapable of correcting one problem without overcorrecting to the point that they create another, opposite problem. So seems to be the case with the United States bishops' 2002 "Dallas Charter," intended as a "zero tolerance" response to the ongoing abuse issue.

While originally well intentioned, over two decades later, it has now become clear that it has caused justice, common sense, and due process for accused priests to have been completely thrown out the window.

The lives of innocent priests continue to be shattered. Take these recent episodes, for example:

  • After being falsely accused by a client of the law firm of the sleazy lawyer Jeff Anderson of "sexual misconduct" decades ago in the 1970s, Rev. William Graham of the Diocese of Duluth (Minnesota) sued his accuser in 2018 and won a settlement against his accuser for defaming him. Yet five years after his victory, Fr. Graham's diocese still refuses to give him a parish assignment.
  • After Rev. Pascal "Pat" Ipolito of the Diocese of Buffalo retired in 2016 after decades in ministry, he was placed on a list of "credibly accused" priests after a chap accused him of abuse in the 1970s. Ipolito vehemently denies the claim, and he rightfully objects that the diocese now wants to subject him to periodic "monitoring." "Monitoring implies that that I am guilty of something, and I am not," Fr. Ipolito told TheMediaReport.com.
  • The Diocese of Rapid City (South Dakota) admits that a single accusation against Rev. Michel Mulloy dating back four decades to the 1980s cannot be proven, yet Mulloy still remains out of ministry based on nothing more than a suspicion apparently. [HT: Matt C. Abbott at RenewAmerica.]
  • This site has communicated with a priest who wishes to remain anonymous. Although his single accusation from over two decades ago was found not credible, this priest is "10 years without employment, salary, benefits, insurance, and pension denied." "Are there no adults in the Church who can understand, act with justice, and abide by their own rules?" the priest pleaded.

Justice violated, relationships ruined

The problems with the Dallas Charter and the damage it has done to not only innocent priests but also to the bishop-priest relationship have been evident for many years. In fact, only two years after the Charter was instituted, Cardinal Avery Dulles was already writing how "some of the measures adopted [in Dallas] went far beyond the protection of children from abuse" and wreaked injustice upon priests.

And last year, we published a post about a letter written by Msgr. Paul L. Bochicchio of the Archdiocese of Newark in which he listed the many negative consequences of the U.S. bishops' "zero tolerance" policy, including how bishops have become "more accountable to lawyers and law enforcement" than they are to their own priests, and how diocesan review boards exhibit a complete lack of urgency to resolve issues quickly. Fairness and due process for accused priests are simply no longer on the radar, and the critical relationship between a bishop and his priests has become completely ruptured.

A single accusation, no matter how old and utterly crazy, has the power to destroy a priest's career forever.

Will anyone take notice?


See also:
- "Just the Facts, Ma'am: False Accusations Against Catholic Priests Are Now At Epic Proportions" (TheMediaReport.com) (May 2019)
- "Priests 'Credibly' Accused?" by Msgr. Thomas G. Guarino (First Things, 2013)
- Catholic Priests Falsely Accused: The Facts, The Fraud, The Stories by David F. Pierre Jr. (Amazon.com)


  1. Robert Povish says:

    Once again, an article that hits the bullseye!  Even more insidious is the vague "boundary violation" accusation, under which almost everyone can be found guilty and have their vocation canceled!!!!!

  2. Matt Mercier says:

    Do you follow Joseph Sciambra Dave? He's becoming venomously anti-Catholic since becoming Orthodox! He says he was raped by a priest at the Catholic elementary school he attended as a child. However, he made no such claim in the early 2010's when he was getting attention from National Catholic Register and other Catholic media outlets. He didn't even mention this in his first book Swallowed by Satan, published in 2013. Hence I am skeptical of his claim. 

  3. LLC says:

    As much as I agree that these are extremely frustrating situations (to put it mildly), I am also inclined to say that the Church may be correct in acting with caution, and not as quickly as sometimes we would like, when it comes to cleaning the names of these and other wrongly accused priests and reinstating them to their legitimate places. Please let’s remember how we got to this point in the first place. Our Church trusted an extremely flawed system which was the norm then (but nobody wants to admit that now) and kept some black sheep in place, so now that she’s taking corrective actions to remediate those old errors, the pendulum is swinging over the cautionary side. Also, considering how reports of alleged sexual crimes are popping up in all different organizations (including religious ones), I believe the Church is acting prudentially with these situations. Now, would I be as understanding if I were one of the wrongly accused? I am only human, so probably not. But we can all pray for the people involved that they may receive strength from God to weather these storms and provide an example for all of us.

    Side note for our brother Dan, apparently not happy as he’s not the target of more than deserved criticisms and is throwing tantrums like a five years old who doesn’t get attentions from the adults: if you have pertinent and intelligent comments for the topics at hand, please post them, and be ready to engage in a discussion. If not, go back to the corner and reflect on what you have done, young man…