Triad priest accused of child abuse in the 1970s

The Times News, North Carolina/July 8, 2010

Greensboro - Months ago, an anonymous e-mail directed officials with the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte to an Internet chat room for clergy abuse victims.

There, diocese officials found that allegations of sexual abuse were being made against one of their priests.

On Wednesday, a warrant drawn by Albemarle police alleged the Rev. Joseph Kelleher took indecent liberties with a 14-year-old boy at a church in that city more than three decades ago.

Kelleher, 82 , arranged to turn himself in to Albemarle police today, Albemarle Chief Ronnie Michael said.

A message left on the home telephone for Kelleher, who lives in Winston-Salem , was not returned Wednesday afternoon.

Kelleher most recently served as chaplain at Bishop McGuinness High School in Kernersville, where last week he was placed on administrative leave. He also has previously served congregations in High Point, Asheboro and Lexington.

Seth Langson of Charlotte, the attorney for the unnamed victim, declined to comment.

After reading the postings, the diocese contacted the Stanly County Department of Social Services, as is the church's policy in suspected child abuse cases, and initiated an internal investigation.

"These kinds of incidents painfully raise the awareness of sex abuse, but as it has been reported repeatedly, it's something that occurs in a lot of places," said Charlotte diocese spokesman David Hains.

It was the victim who contacted police, said Michael, who declined to elaborate on the investigation. However, David Clohessy, national director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, which runs the Internet chat board, lauds law enforcement officials for investigating the 1977 charges.

"Sometimes it's only after your fourth DUI and your fifth divorce that you begin to realize that the betrayal you experienced as a kid continues to impact your life on a daily basis," Clohessy said. "That's one reason why victims can't come forward quickly.

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