Former Md. Priest Accused of Abusing 2 Teens in '70s
By Caryle Murphy
July 3, 2004
A 67-year-old Illinois man who left ministry as a Roman Catholic priest about two decades ago has been arrested on charges of sexually molesting a teenage boy and girl when he was still a priest and serving as pastor of a Forestville parish in the 1970s, Prince George's County and Washington Archdiocese officials said.
Francis A. Benham was charged with second- and third-degree sex offenses June 25 by Prince George's police, court records show.
He was arrested June 29 by Lincoln, Ill., city police, the Lincoln Courier newspaper reported. He is scheduled to appear in Logan County Circuit Court on Tuesday for an extradition hearing, according to Ramon Korionoff, a spokesman for Prince George's County State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey.
According to papers filed by police in Prince George's County District Court, Benham allegedly kissed, undressed and sexually aroused a 15-year-old boy at Church of the Holy Spirit in Forestville on about six occasions between July 1977 and April 1978.
Benham also is charged with sodomizing and having oral sex with a 13-year-old girl at the same church two or three times a week from April 1977 to April 1979.
Thomas Funk, an attorney for Benham, said he did not want to discuss the case until he had gotten permission to do so from his client, who is being held at an Illinois jail.
Susan Gibbs, a spokeswoman for the Washington Archdiocese, said Benham, who was ordained in 1963, became pastor of Holy Spirit in 1975. After an allegation was made against him in 1979 -- involving the sexual abuse of the minor girl -- the archdiocese removed him from ministry and sent him for counseling. At the time, the archdiocese did not report the allegation to county police.
Benham was transferred to the Diocese of Columbus, Ohio, which was informed that an allegation of child abuse had been made against him, Gibbs said. Sometime after that, Benham abandoned the ministry and stopped working as a priest, she added.
The Washington Archdiocese received another allegation against Benham in 1995, relating to an accusation that abuse occurred in 1970-71. Gibbs said that allegation and the one made in 1979 were reported to county police in 1995 after the archdiocese did a review of its personnel files in order to forward to police information about all past allegations of child abuse made against its priests.
When a third allegation against Benham was made to the archdiocese in the spring, involving the 15-year-old boy, it was reported to Prince George's police, Gibbs said.
Benham, who now works as a caterer, could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of the second-degree sex offense charge.
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.
money guide of hospital products guide of international market guide of repair roof before winter guide of website income guide of secure your business guide of face makeup tools guide of jewellery arts guide of tv shows guide of best places on earth guide of job plans guide of cheap cars guide of creating products guide of women tools guide of eat less guide of car insurance process guide of sport stuff guide of garden home guide of cheap insurances guide of electronic tech guide of healthy feeding guide of what is next in fashion guide of improve company guide of tactical insurance guide of make money at home guide of development in business guide of dept loan guide of cooking secrets guide of correct companies guide of jobs with more income guide of reviews o general products guide of improving technology guide of ideal job guide of business sectors guide of dept problem guide of unlimited business guide of suitable insurance company guide of money cars guide of how to market guide of heatlhy diet tips guide of decoration tipse guide of security problems