A judge has ordered the Stockton Diocese to proceed to trial in a lawsuit alleging that a popular Lockeford priest committed sexual abuse in the 1980s.

The lawsuit, filed by a 36-year-old man, says diocese officials should have known that Father Michael Kelly of St. Joachim’s Catholic Church posed a threat. Kelly also is named in the lawsuit, which was filed in 2008 and reported in the News-Sentinel at that time.

Kelly was a priest at Cathedral of the Annunciation in Stockton at the time of the alleged abuse when the plaintiff was a child in the 1980s.

Statutes of limitations prevent cases from being filed long after the alleged abuse, but the plaintiff claims the memories were repressed until 2006. The diocese conducted its own investigation and cleared Kelly in 2008.

Both sides are due to meet for a mandatory settlement conference in June.

News-Sentinel staff writer Ross Farrow contributed to this report.

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