The Rev. James J. Behan, 60, a former parochial school teacher, is the first person charged by a grand jury created to investigate decades-old allegations against Roman Catholic priests. He was charged with rape and other sexual offenses against a student between 1978 and 1980.
The statute of limitations for bringing charges in sexual abuse cases in Pennsylvania is 12 years. But District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham said a case can go forward if a defendant has been out of the state since the alleged crime. Behan moved to North Carolina in 1980.
Behan's attorney, Michael McGovern, said too much time has passed for his client to receive a fair trial. "There is going to be a very serious argument regarding statute of limitations," he said.
Prosecutors say the priest, now living in Childs, Md., planned to surrender within a few days.
The alleged victim, a former student at Northeast Catholic High School in Philadelphia, made the allegations in 2002.