Stockton, CA — Father Michael Kelly, pastor of Saint Joachim’s Catholic Church in Lockeford, was found guilty of sexual assault on Friday, April 6th, by a civil jury following the charges of an altar boy in the 1980s.
“In light of this verdict, I have made the decision to remove Fr. Kelly from ministry, effective immediately,” said Dioceses of Stockton’s Bishop, Stephen Blaire, in a press release following the jury`s decision.
The plaintiff, a 37-year-old man, alleges that the priest sexually abused him back in the 80s when he was an altar boy at Cathedral of the Annunciation located in northern downtown Stockton.
In a call for solidarity towards their faith, “Kelly told the congregation not to blame Bishop Stephen Blaire for his removal because the church leader had no other choice.” The Lodi News Sentinel reported on Saturday, April 7th, that more than a hundred parishioners gathered at the Lockeford’s Catholic Church after the verdict.
Following the conclusion of the eight-week trial, Kelly continues to deny the allegations. “Nevertheless, it is my belief that the jury verdict must be respected,” said Blaire. “The Diocese of Stockton takes all accusations of sexual abuse with great seriousness. We have in place policies and procedures to help us get to an understanding of the truth, and we remain committed to creating and maintaining a safe environment for all our children and young adults.”
As of 2003, the Church’s Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People mandates that church leaders immediately remove a priest convicted of sexual crimes against minors.