Wilmington Priest Accused of Sexually Abuse Placed on Leave

Associated Press State & Local Wire
April 17, 2002

The Catholic Diocese of Raleigh placed a Wilmington priest on administrative leave Wednesday after a man claimed he was sexually abused by him almost 25 years ago.

The Rev. James J. Behan, pastor of the Immaculate Conception Church of Wilmington since 1993, was relieved of his duties after the diocese learned of the accusations, Bishop F. Joseph Gossman said.

The diocese released no information about Behan's accuser or details of the sexual abuse allegations. But Gossman scheduled a news conference Thursday morning in Raleigh.

The diocese also is investigating three additional complaints of alleged incidents dating back more than 25 years, according to a statement.

"Allegations of this nature are to be taken seriously," Gossman said in the statement.

Behan came to North Carolina in August 1980, assigned to the University of North Carolina Newman Center. From April 1981 to June 1992, he was pastor of the Holy Infant Parish in Durham. He was then assigned as associate pastor of St. Paul Parish in New Bern for one year before moving to Wilmington.

The allegations are the latest within the Catholic church in North Carolina in the wake of a widening nationwide clergy sexual abuse scandal.

Two other active priests around the state have been removed from their positions.

The Rev. Jim O'Neill of St. Paul the Apostle Catholic in Greensboro was relieved of his duties last weekend after allegations of sexually inappropriate behavior in another state.

The Diocese of Raleigh last week removed the Rev. Francis Perry from two parishes in Duplin and Pender counties after the diocese determined he had lied on paperwork about his past.

Diocesan officials said Perry, 57, was charged 15 years ago with taking indecent liberties with a minor. The charge was dropped when the victim refused to testify, and Perry denied committing the act. The diocese said he did not deny an accusation that he abused a 4-year-old female relative 41 years ago.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte said on Tuesday that a priest had been accused of sexually abusing a minor nearly 20 years ago while serving within the diocese. The priest was not identified.

Joann Keane, a diocesan spokeswoman, did not say where the alleged incident took place.

Church officials also have told secular authorities about accusations against two unidentified priests in the Charlotte diocese involving incidents that allegedly occurred more than 25 years ago. The other two cases involve priests who are no longer active.

The Charlotte Diocese also has confirmed that in the 1990s it used its money and insurance funds to pay Watauga County parents who accused a Catholic priest of sexually abusing their twin sons.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.