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Rev. Kelley faces 5 years in prison for rapes
Judge Has Harsh Words for Diocese

by Richard Nangle - Worcester Telegram & Gazette
October 2, 2003

Rev. Robert E. Kelley was sentenced yesterday to 5 to 7 years in Walpole State Prison for raping two young girls.

"I apologize. I'm sorry," Rev. Kelley said, referring to "my selfishness."

Rev. Robert E. Kelley reacts in Worcester Superior Court yesterday as Judge John S. McCann sentenced him for raping two young girls in the early 1980s. (T&G Staff Photo by BETTY JENEWIN)

In imposing sentence, Judge John S. McCann rejected a defense recommendation for home confinement on a bracelet and with probation. Rev. Kelley bowed his head and wept softly at several points during the hearing.

Judge McCann ordered Rev. Kelley, 61, into immediate protective custody after an emotional courtroom scene in which his two victims and their parents accused the Diocese of Worcester of indifference to their plight. Judge McCann also had harsh words for the diocese.

"The only sacredness in this saga is the children victims," Judge McCann said. "The only darkness is the inertness of the hierarchy."

Rev. Kelley informed state police in 1989 that he told the late Cardinal Humberto S. Medeiros of his affinity for young girls in the early 1970s and that no action was taken.

The church hierarchy, Judge McCann said, "could not and was not willing to deal with this extraordinarily difficult issue."

John Mackey of Tewksbury, whose 27-year-old daughter Heather was one of the two victims, said afterward that he believed Rev. Kelley's apology was genuine. The other victim was Diane Gallien of Ashburnham. Both rapes happened in Leominster.

Mr. Mackey said several people in the packed courtroom were victims of Rev. Kelley who have been prevented from seeking criminal action because of the state's statute of limitations law.

"I would call upon the state Legislature to look at that statute of limitations and to change it so they all have a chance to have their voices heard," he said. "But the likelihood of that happening is probably slim to none because of the strong lobby that the Catholic Church has in the Legislature.

"I view it as half the job was done today, relative to Father Kelley," he said. "The other half is relative to the Catholic Church.

"I hate Robert Kelley, not only for what he has done to Heather and Diane, but what he has done to so many other young girls," he said. "I despise the Worcester Diocese for their lack of compassion, sensitivity, loyalty, honesty, concern and their total indifference to victims."

Mr. Mackey said the late Bishop Timothy Harrington made a verbal pledge to help Heather Mackey after learning that she had been sexually assaulted by Rev. Kelley. Bishop Harrington reneged on that promise, he said, adding that Heather was in the eighth grade at the time.

"Heather withdrew her suit with prejudice on the advice of her attorney," he said, adding that she did so partly out of fear that "the threat that the Worcester Diocese would sue Heather for triple their legal costs if she were not successful in dealing with the statute of limitations and being victorious."

Bishop Daniel P. Reilly released a statement yesterday asking for prayers for both the victims and Rev. Kelley.

"The diocese of Worcester will continue to make every effort as an institution to provide safe environments to children in our care, following the national charter for the protection of children. We will also continue to offer counseling services and outreach to those who were victims of Fr. Kelley and others who represented the church," the statement read.

Rev. Kelley will be eligible for parole after serving about 3 years and 4 months. A probation period of 20 years will follow his incarceration, during which time Rev. Kelley will not be allowed to use alcohol or drugs, must refrain from contact with the victims or their families and must have no contact with children under age 16.
The sentencing marked the second time Rev. Kelley has been sent to prison for rape of a child. He served 6½ years of a 7-year sentence imposed in 1990 after pleading guilty to six counts of rape of a child.

This time, Rev. Kelley was charged with four counts of unnatural rape of a child and two counts of rape of a child. The victims were between 6 and 9 years old at the time of the offenses, which happened between 1981 and 1984. Rev. Kelley was a priest at St. Cecilia's Parish in Leominster and Sacred Heart Parish in Gardner at the time of the assaults.

Judge McCann said Rev. Kelley "suffers from pedophilia which is not considered a mental illness but represents a significant character pathology that requires lifelong management." He ordered that Rev. Kelley participate in as much sexual offender treatment as available.

He said Rev. Kelley is a Level 7 offender at high risk to sexually abuse young girls again if left unsupervised. He cited testimony in a deposition in which Rev. Kelley admitted to at least 50 other sex offenses. He said there is no evidence that Rev. Kelley has reoffended since 1985 and noted that the priest has acknowledged his pedophilia.

Rev. Kelley had been caring for his 91-year-old father in his Worcester home and making a $150-per-week payment on a $750,000 judgment against him in a child sexual abuse civil suit.

Heather Mackey said she wanted the state to protect Rev. Kelley in prison, saying she still has a connection to him because of their close relationship during her childhood.

"I don't hate him. I hate what he's done," she said. "I would have a very difficult time with it if he was harmed in prison."

When Ms. Mackey was 7, the priest forced her to perform a sex act on him and at other times had sexual intercourse with her, according to the prosecution.

Mr. Mackey thanked the district attorney's office and state police and said he found Rev. Kelley's lawyer, Anthony M. Salerno of Worcester, "to be a gentleman throughout."

Upon learning that Joseph L. Druce, the man accused of killing defrocked pedophile priest John J. Geoghan in prison, was also due in Superior Court yesterday, Judge McCann postponed that appearance until tomorrow.

Richard Nangle can be reached by e-mail at

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