Fr. Kelley Sentenced to Jail Again

By William T. Clew
The Catholic Free Press [Worcester MA]
Downloaded October 3, 2003

WORCESTER – Father Robert E. Kelley, 61, who pleaded guilty in Superior Court Aug. 14 to four counts of unnatural rape of a child and two counts of rape of a child, was sentenced to five to seven years in the Massachusetts Correctional Institution in Cedar Junction, Walpole, Wednesday.

At the sentencing procedure Wednesday, Worcester Superior Court Judge John S. McCann also placed Father Kelley on probation for 20 years after he serves his prison sentence.

Father Kelley served six years in prison after pleading guilty in March 1990 to charges of assault with intent to rape and two counts of unnatural rape of a child and indecent assault and battery on a child. Father Kelley was removed from ministry by the Diocese in 1985.

Judge McCann said he imposed the sentence “with great sadness ... sadness for the victims who have lived in their private prisons for the past 20 years; sadness for the thousands of very good priests who are stained by this ugly blemish; sadness that the Church hierarchy could not and was not willing to deal with this extraordinarily difficult issue; sadness that society must suffer through this and acknowledge that priests can indeed be pedophiles, and sadness that I must consider the ramifications of sentencing a Catholic priest.”

After receiving news of Father Kelley’s sentence, Bishop Reilly said; “Our thoughts and prayers are first and foremost with the victims of Father Kelley today. We pray that today’s resolution in criminal court is another step on their long road to healing from the hurts inflicted upon them decades ago. It is a sad reminder to all of us that the pain of sexual abuse, including that perpetrated by a priest, will linger for many years and will take a great deal of support for healing.

“We also ask for prayers for the Kelley family as they watch him go to prison once again. In charity may we also pray for Father Kelley who, recognizing the wrong he had done, pled guilty to the charges and now faces a return to prison for 5-7 years.

“The Diocese of Worcester will continue to make every effort as an institution to provide safe environments to children in our care, following the national charter for the protection of children. We will also continue to offer counseling services and outreach to those who were victims of Father Kelley and others who represented the Church.”

District Attorney John J. Conte said Father Kelley’s two female victims were between 6 and 10 years old during the time of the offenses.

He said the offenses occurred at various times from 1980 to 1985 while Father Kelley was a priest at St. Cecilia’s Parish in Leominster and Sacred Heart Parish in Gardner.

Father Kelley served six years of a five-to-seven-year sentence after pleading guilty in March 1990, to charges of assault with intent to rape and two counts of unnatural rape of a child and indecent assault and battery on a child.

Those offenses were said to have occurred between Sept. 1, 1983, and April 1, 1985, in Gardner, where Father Kelley was pastor of Sacred Heart Parish.

In April 1985, Father Kelley was removed from any ministry in the diocese. Diocesan officials said he never would be assigned again to duties as a priest. At the direction of his superiors he entered a 14-month residential psychological treatment program at the House of Affirmation in St. Louis.

In his sentencing statement, Judge McCann noted that the Diocese of Worcester removed Father Kelley from active ministry in 1985 after a sexual assault complaint was lodged against him. He said there is no record that the diocese reported the incident to the district attorney, “but the history suggests they were not reported.”

The judge noted that Father Kelley completed a relationship skills group program and several other programs while in prison but none after his release in 1996. He said Father Kelley has been earning about $200 a week selling flowers. He said the Catholic Church has terminated his pay, retirement benefits and health benefits. He said Father Kelley pays about $150 a week on a $750,000 judgment against him in another case.

He said Father Kelley is a Level 3 sex offender, the highest risk-to offend category. He said he must re-register annually in January with the Sex Offender Registration Board and must do so for 20 years, and perhaps for life. He noted that in civil litigation during which, while under oath, he admitted to at least 50 offenses and suggested the possibility of more.

He said Father Kelley is an admitted pedophile, which is a “significant character pathology that requires lifelong management.”

In sentencing Father Kelley Judge McCann specified that the priest be placed in protective custody to maximize his safety and involve himself in as much sexual offending treatment as possible. He also ordered that a mental health team evaluate Father Kelley.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.