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."
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
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
"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
"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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.