Father Michael Kelly

I had occasion to speak to a person from California who is a long time friend of  Father Michael Kelly, the California-based priest who flew to his native Ireland after losing a civil case against him on an abuse charge.

Yesterday we wrote that Kelly was found liable on the civil charge despite the fact that the accusations against him by a 37-year old man, a pilot for Southwest Airlines, were based on “recovered memories” a highly dubious method as recent history has shown in cases such as the McMartin preschool case.

The man alleged that Kelly abused him when he was a young altar boy back in the mid 1980s.

The person who knows Kelly for over twenty years says they believe that Kelly was likely innocent but they could not be absolutely certain.

The person told me that Father Michael Kelly is straight out of the John Shanley play and movie ‘Doubt’ where an unproven charge against a priest results in his removal from a parish.

“Father Flynn of that movie” the person said, “is exactly like Kelly. “There is suspicion but no outright proof and he has plausibly and extensively denied it.”

This is no open and shut case.  Kelly passed two lie detector tests, has hundreds of his former parishioners still siding with him and an extensive inquiry by the diocese of Stockton found him not guilty.


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His flight to Ireland was not illegal. He is not under any prison sentence, he lost a civil case.

My informant also told me that the plaintiff’s attorney John C. Manly who is a specialist and who has won hundreds of millions against the church in such lawsuits, easily outsmarted the Kelly attorneys who were not in the same league. “They were no match for Manly” the person said.

There is said to be another case against him dating to 2002 but the fact that it has never been to court suggests it never will rise to the burden of proof needed to prosecute.

Parishioners still flocked to him and they turned out in large numbers for him despite the guilty verdict.
Kelly is left in a no man’s land, half priest half accused felon.

According to local reports he can no longer publicly perform priestly duties.

Kelly cannot invite people to participate in privately held events, but individuals can invite him.
Kelly did participate in a privately conducted Easter vigil at a rural Lodi-area residence.

Local Bishop Stephen Blaire is required to write a formal report to a Vatican body called the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, which is responsible for dealing with clergy sexual abuse crises within the Catholic Church.

"They will advise me back what action they believe should be taken," Blaire told the Modesto Bee.
That could mean they defrock Kelly.

But the question will always remain -- is he innocent or guilty?