Several Priests Under Inquiry in St. Louis, Prosecutor Says

March 29, 2002


ST. LOUIS, March 28 (AP) - The authorities are
investigating complaints of child sexual abuse involving
several current and former Roman Catholic priests, among
them a defrocked cleric who worked as a school counselor, a
prosecutor said today.

The prosecutor, Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce, said some
20 of the complaints involved the defrocked priest, James
A. Beine, dismissed from the clergy in 1977. Until last
week, he was employed by the St. Louis public school system
as an elementary school counselor.

Mr. Beine, 60, was arrested early today in the town of
Highland in nearby Madison County, Ill., on three counts of
sexual misconduct involving a child. He is being held in
Madison County, and Ms. Joyce said she did not know whether
he would waive extradition to Missouri.

The three counts stem from incidents at Patrick Henry
Elementary School, where, prosecutors said, Mr. Beine
exposed himself to two brothers, ages 9 and 10, in the
boys' restroom. "This is one of the most serious predators
I have ever dealt with in my years as prosecutor," Ms.
Joyce said.

Mr. Beine was suspended last week after the school district
learned that the St. Louis Archdiocese paid $110,000 in the
late 1990's to settle two suits accusing him of sexually
abusing boys when he was a priest.

The school district hired Mr. Beine as a counselor in
January 1991, based in part on a recommendation from the
archdiocese, said Cleveland Hammonds Jr., the district's
superintendent. But the archdiocese said it was highly
unlikely that it had provided such a recommendation.

Mr. Beine, who was ordained in 1967, was suspended by the
archdiocese in 1977, over a matter unrelated to sex abuse:
the church said he had set up a rogue ministry that claimed
to offer Catholic sacraments. The archdiocese publicly
disassociated itself from him two years later.

Rich Fanning, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said the
church had not been contacted by Ms. Joyce's office
regarding the new complaints about other priests, and Ms.
Joyce did not publicly disclose any details about those
other cases.

The accusations are the latest of many to roil the church.
On Wednesday, a Missouri priest who was accused of sexual
molestation two decades ago resigned after new accusations
of sex abuse. The Archdiocese of St. Louis also placed
another priest on leave after receiving an accusation that
he had had "inappropriate contact with a minor."

In Illinois, meanwhile, a longtime priest in a Chicago
suburb has resigned after being similarly accused,
officials of the Chicago Archdiocese said.

That priest, the Rev. Robert L. Kealy, formerly pastor at
Sts. Faith, Hope and Charity Parish in Winnetka, has
withdrawn from active ministry and lives in a "restricted,
monitored setting," said a letter that the diocese issued
to parishioners on Wednesday. The letter cited accusations
that Father Kealy "engaged in inappropriate sexual
misconduct with a minor teenager more than 25 years ago,"
when he was pastor of St. Germaine Parish in south suburban
Oak Lawn.

Marcy O'Boyle of the Cook County state's attorney's office
said it had been contacted about accusations of sexual
abuse involving a priest and was investigating.