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Rev. Kelley says he abused dozens of young girls

By Kathleen A. Shaw, Telegram & Gazette - Saturday, May 11, 2002

The Rev. Robert E. Kelley admitted in a sworn deposition that he sexually molested “50 to 100” young girls while he was an associate pastor to St. Cecilia's parish in Leominster from 1976 to 1983.

Rev. Kelley, who on Monday was charged with rape for the second time, also said under oath that he had molested several other girls during his tenure at parishes in Southbridge, Lunenburg and Gardner.

The lengthy deposition, a copy of which was obtained this week by the Telegram & Gazette, was made in 1996 while Rev. Kelley was still serving a prison sentence for his 1990 conviction for raping a young girl in Gardner. The deposition was for a civil lawsuit filed on behalf of a woman who said the priest had sexually abused her when she was a young girl living in Southbridge.

The lawsuit was settled out of court and Rev. Kelley's deposition had never been made public until this week. The priest has been on leave from the Catholic Diocese of Worcester since 1985, but it is noted in the deposition that the diocese continued to send him monthly checks, generally ranging from $500 to $700 per month, although one month he received $7.

Asked by the lawyer for the plaintiff to estimate how many girls he had molested while serving at St. Cecilia's, he responded: “All right. So I would say ... 50 to 100 -- 50 to 100 to the best of my recollection as of right now.” He said some of the sexual abuse occurred inside the church, but mostly elsewhere.

In the deposition, Rev. Kelley told the questioner that he worried his admissions made him look like “some type of a monster or idiot.”

“I work beautifully with people, no matter of age,” he said. “... Humility is truth and I'm going to put it right on the table. I have an unbelievable track record in the Diocese of Worcester as an administrator and as a people person, and as being a hell of a trench fighter. You can put that in the record: A hell of a trench fighter.”

On Wednesday, three women who say they were molested when they were young girls by Rev. Kelley filed a civil lawsuit against the Worcester Diocese and two priests who worked with him at St. Cecilia's. They allege that the other two priests didn't take steps to protect them.

The priest also is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday in Leominster District Court on charges of rape and unnatural rape of Heather Mackey of Tewksbury, one of the three women who filed the suit. The other women are Debbie A. Doucet and her sister, Nicole Cormier, both of whose maiden name was Goguen.

The three women are asking that others who say they were victims of Rev. Kelley contact them via e-mail at [email protected]. Several women already have done so.

After he was ordained in 1968, Rev. Kelley was assigned to Notre Dame parish in Southbridge, where he was put in charge of the church's Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts programs, including the Brownies. In the deposition, Rev. Kelley admitted that he inappropriately touched three girls.

He also acknowledges having molested the young daughter of a friend. He said the father came to Bridgewater State Hospital, where he was being treated in a program for sexual offenders, and confronted him about the molestation.

The priest also admitted molesting three girls in Lunenburg, including one whose name he could not remember.

While at St. Cecilia's, Rev. Kelley said he became fearful that another priest there, the Rev. George Denomme, would find out that he was molesting young girls. Some parishioners were also becoming suspicious.

“What did Father Denomme say to you after he received the second report of inappropriate touching?” Rev. Kelley was asked during the deposition. “I denied it. He asked me if there was any truth to it. I said absolutely not, and he believed me. He truly believed me,” Rev. Kelley said.

He said Rev. Denomme did confront him a year or two later after receiving another complaint from the parents of a young girl. “He told me, you know, never to do anything like that,” Rev. Kelley said.

At that point, the priest said, Rev. Denomme paid close attention to him.

“He'd be around me a lot,” Rev. Kelley said. “Like in a situation in the school or in the sacristy of the church, he'd just pop in out of nowhere. I knew what he was doing. He was blitzing me. He was hoping to catch me. I knew it. He was intelligent enough to do it. He was a very, very tough man. I don't know what he would have done, had be caught me. I think he probably would have -- well, I'm not going to put that out publicly.”

Rev. Denomme's watch continued until Rev. Kelley left Leominster, he said.

His next -- and final -- assignment was at Sacred Heart in Gardner.

The deposition was taken at the jail in connection with a lawsuit filed by Jennifer Kraskouskas of Gardner. He pleaded guilty to raping Ms. Kraskouskas when she was a child.

He was asked how many girls he had molested while pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Gardner, where Ms. Kraskouskas was a parishioner, and he said it would be a small number because he was focusing his attention on Ms. Kraskouskas.

The Rev. Thomas Teczar, who has been accused of molesting boys, was assigned to the same parish. Rev. Kelley was asked if he had suspicions about Rev. Teczar's activities.
“Suspicions, maybe. No validation,” he said.

In the deposition, Rev. Kelley said he had entered the priesthood because he liked the priests in his home parish of Our Lady of the Rosary, in the Greendale section of Worcester, and not out of any religious fervor. He regularly attended weekly Mass but never went to novenas, daily Mass or participated in other religious activities. He said he had dated girls in high school and kept his desire to be a priest a secret from everyone, including the priests, his friends and family.

Rev. Kelley, 60, was born in Concord and grew up in Connecticut, one of nine children. He moved to Worcester in 1955. He attended Burncoat Junior High, graduated from North High School in 1960, and commuted to Assumption College for two years before entering St. Paul's seminary in Ottawa.

When asked why he went to a seminary in Canada, he said: “You want me to be humble? Humble is truthful. At the time, the brightest students were sent to either Rome or Ottawa.”
During his seminary years, he volunteered or worked at an orphanage in Canada and at St. Anne's Orphanage in Worcester.

Rev. Kelley was put on leave from the priesthood about Easter, 1985, after the parents of the Goguen girls had met with Bishop Timothy J. Harrington. The women said this week that Rev. Kelley left Leominster in 1983, but they did not tell their parents about the molestation until 1985.

Rev. Kelley said he had received a call from Monsignor Raymond Page, the Worcester Diocese's vicar for priests, who told him to come to the Chancery at 9 a.m. the following Monday.

Monsignor Page told him of the allegations and asked if he had indecently touched the Goguen girls. Rev. Kelley was told the bishop had given the family assurances that he would act.

Monsignor Page asked if the allegations were true. Rev. Kelley said his answer was: “Yes, unfortunately, yes, it is.” He said he was willing to undergo treatment and did spend time at a counseling center for clergy in St. Louis.

He now operates a flower shop in Cambridge with his brother.

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