Local News

Second N.C. Pastor Removed In Two Weeks

Posted April 18, 2002

— Bishop F. Joseph Gossman, Diocese of Raleigh, said at a press conference Thursday morning that he does not expect a Wilmington pastor accused of sexual misconduct to return to his post.

Gossman placed the pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Wilmington on administrative leave Wednesday.

Rev. James J. Behan, 58, was relieved of his duties as pastor after Gossman was notified of what he calls "a credible allegation" by a man who claims he was abused by Behan almost 25 years ago.

Behan is a member of the Oblates of Francis de Sales and has been pastor of Immaculate Conception since 1993.

"Allegations of this nature are to be taken seriously," said Gossman in accordance with his "zero tolerance" policy on child sexual abuse allegations.

On Wednesday morning, diocesan officials spoke with Behan about the allegation and at that point removed him as pastor.

Pursuant to the diocesan "Code of Professional Responsibility," the Bishop's Advisory Board will convene and make a recommendation to the bishop after reviewing results of the investigation.

Behan came to North Carolina in August 1980, assigned to the UNC Newman Center. From April 1981 until June 1992 he served as pastor of Holy Infant Parish in Durham. He was then assigned as associate pastor of St. Paul Parish in New Bern for one year. Following that, he was named pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Wilmington. The diocese has notified his religious order of the complaint.

Since Gossman issued his "zero tolerance" policy pledging to remove any priest who is found to have acted improperly with a minor, the diocese has received three additional notifications of alleged incidents dating back more than 25 years. It is currently investigating the complaints.

Last week, the Diocese removed the Rev. Francis Perry from two parishes in Duplin and Pender counties after determining 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.


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