Father Michael Kelly, who serves at St. Joachim’s Catholic Church in Lockeford, has been accused of sexually abusing a 10-year-old boy from 2000 to 2002, according to an Orange County attorney investigating the case.
Kelly, a popular priest at St. Joachim’s since 2004, will remain an active priest as the Stockton Diocese investigates the matter, according to a statement released late Tuesday afternoon by Bishop Stephen Blaire.
The case has been referred to the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Department, Blaire said. No one at the Sheriff’s Department was available for comment on Tuesday.
Kelly allegedly abused the boy from late 2000 through 2002, when Kelly was a priest at St. Andrew’s Parish in San Andreas, according to Rebecca Rhoades, an attorney with the Manly & Stewart law firm in Newport Beach. Attorneys interviewed the man, now 21, last Thursday about Kelly, Rhoades said.
Contacted by phone, Kelly vehemently denied any wrongdoing.
“(The allegations are) 100 percent completely and utterly false,” Kelly said. “I intend to fight it to the end, regardless of what it takes.”
Blaire said he learned of the allegations after the diocese attorney received a letter from John Manly, of Manly & Stewart, reporting issues regarding Kelly.
Rhoades said she is arranging for a meeting between Sheriff’s investigators and the man who reported the alleged abuse.
The allegations revealed by the diocese on Tuesday are not the first against Kelly. A man now in his 30s filed a civil suit against Kelly and the diocese in 2008 regarding alleged sexual abuse in the 1980s, when Kelly was a priest at Cathedral of the Annunciation in Stockton. That case remains pending.
The organization called Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests issued a statement Tuesday.
“We are saddened and disturbed that it took another brave victim to share his pain and abuse for Stockton Catholic officials to finally protect kids from Father Michael Kelly,” said an email by Joelle Casteix, the group’s western regional director.
“We urge law enforcement to vigorously investigate and punish church employees who hurt kids or put them at risk,” Casteix said. “If you have any information about child abuse by Father Kelly or any adult, please contact law enforcement and support groups like ours, not church officials.”
The Stockton Diocese can be reached at 209-466-0636. For information about SNAP, visit www.snapnetwork.org.
Born in Tipperary, Ireland, Kelly was ordained there in 1973. Since Ireland had more than enough priests and the Stockton Diocese didn’t, he chose California — sight unseen.
He 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.