Assignment Record– Rev. Michael Joseph aka M. Joseph aka Joseph M. Kelleher

Summary of Case: Kelleher, a native of Ireland, was a Trappist monk in Ireland and New Zealand for many years before arriving in North Carolina in 1966 to serve as a parish priest of the Raleigh diocese, and then the Charlotte diocese when it was established in 1971. In September 2009 a man reported to police that he was molested by Kelleher as a 14-year-old altar boy in 1977. Kelleher was put on administrative leave in July 2010 and, a few days later, turned himself in to police. He was charged with "indecent liberties with a child." He admitted to the abuse. A week later another man reported to police that Kelleher sexually abused him when he was a 13-year-old boy. No charges were filed in that case. In July 2014 a judge determined that Kelleher was unable to stand trial, due to dementia. Kelleher died in August 2014.

: 1953
Raleigh diocese, 1966. Charlotte diocese 1971.
Retired: 1999 (worked during retirement as a high school chaplain)
Died: August 20, 2014


Start Stop Parish Town/Accusations State/Country Position Notes
1953 1966     Ireland
New Zealand
Trappist Monk until 1965 Kelleher spent this time as a Trappist monk in Ireland and New Zealand. He is not listed in the Irish Catholic Directories. He likely lived at one of Ireland’s four Trappist monasteries: 1) Mount Melleray Abbey, Cappoquin, Waterford, Diocese of Waterford; 2) Mt. St. Joseph Abbey, Roscrea, Diocese of Killaloe; 3) Mellifont Abbey, Collon, Drogheda, County Louth, Archdiocese of Armagh; or Bethlehem Abbey, Portglenome, County Antrim, Diocese of Connor. During his time in New Zealand, he almost certainly would have lived at that country’s only Trappist monastery, Our Lady of the Southern Star in Hawkes Bay.

March 1966

Raleigh bishop was Vincent Stanislaus Waters (1945-1974).

  St. Gabriel Greenville NC   This was a diocesan missionary apostolate.

Sept. 1966


April 1968 St. Patrick's Cathedral Charlotte NC


Revs. Francis J. Tait, M. Joseph Kelleher.

St. Patrick's had a school with 253 students.
1968 1969 Immaculate Heart of Mary High Point NC


Revs. Arthur L. Duncan, Joseph Kelleher.

IHM had a school with 220 students.
1969 1970 Our Lady of Lourdes Raleigh NC


Revs. Francis J. Tait, M. Joseph Kelleher.

1970 1971 Bishop McGuinnes Memorial High School Kernersville NC chaplain This high school had 256 students.


The Charlotte diocese was established November 12, 1971. Its first bishop was Michael Joseph Begley (1971-1984).

1972 St. Joseph's Asheboro NC 1/1  
1972 1973 St. John the Evangelist Waynesville NC 1/1 St. John's had a grammar school with 101 students.
1972 1973 Immaculate Conception Canton NC   This was a mission of St. John the Evangelist in Waynesville.
1972 1973 St. Margaret's Maggie Valley NC   This was a mission of St. John the Evangelist in Waynesville.
April 1973 August 1977 Our Lady of the Annunciation


In September 2009, a man reported to Aberlmarle Police that Kelleher repeatedly sexually abused him in the rectory of Our Lady of the Annunciation in 1977, when the man was a 14- year-old boy. Kelleher confessed to the abuse.

NC 1/1  

Auust. 1977

Begley was succeeded by John Francis Donoghue (1984-1993).

July 1986 Our Lady of the Assumption


A second person reported to police, in July 2010, that Kelleher sexually abused him as a child in 1981 at Our Lady of the Assumption.

NC 1/2, 1/1

Kelleher was the only priest every year except 1981-1982, when he was assisted by Rev. Guy E. Morse.
Our Lady of the Assumption had a school with 255-201 students.
1986 1991 Immaculate Conception Hendersonville NC

1/2, 1/1

During 1986-1988 Kelleher was assisted by Rev. John J. Tuller. In 1990-1991 he was assisted by Rev. Richard Contiliano.

Immaculate Conception had a school with 125-163 students.

Kelleher is referred to in the 1987-1991 Directories as "Joseph M. Kelleher".


William George Curlin replaced Donoghue as Charlotte bishop (1994-2002).

1998 Our Lady of the Rosary Lexington NC


Deacon Edward Morovich assisted Kelleher.

The 1990 Directories on resume referring to Kelleher as "M. Joseph Kelleher" .

Our Lady of the Rosary had a religious education program with 92-65 students.

1993 1998 Bishop McGuinness High School Kernersville NC chaplain  
July 1998 July 1999 St. Dorothy's Lincolnton NC


Kelleher was assisted by Deacon Carlos Medina.

