San Joaquin County Priest Reinstated after Investigation into Allegation

By Daniel Thigpen
The Record
March 15, 2008

STOCKTON - The Diocese of Stockton has restored a Lockeford priest to active ministry after completing an investigation of a sexual abuse allegation.

The diocese had placed the Rev. Michael Kelly on administrative leave in October after a then-33-year-old man claimed he was sexually abused by the priest sometime from 1984 to 1986, when Kelly was a priest at the Cathedral of the Annunciation in Stockton.

Since 2004, Kelly has served as the priest at St. Joachim's Church in Lockeford.

Two separate investigations, one by the diocese and the other by Stockton police detectives, failed to turn up any evidence against Kelly, in part because the person who made the allegation would not talk to investigators, officials said.

"I'm very grateful to the bishop and to the diocese for conducting such a completely thorough investigation, and I am extremely happy to be back in my parish with these wonderful people," Kelly said in a phone interview Friday.

Kelly, 58, is scheduled to preside over his first Mass in five months today. He said he is not likely to address the incident in his sermon.

The ordeal has "given me a lot more time for prayer and reflection. Thankfully, I find myself closer to God because of that," he said. "I've also been tremendously grateful for the amazing amount of moral support, prayer support, that I got, not just from the people of this parish, but all over the diocese."

The diocese reported that a third party initially made the allegation, and neither the third party nor the accuser would agree to speak with diocese officials.

The diocese hired an outside investigator and did not find any evidence of sexual abuse on the part of Kelly, Bishop Stephen Blaire said in a prepared statement.

"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," the bishop wrote. "I thank everyone for their patience and prayers during this painful and difficult process."

Diocese spokeswoman Sister Terry Davis said she had no more details about the investigation. She said Blaire was not available for comment.

Kelly's Stockton attorney, Albert Ellis, did not return phone calls for comment.

Stockton police spokesman Officer Pete Smith said detectives followed up on the allegation after the diocese informed them of the matter. Detectives contacted the accuser's family, but the accuser "has not come forward to seek out any criminal report," Smith said.

Contact reporter Daniel Thigpen at (209) 367-7427 or


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