Plaintiff's Sex Abuse Memories Disputed

By Jennie Rodriguez-Moore
The Record
March 23, 2012

A psychiatrist for the defense in the civil trial of a local Catholic priest says sex abuse memories of a former altar boy who accuses Rev. Michael Kelly are false.

The plaintiff, now a 37-year-old man, said Kelly assaulted him over a period of time in the mid-1980s.

Defense attorneys for Kelly and the Diocese of Stockton are challenging the validity of the man's recovered memories.

Dr. J. Alexander Bodkin, an associate professor of psychology at Harvard University and member of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, testified Thursday as the defense's expert witness.

According to Bodkin, the sudden recollection of repressed memories or disassociated amnesia is a phenomenon that has yet to be broadly accepted by psychiatrists.

"I believe the phenomenon may prove to exist, but if it does, it has been resistant," he said.

After evaluating the plaintiff identified in court papers as John TZ Doe, Bodkin concluded he had anxiety, depression and obsessive compulsive disorder, and that his memories of being molested by Kelly are likely obsessive thoughts.

"This guy is telling the truth as he understands it," Bodkin said.

Bodkin disregarded the theory of repressed memory in diagnosing the plaintiff based on a few other factors, he said, including a lack of corroborative or physical evidence.

During cross-examination, attorney Vince Finaldi asked why Bodkin tested the plaintiff for conditions other than disassociated amnesia - the chief issue in the case.

The reason, Bodkin said, is that he doesn't believe it is yet a valid occurrence.

Attorneys for the plaintiff said their client isn't Kelly's only victim.

A second former altar boy, who served at St. Andrew's Catholic Church in San Andreas, has levelled sex abuse charges against Kelly, who is under investigation by the Calaveras County Sheriff's Office.

The second alleged victim provided a court statement in closed quarters Thursday, and San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Bob McNatt could decide as soon as today whether that testimony can be used in John TZ Doe's trial.

Kelly, now pastor of St. Joachim Church in Lockeford, is accused of assaulting John TZ Doe more than 20 years ago while the boy served as an altar boy at Cathedral of the Annunciation in Stockton.

John TZ Doe is a former U.S. Air Force major currently on medical leave from his job as a commercial pilot.

Kelly maintains he never sexually abused anyone but admitted to acting immaturely and playing with children early in his career.

Contact reporter Jennie Rodriguez-Moore at (209) 943-8564 or Visit her blog at








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