St. Dorothy's had a religious education program with 86 students.
Senate of Priests Charlotte NC    
1976 1977 Salsbury Vicar   NC    
Diocesan Consultor Charlotte NC    
Presbyteral Council Charlotte NC    
1988 1991 Asheville Vicar   NC    
Winston-Salem Vicar   NC   Listed as "Very Rev. Joseph M. Kelleher, V.F.".
July 1999 2010 Retired Winston-Salem NC    


Peter Joseph Jugis succeeded Curlin (2003-).

2010 Bishop McGuinness High School Kernersville NC chaplain

Kelleher was removed from active ministry in July 2010 due to an allegation that he sexually abused a 14- year-old boy in 1977. The accuser had reported the alleged abuse to police in September 2009. Diocesan officials stated that they did not remove Kelleher right away because they wanted to know more facts about the case.

Kelleher turned himself into police shortly after being put on administrative leave by the diocese. He was charged with indecent liberties with a child. A second man reported having been abused by Kelleher as a 13-year-old in 1981. No charges were filed in that case.

2010 2014 Administrative Leave   NC  

The criminal case against Kelleher was dismissed in July 2014 after the judge determined Kelleher was unable to stand trial, due to his dementia.

Kelleher died August 20, 2014.


Sources: Official Catholic Directory (New York: P.J. Kenedy and Sons, 1962-2010)

Former Charlotte Area Priest Facing Sex Abuse Allegations, By LaToya Boyce & Jeff Rivenbark, WBTV, July 7, 2010
High School Chaplain Accused of Sexual Misconduct, By Joseph Kelleher, WXII, July 7, 2010
Bishop Mcguinness Chaplain Placed on Leave after Allegation, Winston-Salem Journal, July 7, 2010
Misconduct, By Tim Funk, Charlotte Observer, July 7, 2010
Triad Priest Accused of Child Abuse in the 1970s, Times News, July 8, 2010
Priest Turns Himself in on Charges He Molested Boy 33 Years Ago, By Michael Hewlett, Winston-Salem Journal, July 8, 2010
Accused Bishop Mcguinness Chaplain Turns Himself in, Fox 8, July 8, 2010
Priest Accused of Sex Abuse out on Bail, News 14, July 8, 2010
Accused Priest's Backers Hold Vigil; Sex Abuse Victims Respond, SNAP, July 15, 2010
Priest Was under Investigation Months before Removal from School, By Sharon Smith, WBTV, July 20, 2010
Another Sex Abuse Case Emerges against Priest, By Sharon Smith, WBTV, July 21, 2010
Second Sex Allegation Made against Former Charlotte Priest, By Tim Funk, Charlotte Observer, July 21, 2010
Second Person Alleges Sexual Abuse by Priest, Winston-Salem Journal, July 22, 2010
Trusted, Beloved, Accused, By Tim Funk, Charlotte Observer, July 23, 2010
Fr. Joseph Kelleher & Fr. Richard Farwell – Seeking Information Regarding Sexual Misconduct by These Priests & Any Other Priests/employees of Charlotte or Raleigh Dioceses, Website of Attorney Seth Langson, March 7, 2011
2 Sue Catholic Diocese, Claim Abuse by Priest, Charlotte Observer, September 29, 2011
Parishioners Dismayed by Allegations against Priest, By John Harbin, The Times-News, September 29, 2011
Former Priest Confesses to Sex Abuse Allegations, Court Papers Say, WBTV, December 5, 2011
Sex Abuse Suits against Diocese Come before Judge, By Tim Funk, Charlotte Observer, May 31, 2014
Judge Dismisses Child Sex Abuse Charge against Priest, Citing His Dementia, By Tim Funk, Charlotte Observer,
July 1, 2014
Criminal Charges against Father Kelleher Dismissed, Seth H. Langson, July 1, 2014
Victims Question If an Admitted Predator Priest Won't Be Charged, SNAP, July 1, 2014
Charlotte Diocese Supports Pope Apology to Sex Abuse Victims, By Tenikka Smith, WSOC, July 7, 2014
Clergy abuse group plans news conference in Charlotte, By Steve Lyttle, Charlotte Observer, July 8, 2014
Bishop of Charlotte to preside at memorial Mass for priest accused of abuse, By Wesley Young, Winston-Salem Journal, August 31, 2014
Rev. Michael Joseph Kelleher, Popular but Embattled Catholic Priest, Dies at 86, Charlotte Observer, August 22, 2014
Shine the Spotlight on the Sealed Court Files, By Seth Langson,, May 7, 2016

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This assignment record collates Kelleher's career history as it is represented in the Official Catholic Directory with allegations as reported in the media. We make no representation regarding the truth of the allegation we report, and we remind our readers that the U.S. legal system presumes that a person accused of or charged with a crime is innocent until proven guilty. Similarly, individuals who may be defendants in civil actions are presumed not to be liable for such claims unless a plaintiff proves otherwise. Admissions of guilt or liability are not typically a part of civil or private settlements. For more information, see our posting policy.

This assignment record was last updated on May 9, 2016.