AN organisation dedicated to proving that former Ballingarry priest Fr Michael Kelly is innocent of child sex abuse allegations has launched a communications offensive to prove his innocence.
Fr Kelly was removed from his ministry in Stockton last April following a decision by a court in California that he was liable for sex abuse allegations brought by a former altar boy. The 62-year-old cleric fled to Ireland during the second part of the case, citing “health reasons”. The second action was to see if the Diocese of Stockton was liable for Fr Kelly’s alleged actions.
A second civil action alleging sex abuse was lodged with in court at the start of September by another former altar boy at St Andrew’s Parish, San Andreas, in which he is alleging sexual battery, fraud and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The Bishop of Stockton, Steven Blaire, and Mons Richard Ryan are co-joined in that action under allegations of failing in their duty of care.
Now, the Friends of Father Kelly, which was set up in 2007, has announced the appointment of a community relations officer, Ted Neumann from Modesto, whose mission will be to co-ordinate communications and stress what they see as “fact-based information”.
In a statement issued to the Tipperary Star, the group says they are doing this “to keep supporters and the community updated on developments, promote fair and balanced reporting in the media, and raise public awareness of a growing trend of falsely accused priests”.
They said a growing number of church and community members were joining forces in a grassroots advocacy group to support Fr Kelly, who, they claim, was “falsely accused of molestation”.
The group said its goals were “even more important in a time when our nation is gripped by shocking revelations of documented child molestation cases.
It stated that Fr Kelly was named five years ago by a former altar boy who claimed to have suppressed then recovered memories of a molestation 25 years earlier, but there was no evidence to support the accusations, the recovered memories were inconsistent, and Fr Kelly voluntarily took and passed a lie-detector test to prove his innocence.
However, Fr Kelly was found liable by a civil jury, after which he returned to Ireland to be with family and attend to health issues. The support group pointed out that the complainant was awarded $3.75m, and maintained his attorney, John Manly, was “aggressively seeking more potential clients, casting a national net to contact former altar boys from Fr Kelly’s parishes”.
“We pledge to co-operate fully with any ongoing or future investigations, so Fr Kelly can be quickly cleared of any wrongdoing,” Mr Neumann said.
“We realise this is a confusing and painful time for many people, and we are working to alleviate tension and fear in the community, and to encourage frank discussion of the facts of the case. We simply can’t sit by and watch Fr Kelly be attacked without making sure all sides of the case are aired,” he stated.
The Friends of Father Kelly, an unincorporated association, was formed in 2007 as a network of people believing in the priest’s innocence and wanting to help with his defence. The group has more than 1,200 members, including parishioners, friends and community members of many faiths from all over northern California, the US and the world.