A fresh civil action has been filed in California against former Ballingarry priest Fr Michael Kelly. The 62-year-old cleric was removed from his ministry when he fled his parish in Stockton last April after a jury found him liable in a separate civil action alleging sexual abuse in the 1980s.
Fr Kelly left for Ireland during the second part of the civil hearing to determine whether or not the diocese had any liability in the matter, but did not return to his native village.
While he has no relatives still in Ballingarry, it is believed Fr Kelly has family in North Tipperary as well as Kilkenny and Dublin.
Fr Kelly was ordained in St Patrick’s College, Thurles, in 1973, but as he was sponsored by the Diocese of Stockton, he never ministered in Ireland, though it is understood he would say Mass on his visits home.
The latest civil action involves a now 24-year-old man who was an altar boy at the time of the alleged abuse. He claims he was abused by Fr Kelly from the age of 12 in the 1980s.
Under documents filed last week, the man claims he had been under Fr Kelly’s supervision in St Andrew’s Parish, San Andreas, when the alleged incidents took place.
The man, referred to only as John CC Doe, alleges that Fr Kelly would often come to his home unannounced and “sexually abuse and harass” him in his bedroom, often when his parents were out of the house.
The Bishop of Stockton in northern California, Steven Blaire, and Mons Richard Ryan are co-joined in the law suit on the basis that the diocese breached their duty to the boy. The complainant alleges that the diocese knew about earlier allegations of child sexual abuse against the priest, but placed him in a position of trust and authority, and that the diocese ignored a psychological assessment carried out in 1999 that recommended Fr Kelly not be allowed administer to children while alone.
Included in the 10 charges against Fr Kelly, Bishop Blaire and Mons Ryan are allegations of sexual battery, fraud and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
During the April hearing, the jury found Fr Kelly liable of three sexual abuse charges in another case involving a student at Stockton’s Cathedral of the Annunciation in the mid-1980s where he served. His most recent assignment was to St Joachim’s Catholic Church in Lockeford.
After he fled to Ireland in April before he was set to testify in the second phase of the same case alleging the diocese knew Fr Kelly’s history of sexual misconduct allegations, the diocese reached a $3.75m (E2.8m) settlement with the victim.