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  Banned Priest Finds Support
Some at St. Thomas A' Beckett Push Financial Boycott after Vatican Bars Ex-Pastor from Duties

By Kim Kozlowski
Detroit News
December 12, 2005

Some frustrated parishioners at St. Thomas a' Beckett Catholic Church are planning to halt their contribution to the Archdiocese of Detroit on coming weekends to protest the Vatican's decision that their former pastor, accused of molesting an altar boy, can no longer present himself as a priest.

Six percent of the $24,000 that is collected weekly at the Canton parish is sent to the Archdiocese of Detroit, but all of the funds will stay at the church during the Christmas collection. Organizers of the financial boycott are trying to encourage others to withhold their weekly offering and put it all in the Christmas collection.

They hope to send a message about what they believe was injustice for C. Richard Kelly, who was permanently barred from performing priestly duties or wearing clerical garb and reportedly plans to appeal the decision that was announced last week.

"I prayed and prayed over this because I knew it would have big ramifications," said Mary Albus, a parishioner who began the movement and has received support from many.

"Father Kelly told us he was innocent. He sent a letter to the homes of the parishioners, and I truly feel he is."

Kelly couldn't be reached for comment, but Albus spoke with him last week and said he planned to continue to fight the Vatican's ruling. His decision pleased many of the 4,000 parishioners who have been devastated by the outcome.

"Nobody believed that charge against Father Kelly," said parishioner Angela Leto, who talked with fellow church members in tears over the decision following a Mass last week.

But the man who accused Kelly, Tim Hassett, said the people who know Kelly have been conned.

"They're misguided people," said Hassett, now 43 and living outside Metro Detroit. "He's a con artist. He really is."

Hassett contacted civil authorities after keeping secret what he said were two years of molestation by Kelly when he was in fourth and fifth grade at St. Mary of Redford Elementary School in Detroit. The alleged incidents led Hassett to abuse alcohol for 25 years to lessen the pain, he said.

It wasn't until he was in a substance abuse group that he revealed the allegations, and members encouraged him to contact police. But civil authorities chose not to investigate because so much time had elapsed.

Civil authorities shared the information with the archdiocese, which conducted an investigation that deemed the allegations credible. In February 2001, Kelly, 61, was removed from the parish and was temporarily barred from presenting himself as a priest.

Ultimately, the case went before the Vatican for review.

The Vatican's decision, announced last week, did not defrock Kelly but permanently banned him from acting as a priest.

Speaking to parishioners at noon services Sunday, the Rev. Pat Casey, the church's new pastor, said Kelly is still a member of the church's "family," and "We are hurting because our friend is hurting." He said the Vatican's decision essentially found Kelly guilty of the accusations, even though he "categorically denies them."

"That's a big problem," Casey said. "It's hard to get over something like this as a family. I don't have any words of wisdom or a solution to our pain."

Casey had mixed feelings about the move to send a message to the archdiocese with the withholding of funds.

"I understand that they would do it and why they would do it," he said. "I don't necessarily think it's the best way to do things."

Archdiocese officials say it's unfortunate.

"We all think this is very sad news for everyone involved," said Ned McGrath, archdiocese spokesman.

"What everybody wanted was some resolution and healing, and that's what we hope for. I am not sure actions like these promote either of those things."

 
 

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