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Officials Charge Retired Priest In Sexual Assault

Oct 8, 2002 | AP

One of nine Catholic priests who left the Diocese of Amarillo following the enactment of a sexual abuse policy has been arrested on charges accusing him of molesting a teenager.

The Rev. Edward R. Graff, who retired in July, was arrested at his home in Quitaque in the Texas Panhandle on Friday and has been arraigned on a charge of sexual assault, Briscoe County District Attorney Becky McPherson said Monday.

The Department of Public Safety said it obtained arrest and search warrants for Graff, 73, based on information received by authorities within the past two weeks.

Officials said the alleged molestation occurred recently. McPherson said authorities are concerned there may be other possible victims.

"I hope not, but we certainly have to look for them," she said of the likelihood of additional victims.

Parents or guardians should question teenage boys who visited, worked for or spent the night at Graff's residence or rectory, the DPS release states.

Graff, who came to the Amarillo diocese in 1992, resigned in July shortly after a "zero-tolerance" policy on molestation was instituted by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

On Friday, Bishop John W. Yanta of the Diocese of Amarillo said in a statement that Graff left "because of advanced age and poor health," and not because of the policy.

On Monday, however, a second statement issued by the diocese said it learned in a July 2002 letter from the Allentown, Penn., diocese that Graff may have been guilty of sexual misconduct with youth.

He was removed immediately from ministry and his faculties for ministry were removed, the statement said.

Graff was ordained in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in May 1955.

He came under the auspices of the Diocese of Allentown diocese when it formed in 1961, said Matt Kerr, spokesman for the diocese in Allentown.

Graff finished his final assignment in Allentown in 1983 and then attended a treatment facility for problems not related to sexual misconduct, Kerr said.

Files of the Amarillo diocese reflected that the treatment was related to problems with alcohol, the diocese said in its Monday statement.

"No allegations were ever made to diocesan officials here while he was in this diocese," Kerr said. "After his departure from here there were rumors."

Graff retired from the Allentown diocese in 1992, Kerr said.

His bond was set at $75,000.

The 73-year-old priest remained in custody Monday and was en route from an Amarillo hospital to one in Lubbock, a spokesman for the Lubbock hospital said Monday afternoon. Graff suffered a possible hip fracture Sunday when he fell while showering in the Swisher County Jail in Tulia, McPherson said.

As the national Catholic Church sex abuse scandal widened earlier this year, two priests left the Amarillo diocese. Six more including Graff resigned after the bishops' conference passed its sexual abuse policy in June.

A ninth priest's exit is unrelated to the sexual abuse scandal.

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