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  Victim's Dad Speaks out
'I Am No Longer a Catholic'

By Matt O'Brien
Lowell Sun
October 2, 2003

Worcester — John Mackey spoke directly and passionately as he stood outside the courthouse where a priest who raped his daughter as a young child had just been sentenced to prison.

"I despise the Worcester Diocese for their lack of compassion, sensitivity, loyalty, honesty, concern, and their total indifference to victims," said Mackey, Tewksbury's police chief.

Mackey said he and his wife, Barbara, met with the late Bishop Timothy Harrington, then leader of the diocese, when the couple's daughter, Heather Mackey Godin, was in eighth grade, nearly a decade after the abuse at the hands of Rev. Robert Kelley began at St. Cecilia's Parish in Leominster.

"Bishop Harrington told us that he believed Heather's story," John Mackey said. "Harrington also said that the church was responsible for her and that they would therefore provide psychological counseling. That agreement was sealed with a handshake."

Mackey said the diocese later reneged on the agreement when the family contacted a lawyer.

Ray Delisle, diocesan spokesman, said yesterday that Harrington did meet with the family and agreed to reimburse the counseling until they received a claim letter filing civil suit.

Delisle said the late bishop may have stopped the counseling once records potentially could be used in depositions.

Mackey said his family was recently forced to withdraw from Heather Mackey's joint lawsuit with other alleged victims because of a "statute of limitations that protects the church at the expense of children" and "the threat that the Worcester Diocese would sue Heather for triple their legal costs."

"If you are a victim of sexual abuse in the Worcester Diocese, refrain from making the cardinal sin of victims by going to the Worcester Diocese for help," Mackey said. "They are not your friend or advocate as they proclaim."

Mackey said yesterday he was "committed to exposing the Worcester Diocese and the Catholic Church for what it is.

"They don't care," Mackey said. "The Catholic Church mentality has allowed this horrendous behavior by priests to exist. That's why I am no longer a Catholic."

Judge John McCann, who sentenced Kelley to five to seven years in prison, joined the ex-priest's victims in blasting the Worcester Diocese yesterday.

"The only sacredness in this saga is the children," McCann said before a courtroom crowded with abuse victims and their families. "The only darkness is the inertness of the hierarchy."

He said he imposed the sentence with "sadness for the thousands of very good priests who were stained by this ugly blemish; sadness that the church hierarchy could not and was not willing to deal with this extraordinarily difficult issue."

Lawyers and spokesmen for the Office of Worcester Bishop Daniel Reilly have consistently said Kelley was removed immediately from ministry when a previous bishop learned about the abuse.

"I'm a little bit surprised that the judge is expressing an opinion in this way," said Delisle. "This case does not involve the diocese. Clearly this was not what was being heard in court."

Kelley, after spending six years in Canada attending seminary, first joined the diocese in 1968. He was ordained in that year and began serving at Notre Dame in Southbridge until 1974.

"Mr. Kelley first went to treatment in 1970 at Catholic Charities for an unspecified treatment from the records before me," McCann said at the sentencing. "He was counseled in 1972."

In 1999, a civil lawsuit filed by Cyndi Desrosiers, who said she was victimized by Kelley in Southbridge, found Kelley responsible for money damages but cleared the Worcester Diocese of responsibility in the abuse.

Kelley was still paying those damages before he was sent to prison yesterday.

"He had access to me all the time, at church fairs," said Desrosiers, who now lives in Maine but attended the sentencing. "Everywhere I was, he was, and my parents totally trusted him, naively. When I was 28, when my daughter was 4, I began to remember everything."

She said she is no longer a Catholic. She rescinded her baptism in an act of apostasy last summer.

Another group of women who filed civil lawsuits against the priest and diocese dropped the suits a few months ago, but said they didn't do it voluntarily. The statute of limitations prevented them from moving forward.

Kelley was assigned to St. Cecilia's from the mid-1970s to mid-1980s.

There, Debbie Doucet, now 35, of Fitchburg, said Kelley molested her and her sister, Nicole Cormier, now 33, of Fitchburg, in the late 1970s. Doucet said her family just wanted Kelley to get help at the time. She said her family was not aware of any other incidents.

He has admitted to molesting more than 50 girls.

In 1983 Kelley was appointed to his last post, as pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Gardner, where a new sex-abuse allegation arose that ended up sending Kelley to prison.

The church sent the priest to a church-run House of Affirmation in St. Louis.

"He remained there for a year," McCann said. "The records of that program have since been destroyed, for reasons not disclosed to the court."

Matt O'Brien writes for the Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise.

 
 

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