Freethought Today ·

Vol. 21 No. 4

May 2004

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Letter Box

He Can Pick 'Em

An article in the Philadelphia Inquirer on April 1, 2004, "Priest in Md. faces sex-abuse charges," caught my eye. My wife and I were both in the US Navy back in '78 when we married in a simple ceremony in the Ventura County Courthouse (Calif.). The extended family was interested in holding a second ceremony/celebration. We're pretty easygoing and agreed. We had a "blessing of the marriage of" affair at my in-laws' Presbyterian church near Philadelphia in '79. My folks are devout Catholics and were interested in having the right sort of 'spiritual authority' at the ceremony and Rev. Jim Behan was invited to participate. My family and I had known the guy earlier when he was a priest and youth counselor at the church I attended in Maryland.

I had actually gone on "retreats" with this guy and a group of other "Oblates"--I remember having long arguments about the meaning of death and the impossibility of the existence of a devil and the other blah blah blah associated with Catholic dogma. Keep in mind that I was 14 or 15 perhaps, read theology, mythology, and philosophy vocariously, and was really just struggling for "answers." Seemed very curious to me at the time that these guys were nearly always drinking (Schnapps, as I recall)!

In any case, if you look at the wedding picture (can't believe I was ever that young!), you'll see Behan standing to our right. This picture was taken after he had molested the child, according to the article detailing his indictment for abusing a Philadelphia boy two decades ago. If I ever see the clown again I'll be hard-pressed to keep from pasting him.

The other clergyman in the picture (face obscured) was pastor at my mother-in-law's church. I know it is difficult to believe, but during a required counseling session prior to the ceremony, he asked us how we would handle a "third party" (his words) in our marriage. I assumed he meant kids and suggested we weren't complete idiots, and that it had crossed our minds (didn't have much patience then, either). Turns out that he was not referring to kids, but to extramarital relationships. I was completely dumbstruck and rather hotly suggested his comments were not appropriate. Boy, was my wife pissed at him!

Long story short, this bozo (pastor, mind you) was transferred from Philadelphia to Washington, DC, a couple of years later. My wife's sister also moved to DC, and she and her new husband went out of their way to attend his church. They even had their firstborn christened by him. Shortly after, he was released from that congregation--he was booted out because he had a history of messing around with very young women who approached him in emotional need. It then came out that this was exactly the reason the Philadelphia church released him.

Can I pick 'em or what?

Keep up the great work. Your voice is enormously relevant in today's "faith-based" hysteria, and I'm proud to be a member.

Mitch Thompson

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

FFRF has received a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator

FFRF is a member of the Secular Coalition for America

FFRF privacy statement