Judge Bob McNatt said on Monday that he will decide in about two weeks which is more important — Father Michael Kelly's privacy or the public's right to know that he is an accused pedophile.
Kelly, a popular priest at St. Joachim's Catholic Church in Lockeford, is the subject of a civil lawsuit filed in 2008, in which a man now 37 years old claims that Kelly sexually abused him in the 1980s. Kelly was a priest at Church of the Annunciation in Stockton when the alleged abuse took place. The plaintiff's name has not been disclosed.
Stockton Diocese Bishop Stephen Blaire placed Kelly on administrative leave in 2007, when the allegations surfaced, but he was reinstated to his position at St. Joachim's five months later.
Kelly, a priest at St. Joachim's since 2004, has been cleared of criminal wrongdoing stemming from the 2007 lawsuit. Kelly told the News-Sentinel in 2008 that he underwent a lengthy polygraph test and an in-depth investigation by a former FBI agent.
On Monday, attorneys for Kelly and the Stockton Diocese argued in San Joaquin County Superior Court that court records should be sealed to provide personal privacy for Kelly. Vince Finaldi, who represents the plaintiff in the civil suit, countered that the public has the right to know the details of the civil case, citing "a compelling public interest of protecting our children."
A trial date has been set for Feb. 14. Kelly previously stated that he doesn't want the case to be settled, adding that he wants to prove his innocence.
McNatt, who took over the case after Judge Carter P. Holly disqualified himself, said he received the files contained in 15 large envelopes last Thursday and needs more time to review them before making a ruling. McNatt said he's read most of the files, however.
Meanwhile, a second man recently accused Kelly of sexual molestation. The case remains under investigation by the Calaveras County Sheriff's Department, Sgt. Anthony Eberhardt, a detective, told the News-Sentinel on Monday. The alleged abuse took place while Kelly served in San Andreas.
Born in Ireland, Kelly was a priest at Catholic churches for 10 years in Sonora, three years in Stockton, two years in San Andreas and one year in Ceres before being assigned to St. Joachim's in Lockeford in 2004.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.