Monsignor James J. Mulligan

Born in Hazleton, Msgr. James J. Mulligan was the son of the late Edmund and Rose (Dougherty) Mulligan. He attended Beaver Meadows Public School; Harman Junior High School, Hazleton, and Hazleton Senior High School.

He began his studies for the priesthood at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Philadelphia, where he received a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy, and continued on to the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, where he received a Licentiate in Sacred Theology.

He was ordained to the priesthood July 16, 1961 at the Church of the Twelve Apostles in Rome by Bishop Martin O’Connor, rector of the Pontifical North American College, Rome.

During the course of his priestly ministry, Msgr. Mulligan served as diocesan censor of books; Diocesan Medical Ethicist; director, Office of Priestly Life and Ministry, director, Diocesan Health Affairs; and member, Board of Directors, Holy Family Villa for Priests, Bethlehem.


Msgr. Mulligan had a pivotal role in the formation of the Allentown Guild of the Catholic Medical Association in 2009. In 2006, two physicians and a pharmaceutical representative were ordained to the Diaconate in the Diocese of Allentown. Deacon Lew Ferris and Deacon Bruno Schettini were encouraged by Msgr. Mulligan to investigate the formation of a Diocesan Guild of the Catholic Medical Association. On October 18, 2008 seven physicians committed to becoming members of the CMA and they signed the Charter application on January 30, 2009, which was approved in March. Bishop Edward Cullen gave his blessing and appointed Father John Krivak as Guild Chaplain.

Msgr. Mulligan remained an active member of the Guild and National Catholic Medical Association. He continued to give talks throughout the Diocese on Medical-Moral Issues. He was the main celebrant at the Guild’s 2010 White Mass. In 2012, the first Msgr James J. Mulligan Award was presented to Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk, Ph.D. “for clearly articulating the truth of the Church teachings on Natural Moral Law and the Gospel of Life in relation to Medical and Biological Sciences.” Father Tad celebrated the White Mass and presented a talk on End-of Life Issues to the attendees. In 2013, the Award was presented to John Brehany, Ph.D. who presented to the attendees of the White Mass celebrated by Bishop John O. Barres.

Msgr. Mulligan led a team of five Physician members of the Catholic Medical Association on April 26, 2014 in presenting a four-hour seminar on End of Life Issues to the Diocesan faithful. The seminar was re-presented by the five physicians on April 11, 2015 and will be presented again on September 17, 2016.

Author (Bibliography)

In 1968, while a professor at Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary in Emmittsburg , Maryland, Msgr. Mulligan was encouraged to write a response to the American Theologians in Washington, DC, who wrote an open letter in dissent of Pope Paul VI’s Encyclical Humanae Vitae. Unable to find a publisher, he was able to purchase a printing press and demand for his published response required two printings. In 2012, his book titled The Pope and the Theologians was reissued through Amazon.

He wrote many articles and several newspaper columns dealing with medical-moral issues, including a column titled “Moral Decisions” for The A.D. Times 1989-2002. Many of the columns have been compiled and expanded in a book titled Choose Life.

Other books by Msgr. Mulligan include The Christian Experience, Theologians and Authority Within the Living Church. In 2012 and 2013, his two novels were published: a Civil War-era murder mystery titled The Haystack, and a late nineteenth century coal mine murder mystery titled Tender Justice. The main character in both novels is a young general practice physician, whose training with a forensic pathologist in Philadelphia served him well in uncovering and solving serial murders.

Monsignor Mulligan died February 29, 2016. We will miss our mentor and friend, Monsignor Mulligan, his quick wit and thoughtful guidance, as we ask for his prayers.