Kelly, Diocese Remain at Odds
Lawsuit Attempts to Recoup Almost $1 Million in Misused Parish Funds
By Amanda Lehmert
Cape Cod Times [Barnstable MA]
September 28, 2004
Although a former Falmouth priest completed his testimony in a murder trial yesterday, his legal troubles are far from over.
The Rev. Bernard Kelly faces a civil lawsuit from the Fall River Diocese that alleges he misused up to $800,000 from his Woods Hole parish and had another $175,000 worth of unexplained expenses from Our Lady of Lourdes in Wellfleet.
The state of Kelly's civil lawsuit and the pending criminal investigation did not come up in his testimony yesterday in the case of Paul Nolin Jr., a friend and employee of the priest and alleged murderer of Jonathan Wessner, 20.
Spokesman John Kearns said the diocese is not waiting for criminal charges to be filed against Kelly, but "forging ahead" with its civil complaint against the priest.
"Litigation is ongoing in Barnstable Superior Court to recover from Father Kelly the full amount of money that he took," said John Kearns, a spokesman for the diocese.
The district attorney's office did not return phone calls yesterday.
Kelly's attorney, Francis O'Boy, said he is in negotiations with the diocese about the actual sum of money misappropriated from the two parishes. The diocese and Kelly are scheduled to meet in court in November for a final pretrial hearing.
Kelly resigned last year as pastor of St. Joseph's Church in Woods Hole a few weeks after Bishop George Coleman placed Kelly on leave when he discovered police wanted information from him regarding Wessner's murder.
Wessner was last seen by his friends leaving a party with Nolin to go to the St. Joseph's bell tower.
Nolin was a handyman at the parish and investigators allege he had a sexual relationship with the priest.
Nolin was introduced to Kelly by the priest's friend and Nolin's former therapist Rev. Donald Turlick.
After Kelly left his Woods Hole parish, the diocese conducted an audit of St. Joseph's finances. A private auditing firm turned up thousands of dollars of unexplained expenses, including checks written out to cash and to Kelly, according to court documents.
When the diocese went deeper into the record books, they found even more missing funds from Our Lady of Lourdes.
The parish, where Kelly worked before his tenure at St. Joseph's, closed in 2000 with hopes that the diocese would build a larger church on Route 6. But the diocese has failed to raise the necessary funds.
Auditors estimate as much as $175,000 is missing from that parish. But Rev. John Andrews, who runs the parish now, said the bank records only went back as far as 1993, so it was impossible to audit all of Kelly's tenure in Wellfleet.
O'Boy said no matter what happens with the criminal investigation, Kelly intends to repay the diocese what is owed as long as the parties can agreed on an amount. He said some of the unexplained expenses may have been for legitimate parish needs.
"We are perfectly willing to go to arbitration," O'Boy said yesterday.
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