Irish Priest in Sex Abuse Lawsuit Flees California

By Edel O'Connell
Irish Independent
April 18, 2012

Fr Michael Kelly: scheduled to testify yesterday in US

AN Irish priest who was found liable in a civil case alleging sexual abuse has been removed from ministry in Stockton, California.

Fr Michael Kelly, from Ballingarry, Co Tipperary, was scheduled to testify in the sex-abuse lawsuit yesterday -- but it is believed he has returned to Ireland in recent days.

On April 6, a civil jury found in favour of the accuser in a case alleging sexual abuse by Fr Kelly in the 1980s.

In light of this verdict, Bishop of Stockton Stephen Blaire immediately removed him from ministry.

Fr Kelly was scheduled to testify yesterday regarding the charge that the Stockton diocese should also be liable for damages.

Fr Kelly, who continues to deny the allegations informed Bishop Blaire by letter on Sunday that he had left the US because of deteriorating health, which he blamed on "vicious false allegations" against him.

He insisted on his innocence and said he had "lost everything".

"I spent 39 years of my life serving God and the people of various parishes of the diocese of Stockton," he wrote.

"Now, I have not only lost my ministry but the whole thing has taken its toll on my health."

He said he hoped Bishop Blaire would understand but he needed to be with his family whose "support and love for him is unconditional".

Bishop Blaire voiced his shock that Fr Kelly had fled. In a statement the bishop said: "A civil jury found in favour of the plaintiff in a case alleging sexual abuse by Fr Michael Kelly in the 1980s.

"In light of this verdict, I have made the decision to remove Fr Kelly from ministry, effective immediately.

"The diocese's decision to defend this case was based on a careful analysis of the information available and on a genuine belief that the accusations are not true," Bishop Blaire added.

"Our view of the evidence has not changed, and Fr Kelly continues to deny the allegations against him.


"Nevertheless, it is my belief that the jury verdict must be respected, and I have taken action in accord with our Church's Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People," he said.

"The diocese of Stockton takes all accusations of sexual abuse with great seriousness. We have in place policies and procedures to help us get to an understanding of the truth, and we remain committed to creating and maintaining a safe environment for all our children and young adults."

Fr Kelly was ordained in the diocese of Stockton in 1973 after completing his seminary studies in Thurles, Co Tipperary.

He served at a number of dioceses in the area after arriving in California in 1970.

He was accused in 2008 of sexually abusing a student of Stockton's Cathedral of the Annunciation Parish School in the mid-1980's.

The plaintiff, a man now 37 years old, said he recovered his memories of the abuse in 2006.


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