More Testimony of Priest Roughhousing Children in the 1980s

By Ross Farrow
Lodi News-Sentinel
March 8, 2012

The mother of the 37-year-old man suing Father Michael Kelly on a child sexual abuse allegation told a jury Wednesday that she and her then-husband saw Kelly tickle and roughhouse with her two children during the mid-1980s, but she said she felt too intimidated to question his actions.

"We didn't say anything because it's very hard to admonish a priest," the woman said during the fifth day of the civil trial against Kelly, pastor of Lockeford's St. Joachim's Catholic Church since 2004.

The plaintiff's mother began testimony Wednesday afternoon in San Joaquin County Superior Court. Her son, whose name is being withheld by court order, claims that Kelly sexually abused him in the 1980s, when the plaintiff was an altar boy at Stockton's Cathedral of the Annunciation.

Kelly has not been criminally charged or convicted. The statute of limitations had expired by the time the plaintiff filed the lawsuit, attorney John Manly, representing the plaintiff, said last week.

The plaintiff's mother said that when Kelly was a young priest in the 1980s, her son and daughter told her they did not like his hard tickling, so she finally asked Kelly to stop. Kelly didn't stop, she said, until she asked him more directly to stop tickling her children.

Nevertheless, Kelly babysat the plaintiff and his younger sister at least twice in the 1980s. Several witnesses in the trial, which began last week, said that Kelly volunteered babysitting services, something no other priest had done.

The plaintiff's mother and father testified separately that they never asked Kelly to babysit, but because he was a priest, it was hard to say no.

"He was very forthcoming about wanting to babysit," the mother testified Wednesday.

Earlier Wednesday, the plaintiff's father testified that while visiting his son in Hartford, Conn. in 2007, his son blurted out that Kelly had sexually assaulted him.

The plaintiff was dropping his father off at the Hartford airport when he made the accusation about Kelly, but the plaintiff drove away without elaborating, his father told the court.

The father tried to call Cardinal Roger Mahony of the Los Angeles Archdiocese, who was the Stockton Diocese bishop in the 1980s, but the return call came from Stockton, not Los Angeles, the father said.

On cross examination, the father admitted not returning several calls from the Stockton Diocese because he didn't trust them. Instead he called Manly & Stewart, a Newport Beach law firm that has filed many clergy abuse lawsuits.

The plaintiff's mother said she wasn't aware of her son's conversations with her ex-husband about the allegations against Kelly.

After his mother completes her testimony on Thursday, the plaintiff is scheduled to take the witness stand. Court begins at 10 a.m. at 222 E. Weber Ave., Department 42, Stockton.

Kelly is scheduled to take the witness stand to defend himself after the plaintiff's side completes its testimony.

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