Former Modesto Priest Accused of New Offense

By Sue Nowicki
Modesto Bee
September 29, 2011

The Modesto Bee - Father Michael Kelly of the Saint Joachim Catholic Parish in Lockeford, Calif.

The Rev. Michael Kelly, a former priest at Our Lady of Fatima who helped start the Modesto Youth Soccer Association, was hit this week with a second allegation of sexually abusing a minor.

A 21-year-old unidentified man said the priest molested him when he was a 10-year-old altar boy at St. Andrew's Catholic Church in San Andreas. The abuse continued from about 2000 to 2002, said John Manly, a Southern California attorney representing the man.

Manly also represents another alleged victim, a man in his mid-30s who said he was sexually abused by Kelly in the early 1980s in his family's home in Stockton. That civil lawsuit, filed in 2007, is due to go to trial in November.

"In no uncertain terms, he totally denies (the allegations)," said Albert Ellis, a Stockton attorney and Kelly's legal consultant. "There's no truth to them."

Ellis, who said Kelly passed a polygraph test after the first claim was filed, said he finds the timing of the new allegations to be suspicious and "extremely disturbing, coming on the eve of the trial."

"All Father Kelly has wanted to do for the past four years is have his case tried in a judicial manner and not in a way to try to taint the jury pool with this story. I leave it up to anybody to draw their own inferences."

Manly, however, said the new allegation was received in his office last Thursday and sent to the Stockton Diocese on Monday.

Kelly now Lockeford pastor

When asked why the alleged victim didn't come forward when previous stories about Kelly were published and announced in every diocesan parish, Manly said the man moved with his parents to another state nearly a decade ago and, to Manly's knowledge, didn't know about the earlier accusation.

Kelly, a native of Ireland, joined the Stockton Diocese in 1973 and first was assigned to Fatima. He also served with parishes in Stockton, Tracy, Sonora and St. Jude's in Ceres before moving in 2004 to his present role as pastor at St. Joachim in Lockeford.

He was placed on paid leave after the earlier allegation but reinstated five months later after a diocesan and police investigation. As of Wednesday, he was still listed as an "active priest," according to a diocesan news release.

Kelly still may be put on leave over this allegation, but the diocese first must determine if such claims "could be true" confirming, for example, that the accuser was an altar boy at St. Andrew's at the time before taking further action, according to diocesan attorney Paul Balastracci.

Multiple lawsuits filed

Representatives from SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) issued a news release Wednesday protesting that Kelly wasn't immediately put on leave. A handful of them protested outside the diocese's headquarters in Stockton on Wednesday.

The diocese has faced multiple lawsuits regarding sexual abuse by priests over the past three decades.

The vast majority of them 24 have been against Oliver O'Grady, who's been called the Hannibal Lecter of pedophile Catholic priests. He was deported to his native Ireland 18 years ago. To date, O'Grady lawsuits have resulted in more than $20 million paid to victims.

Balastracci said there are two pending cases against the diocese: one against O'Grady in Stanislaus County and the one against Kelly in San Joaquin. Four or five more are on appeal at the state Supreme Court level, he said. All of those concern O'Grady.


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