Ex-Phila. Priest Loses N.C. Post

By Christopher K. Hepp
Philadelphia Inquirer
June 14, 2002

A priest who once taught at North Catholic High School has been removed as pastor of a church in Wilmington, N.C., after a former student accused him of committing acts of abuse in Philadelphia and in North Carolina more than 20 years ago.

The Rev. James J. Behan, 58, was relieved as pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Wilmington, N.C., in April after a complaint was raised by the former student.

The former student, now 39 and a resident of Medford, Burlington County, said in an interview yesterday that Behan had had a sexual relationship with him over a five-year period beginning in 1977, when the student was 14 and a high school freshman.

Behan was transferred to North Carolina in 1980. The ex-student visited him there, and the relationship continued. The Inquirer, as is its policy in cases involving sexual abuse, is withholding the man's name at his request.

At the time the relationship began, Behan was a religion teacher at North Catholic High School and a friend of the boy's family.

According to the former student, Behan invited him to take part in a peer-advocate group at the school. Eventually, Behan invited the student to visit him in his living quarters. There, the former student said, the priest first molested him.

The former student said Behan maintained a sexual relationship with him until 1981, when he told Behan he felt their interaction was "wrong."

The man said he decided to come forward in April after he learned Behan was leading youth retreats in the Diocese of Raleigh.

"I didn't want to see this happen to anyone else," he said.

The man first called the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to report Behan and then reached the Raleigh Diocese. Behan was removed from his duties the next day.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia referred calls about Behan to his religious order, the Oblates of St. Francis De Sales. The Rev. Joseph G. Morrisey, the Provincial for the Oblates in this region, could not be reached for comment.


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