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  Woman Ends Silence over Priest's Kisses Coming Forward with Details Might Help Others, She Says

Palm Beach Post (Florida)
May 4, 2002

At the age of 12, Kelly Duprey saw her priest as someone she could trust. Twenty-two years later, she says she knows better.

It took her that long to recall the shocking way she says the Rev. Frank Flynn kissed and touched her at the end of hundreds of intimate counseling sessions.

Kelly Duprey, now 34-year-old Kelly Hofmann, put it behind her and got married and had children and moved to Central Florida. Then came the jolt of memory and the images rushed out, now seen from the perspective of an adult, not a mixed-up teenager.

It had to be a crime, Kelly Hofmann decided. She went to police and they told her no, at one time it might have been, but no longer. Too many years had passed.

Police expect to complete their investigation next week after speaking by telephone with Flynn, who is in Ireland. Flynn's attorney, Jack Scarola, said he adamantly denies the allegation. "It never occurred," Scarola said.

For Kelly Hofmann, the adult, the investigators' apparent inability to proceed stings.

She wants to be sure there aren't other Kelly Dupreys out there - maybe hiding behind fear or with memories locked away so tightly the shock of a Catholic Church in turmoil has failed to dredge them up.

Maybe if they see someone come forward, they too will confront their demons, she said.

"I'm coming forward without shame. I did nothing to deserve this. I feel comfortable releasing my name. I'm hoping if others have similar stories, this will give them the courage," Hofmann said.

She told her story to The Palm Beach Post last week, accompanied in a telephone interview by Tallahassee attorney Jon Moyle Jr. and public relations specialist Jim McClellan.

Compared to the shocking sexual allegations piling up against Roman Catholic priests, her story seems rather tame. The priest she is accusing didn't rape her, didn't strip her, didn't remove his own clothes.

The allegation is this: He kissed her passionately and for prolonged moments and he groped her outside her clothing.

It started when she was 12, she says, and continued for at least seven years, through Howell Watkins Middle School and Palm Beach Gardens High School, where she graduated in 1985.

Hofmann's accusations are eerily similar to accusations against Flynn from adult women during his decade as pastor at St. Ignatius Loyola in Palm Beach Gardens and later as a priest at Sacred Heart Parish in Lake Worth, where a settlement with a woman forced his departure. He remains in the priesthood, working as development director at All Hallows Seminary in Dublin.

Before Flynn's story became publicly known, Kelly Hofmann said she had a breakthrough during treatment for depression. She told her therapist about Flynn and her therapist recommended she let it all out.

Hofmann told her parents the first week of April and they called the Palm Beach Diocese. Five days later, the diocese passed the matter to Palm Beach County State Attorney Barry Krischer and he asked Palm Beach Gardens police to investigate.

Hofmann came to tell her story to two detectives on April 21 and their report is not yet complete. But they said they could find nothing to prosecute because the events took place too long ago and didn't trigger any special provisions of the law, such as forcible rape of a child younger than 12.

Hofmann said she knows the kisses began after she turned 12 because that's how old she was when her family moved to Palm Beach Gardens and she first encountered Flynn.

Flynn would wait outside after services to greet departing congregants. At first, he gave Kelly a peck on the cheek. Then it became a kiss on her lips - in full view of parents, friends, anyone.

How could they have said nothing?

"We all had a great deal of trust in him," she said simply and resignedly.

As a teenager growing up in a new place she needed to talk and found it easy to confide in Flynn, who former parishioners recall as a warm and caring priest. He encouraged regular sessions.

If too much time passed, he would urge her to come see him. "He made me feel as though I was important. He always made time for me," she said.

Before she turned 13, a pattern emerged, she said. He would ask her for a hug and a kiss as the session ended and she would comply.

"It was more of a passionate-type kiss," she said. "He was embracing me and touching me in a way I now know is sexual and inappropriate."

Then he would slap her on the rear end and say "See ya, brat," and off she would go.

"He made me feel special. He made me feel important. He made the time for me when I needed it. I didn't have anyone else in my life," she said.

And it didn't seem wrong.

"With the Catholic religion, a priest is put in such a role of representative of church or of God. If you can confess your deepest sins to them, it's just the idealistic role of a person you can trust with anything," she said.

The diocese plans its own investigation when the police probe is done. Chancellor Lorraine Sabatella already has spoken to Hofmann.

"They said they were very sorry this took place and no one deserved to go through this," Hofmann said. Diocesan spokesman Sam Barbaro said he could not comment.

Hofmann would like more. A lawsuit is under consideration.

"Part of me is just not angry at St. Ignatius per se. It's the whole system. Perpetrators like Father Flynn are shuffled around and protected and they're not seen as a criminal. It looks like the worst that could happen is he is removed from the priesthood."

 
 

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