Accused Priest Had Been Evaluated

By Jennie Rodriguez-Moore
The Record
April 13, 2012

STOCKTON - A Catholic priest recently found liable for sexually assaulting an altar boy by a civil jury had been sent to a behavioral health center to be evaluated on his sexual deposition several years before the alleged rape occurred.

The former priest of St. Joachim Church in Lockeford, Michael Kelly, showed pedophilic traits in a psychological evaluation ordered by the Diocese of Stockton, but the test results were inconclusive, said John Manly, who is representing the former altar boy.

Manly said that should have been a warning sign.

Manly's client, now 37 years old, said he was molested and raped by Kelly more than 20 years ago while they both served at Cathedral of the Annunciation.

Identified in court papers only as John TZ Doe, the plaintiff filed the civil suit because the statute of limitations has run out and criminal charges cannot be filed, his attorneys said.

The second phase of the trial began Thursday, which will determine whether the Diocese of Stockton is liable for damages based on its handling of Kelly, who was found liable in the trial's first phase.

While the plaintiff's attorneys say the church tried covering up a scandal, defense attorneys say the church responded to the claim and investigated before reinstating Kelly into ministry.

Kelly served at various parishes throughout Calaveras, San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties. There were various complaints of his roughhousing with children, perceived by parents as odd behavior.

Several years before the plaintiff brought his claim forward, a family from Presentation Church, where Kelly served in the late 1990s, complained that Kelly put their son's face on his crotch.

In response, the diocese sent Kelly to St. John Vianney Center in Philadelphia, a faith-based center that specializes in the behavioral health of clergy.

Kelly later was sent to a six-month extended therapy stay at a Canadian facility. Manly said parishioners believed Kelly was ill with ulcers.

"He was leaving because they were concerned he was a pedophile," Manly said.

That's something the diocese has never disclosed to parishioners, Manly said.

Manly's team will try to prove the diocese set up its internal investigation and the defense rigged the polygraph test to show Kelly was innocent and have him reinstated as head of St. Joachim Church.

The diocese's history of child molestations by other priests, such as Oliver O'Grady, is expected to come into evidence.

Defense attorney Jim Goodman said O'Grady, who was convicted of molesting two brothers in San Joaquin County in 1994, is a terrible person.

"This trial is not about Oliver O'Grady," he said.

Those cases didn't happen under current Bishop Stephen Blaire, Goodman said. The church denies that Blaire ratified any sexual abuse.

"He is not in any way saying, 'I know that he molested' (the plaintiff) and he's OK with it," Goodman said.

According to Goodman, Blaire followed proper protocol based on the information he had at the time, and reinstated Kelly only when internal investigations didn't show he was a danger to children.

Goodman said there were people who thought Kelly shouldn't roughhouse with children.

"It wasn't a very pretty story," Goodman said. But, he said, the diocese's investigation indicated there was nothing sexual about Kelly's interactions with children.

Goodman said church officials believe Kelly had boundary issues.

Goodman said Kelly went on his own to a polygraph examiner. He said the polygraph was accurately conducted, and the examiner is a nationally recognized investigator.

Although California law prohibits the use of polygraph tests in criminal courts, San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Bob McNatt said it can be used with limitations in civil trials and therefore has allowed it into evidence.

On Thursday, McNatt also addressed issues with trial audience members who have approached jury members to discuss the case.

For the second time since the civil trial began, a supporter of Kelly has attempted to interfere with or influence the people who found Kelly liable of sexually assaulting a child.

"That will not be tolerated," McNatt warned spectators just before the second phase of the civil trial was to begin Thursday.

No other details about the alleged interference were available.

The audience attendance numbers Thursday - less than a dozen people - paled in comparison to the attendance of the first phase when Kelly's supporters filled the courtroom.

During the second phase, Manly will try to prove the diocese was negligent in keeping Kelly employed among children, that it failed to properly supervise him, failed to warn or educate the public about his behavior, and that the diocese ratified his actions by keeping him in ministry.

"We will show you that the reason they did that is Father Kelly was a prolific fundraiser," Manly said, adding that the priest had recently raised $6 million for a church construction project.

"Who is more responsible?" Manly said in the opening statement. "The predator who is going to consume the child, or the predator who opened the cage?"



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