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Two Catholic clergy credibly accused of sex abuse served in Henderson County

The Roman Catholic Church listed Charles Jeffries "Jeff" Burton (left) and Michael Joseph Kelleher as clergy credibly accused of child sex abuse. The Roman Catholic Church listed Charles Jeffries "Jeff" Burton (left) and Michael Joseph Kelleher as clergy credibly accused of child sex abuse.

The Charlotte Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church on Monday released the names of 14 clergy members who an investigation found had been credibly accused of child sexual abuse since the diocese was founded in 1972.

The list included two clergy members, both deceased, who had served in Hendersonville.

"It is painful to even try to comprehend such gravely immoral behavior, particularly for those who have carried the burden of sexual abuse by clergy," Most Reverend Peter J. Jugis, the Charlotte bishop wrote on the church's website. "However, in speaking with survivors and hearing their stories, it is clear to me that making known the names of their abusers can promote healing for them and their families. I pray this step achieves that goal.

"This list is the culmination of a process begun more than a year ago in our belief that a full accounting of credibly accused clergy would provide validation for victims and demonstrate our commitment to transparency and accountability," Jugis said. "While most of the names on the list were made known years ago by the diocese and others, to ensure this accounting was comprehensive, the diocese engaged independent investigators to review some 1,600 personnel and other historical records dating back almost 50 years."

Authorities interviewed alleged victims Hendersonville after Michael Joseph Kelleher was arrested in Albemarle on sex abuse charges. Kelleher, who died in 2014, served at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Hendersonville. No charges were filed in Henderson County.

In its report, the diocese said it "investigated and in June of 2010 removed Kelleher’s priestly faculties. In July Albemarle police charged him with one felony count of taking indecent liberties with a child. Kelleher admitted the abuse in a police interview, according to Stanly County Superior Court documents. However, the judge declared ailing Kelleher not competent to stand trial and dismissed the case in July in 2014. Kelleher died a month later."

Charles Jeffries "Jeff" Burton, who died in 2011, was co-director of a Jesuit youth ministry in Flat Rock.

"In May of 1994, an adult male reported to the Diocese of Charlotte that Burton made advances and inappropriately touched him in 1982 at a youth ministry center in Flat Rock, when he was 17," the diocese report said. "At the time the allegation arose in 1994, Burton had not worked in the diocese for more than a decade. The diocese reported the allegation to his supervising religious order. The Jesuits sent Burton for treatment and then returned him to ministry in New Jersey, the order said in a 2007 statement. The Flat Rock allegation resurfaced in 2007 when the Jesuits conducted a review of their personnel files. The Jesuits said Burton acknowledged the incident and they removed him from ministry. He died in 2011."