Second Sex Allegation Made against Former Charlotte Priest

By Tim Funk
Charlotte Observer
July 21, 2010

The Rev. Joseph Kelleher, charged this month with alleged child abuse in Albemarle in 1977, has now been accused of a second alleged incident involving a minor this one, in 1981 at Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church in east Charlotte.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police are investigating the new allegation against Kelleher, which was made July 14, CMPD spokesman Rob Tufano said today. But, so far, Kelleher, who's now 82, has not been arrested in that case.

CMPD's Tufano said the police department's youth crimes unit interviewed Kelleher today at his home in Winston-Salem.

"They did not glean enough from the interview to proceed with charges," Tufano said. The investigation will continue, he said.

A police report released by CMPD said the alleged incident involved the fondling of a 13-year-old boy on Jan. 15, 1981.

Tufano said the accuser reported that the alleged incident took place in the church rectory, or priests' residence.

Kelleher was assigned to Our Lady of the Assumption from August 1977 to July 1986.

The Ireland-born priest, who has served in the dioceses of Charlotte and Raleigh since 1966, was arrested by Albemarle police July 8 and charged with one count of taking indecent liberties with a child.

He is free on $5,000 bond in that case, which allegedly involved sexual misconduct with a 14-year-old boy in 1977 at Our Lady of the Annunciation Catholic Church, where Kelleher was then assigned.

Kelleher is officially retired, but had been serving in recent years as chaplain at Bishop McGuiness High School in Kernersville. The Diocese of Charlotte put the priest on administrative leave this month, pending further investigation.

Reached today about the latest allegation, diocese spokesman David Hains said: "This is a tragedy first for the victim. It's also a tragedy for Father Kelleher."

Kelleher's first assignment in Charlotte was at St. Patrick Cathedral, from September 1966 until April 1968.

Recently, vigils of support for Kelleher were held in Winston Salem and Charlotte by Catholics who said they knew the priest and did not believe he was guilty of the alleged Albemarle incident.

Kelleher told the Observer this month that he's been asked not to comment by Bishop Peter Jugis, who heads the 46-county diocese.



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