Documents Show Stockton Diocese Took Action

By Sue Nowicki
Modesto Bee
November 11, 2012

Attorney John Manly said many Stockton Diocese parishioners continue to insist the Rev. Michael Kelly is innocent of sexually abusing children because the diocese has not been forthcoming with the truth. As evidence, his office sent The Bee copies of two internal diocesan documents regarding Kelly.

One shows a chronology from March 12, 1999, to Jan. 31, 2000. It includes a handful of unspecified concerns by parishioners related to Kelly and the resulting action by the diocese. It says Kelly was "shocked" by the first complaint about the way he related to a 4-year-old child and "asserted he never had nor ever would do anything to hurt a child."

It further says Kelly was "very cooperative" and agreed to be evaluated and treated by a psychologist in 1999 and again in 2000, when he was sent to St. John Vianney Institute in Pittsburgh for a four-day "in-depth evaluation." Kelly also was told not to be alone with children, and later was instructed not to visit families with children while undergoing counseling.

The document does not reveal the outcome of the evaluations, but on Dec. 30, 1999, Kelly called Monsignor Richard Ryan to say he was "strongly considering taking a sabbatical for a year." The diocese lists him on sick leave from Jan. 30, 2000, to Sept. 3, 2000. Part of that time was for a pre-planned trip to Australia.

When he returned, Kelly served at St. Andrew's in San Andreas, then went back on leave from August 2002 to Sept. 23, 2003. The second document, dated Jan. 16, 2003, reveals that Kelly wanted to return to work, but that the diocese believed he "demonstrates immature self-knowledge" and was "not ready to return to ministry." It concludes that he "needs an extended intensive live-in period of therapy to know himself better and his life situation" and that "therapy offers potential to grow psycho-sexually and to recognize consequences of past actions."

It does not say where Kelly was sent for such therapy, but he returned to an assignment at St. Jude's in Ceres and then became pastor at St. Joachim in Lockeford.

"The documents are real," said Paul Balestracci, the diocese's attorney, on Friday. "The diocese is going to be judged on hindsight, and that's fine. But I think the most important thing to understand is that there was no accusation of sexual abuse at this time. The responses by the diocese were aggressive and proactive; we were looking for further information."

For example, the first document says Bishop Stephen Blaire, who had recently arrived to lead the diocese, and Ryan "also discussed the desirability of obtaining a second psychological opinion regarding Father Kelly and whether or not Father Kelly should be placed on immediate administrative leave. The difficulty with taking this drastic move is complicated by the fact that no one has accused Father Kelly of an act that would constitute sexual abuse. What has been heard thus far is a discomfort with Father Kelly's interaction with children."

Balestracci said he could not comment on the results of Kelly's evaluation and therapy or the specifics of "what Father Kelly did or did not do in response to these things. We have to let the courts take care of this."



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