Priest Flees California Ahead Of Sexual Abuse Lawsuit

An Irish priest in Stockton, California, found liable in a civil case alleging sexual abuse and scheduled to testify in the sex-abuse lawsuit yesterday, is believed to have fled the country and returned to Ireland.

On April 6, a civil jury found in favour of the accuser in a case alleging sexual abuse by Fr Michael Kelly, originally from Ballingarry, Co Tipperary, in the 1980s.

Following the verdict, Bishop of Stockton, Stephen Blaire immediately removed Fr Kelly from ministry.

In a statement Bishop Blair said: "A civil jury found in favour of the plaintiff in a case alleging sexual abuse by Fr Michael Kelly in the 1980s.

"In light of this verdict, I have made the decision to remove Fr Kelly from ministry, effective immediately.

"The diocese's decision to defend this case was based on a careful analysis of the information available and on a genuine belief that the accusations are not true," Bishop Blaire added.

Despite maintaining his innocence Fr Kelly informed Bishop Blair by letter on Sunday that he had left California, ahead of the hearing on Monday.

"I spent 39 years of my life serving God and the people of various parishes of the diocese of Stockton," he wrote.

"Now, I have not only lost my ministry but the whole thing has taken its toll on my health."

He said he hoped Bishop Blaire would understand but he needed to be with his family whose "support and love for him is unconditional".


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