Catholic Diocese Reinstates Priest Accused of Sex Abuse

Modesto Bee
March 14, 2008

STOCKTON -- The Roman Catholic Diocese of Stockton announced today that it is reinstating Rev. Michael Kelly as pastor of St. Joachim parish in Lockeford. Kelly had been on administrative leave while the church investigated an allegation of sexual abuse.

Fr. Mike Kelly

Since the accusation in September, the diocese has found no basis for the claim, according to a press release Bishop Stephen Blaire issued this morning.

Statement of Bishop Stephen Blaire on Rev. Michael Kelly

The Diocese of Stockton has completed its investigation into an allegation of sexual abuse made against Father Michael Kelly, in September 2007, claiming sexual abuse of a child in 1984.

We made numerous attempts to contact the claimant as soon as the matter was brought to our attention by a third party. The claimant, through his attorney, stated that he did not wish to speak with the Bishop. To date, we have never heard anything directly from the claimant. This made investigating the allegation very difficult and time-consuming. The third party who initially informed us of the claim also refused to speak further about the matter. We investigated as thoroughly as possible under these circumstances. A professional investigator was engaged by the Diocese. His investigation did not reveal any evidence of sexual abuse on the part of Father Kelly.

After discussing the matter carefully with the Diocesan Review Board, I have made the decision to restore Father Kelly to active priestly ministry in the Diocese.

I received hundreds of letters in support of Father Kelly, most of them quite anxious that he be returned quickly to ministry. However it was necessary that a thorough investigation be undertaken. I thank everyone for their patience and prayers during this painful and difficult process.
The statement said the alleged victim and a third party who informed the diocese of the claim refused to speak further about the matter. The diocese said it investigated as thoroughly as possible under the circumstances, even hiring a professional investigator.

"His investigation did not reveal any evidence of sexual abuse on the part of Father Kelly," the statement said.

The bishop wrote further that he received hundreds of letters supporting Kelly and seeking his return to the ministry.

Kelly has served at a number of parishes in Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Tuolumne counties, including Our Lady of Fatima in Modesto, St. Jude's in Ceres and St. Patrick's in Sonora.

During the mid-1970s, Kelly also played an instrumental role in the creation of the Modesto Youth Soccer Association.


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