'It Never Happened,' Priest Says

By Jennie Rodriguez-Moore
The Record
March 21, 2012

STOCKTON - A Catholic priest accused of child sex abuse testified in his civil trial for the first time Tuesday under questions from the plaintiff's lawyer.

The Rev. Michael Kelly and the Diocese of Stockton are being sued by a former altar boy who served at Cathedral of the Annunciation under Kelly's direction during the mid-1980s.

Kelly, now pastor of St. Joachim Church in Lockeford, is accused of touching the boy as he baby-sat him, assaulting him in the priest's rectory and at a motel and raping him in a wooded area.

"That's what he said, and it never happened," Kelly said on the stand.

Kelly's interactions with children were unusual for a priest and are consistent with a pedophile's grooming behavior, according to the plaintiff's attorney, John Manly.

Kelly admitted to roughhousing, tickling and playing games with children.

"I was really disgusted at myself for that immaturity," Kelly said. "Certainly looking back at it now, it was very inappropriate."

But his intentions were never sexual, he said.

At Manly's request, Kelly demonstrated the games he would play with children.

He sat on the courtroom floor and re-enacted how he would hoist a child above him and drop the child in front of his body in a game called "Superman."

"I certainly would not drop them on my crotch," Kelly firmly responded to questions by Manly.

"We did it as kids. I did it with my nieces and nephews," Kelly said. "It was innocent."

Kelly, a native of Ireland, has served at various parishes in the Diocese of Stockton.

One parent had complained about Kelly's roughhousing in 1979 during his time at St. Bernard's Church in Tracy.

Kelly said he was told to refrain from roughhousing with children unless their parents were around.

But he continued that conduct, Manly said.

Manly pointed to changes in Kelly's recollections of encounters with the plaintiff.

Now 37 years old, the plaintiff alleges Kelly first abused him in the family's home.

When initially interviewed by diocese officials, Kelly did not recall baby-sitting the plaintiff. He later said that he remembered it.

"Why did you say it's not the kind of thing you would easily forget?" Manly asked.

Kelly said he was too distracted by the sex abuse claims to focus on remembering whether he had baby-sat.

"I was so horrifically, horrendously shocked," he said.

Kelly's testimony continues today.



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