Fr. Francis Benham – Archdiocese of Washington

Father Francis Benham

Archdiocese of Washington

Ordained: 1963

Laicized: 2005

Assigned as follows:

  • Church of the Holy Spirit (Forestville, MD)
  • St. Jude Catholic Church (Rockville,
  • St. Nicholas Church (Zanesville, Ohio)
  • Community of Holy Rosary/St. John on the South Side (Columbus, Ohio)

Summary of Abuse Allegations against Father Francis Benham:

In 1979, the Archdiocese of Washington first received a report that Father Francis Benham, while serving as pastor in a Forestville parish, sexually assaulted and sodomized a young girl during a two-year period beginning in 1977 when she was 13 years old. The abuse occurred two or three times a week. The victim said, “During that whole two years, he had me to believe that it was OK. And, that it was OK with God.”

The Archdiocese of Washington did not report the allegation to police.  Instead, Benham was removed from ministry and sent for counseling. Upon completion of  treatment, he was cleared for return to ministry. Bishop Edward Herrmann allowed Father Benham to join the Diocese of Columbus (Ohio) which was informed that an allegation of child abuse had been made against him. He served there from 1979-1985.

In 1985, Father Benham abandoned the ministry and stopped working as a priest. Two years later, in 1987, he moved to central Illinois where he worked as a counselor for convicted sex offenders for nearly 14 years at Tazwood Mental Health Center in Pekin.

In 1995, the Archdiocese of Washington received a second allegation against Father Benham, relating to abuse that occurred in 1970-71. The new allegation was reported to police in 1995, after the archdiocese did a review of its personnel files in order to forward to police information about all past allegations of child abuse made against its priests.  It claims it reported the first allegation at that time as well. 

A third allegation was made in Spring 1995, but this time the victim contacted police directly. According to papers filed by police in Prince George’s County District Court, Benham allegedly kissed, undressed and sexually aroused a 15-year-old boy at Church of the Holy Spirit in Forestville on about six occasions between July 1977 and April 1978.

According to media reports, Benham became a certified child care provider for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and in 2003, kept boys in his Lincoln, Illinois, home during weekends to provide relief for foster parents.

In June 2004, Father Benham was charged and arrested in Lincoln with second- and third-degree sex offenses. He was extradited from Lincoln to Prince George’s County, MD. He pleaded guilty in December of that year.

In March 2005, Father Benham was sentenced to 18 months in prison. The victims agreed to a plea bargain, which suspended most of his sentence, to be followed by three years of probation. The agreement also required Benham to register on the national sex offender database and to abstain from contact with anyone under the age of 18. He apologized for his crimes, but blamed his actions on his abuse of alcohol at the time.

In 2005, Father Benham was laicized (removed from the priesthood) by the Vatican.

In January 2006, he was released from prison.

In February 2011, Father Benham was re-arrested for failure to register as a sex offender. He was cited for practicing clinical psychology without a license in Illinois in October 2012.

In October 2018, Father Benham’s name appeared on the Archdiocese of Washington’s list of credibly accused priests.  In March 2019, Father Benham’s name appeared on the Archdiocese of Columbus’s list of credibly accused priests.

According to his sex offender registry, he continues to reside in Lincoln, Illinois.

Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy in the Archdiocese of Washington.  If you need a lawyer because you were sexually abused by a priest in Washington, contact our office today. Although many years have passed, those abused by Catholic clergy in the Archdiocese of Washington now have legal options to recover damages due to a compensation fund created for victims. Call us at (888) 283-9922 or send an email to adam@adamhorowitzlaw.com to discuss your options today.