One-time Charlotte Priest Accused of Sexual Misconduct

By Tim Funk
Charlotte Observer
July 7, 2010

A Catholic priest who served in two Charlotte parishes in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s is set to be arrested Thursday for alleged sexual misconduct with a 14-year-old boy in Albemarle in 1977.

The Rev. Joseph Kelleher, 82, has also been placed on administrative leave by the Diocese of Charlotte pending further investigation. The Irish-born priest retired in 1999, but since then has served as chaplain at Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School in Kernersville, said diocese spokesman David Hains.

In Charlotte, according to a list on the diocese’s website, Kelleher served at St. Patrick Cathedral from September 1966 until April 1968 and at Our Lady of the Assumption from August 1977 to July 1986.

Albemarle Police Chief Gerald Michael told the Observer that his office talked with Kelleher today and that he agreed to come to the Albemarle police department on Thursday. He will be charged with one count of taking indecent liberties with a child.

Michael said the alleged incident happened in 1977 on the grounds of Our Lady of the Annunciation Catholic Church. Kelleher was assigned there from April 1973 to August 1977.

Hains said the diocese’s Review Board is conducting its own investigation.

Kelleher could not be reached for comment.

Michael said his office received the report “months ago” and has been investigating ever since.

“We contacted the diocese after we got the report,” Michael said today.

Hains said the diocese received a “semi-anonymous e-mail” in late January or early February from someone – not the alleged victim – who suggested officials there look at a chat site on the Internet that mentioned Kelleher.

Hains said the diocese contacted the Stanly County Department of Social Services in February.

This week, the diocese put a notice on its website about Kelleher’s administrative leave and the alleged incident.

Kelleher came to North Carolina in 1966, Hains said, when the Diocese of Raleigh had jurisdiction over the entire state of North Carolina. The Diocese of Charlotte was established in 1972.

During his 44 years in North Carolina, Kelleher also served at St. Dorothy Catholic Church in Lincolnton (July 1998 until his retirement in July 1999) and also at churches in Greenville, N.C.; High Point; Raleigh; Asheboro; Waynesville; Asheville; Hendersonville; and Lexington.

According to the Charlotte diocese, he has served at Bishop McGuiness High School three times: 1970-71; 1993-98; and 1999-present.

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