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Late Midland priest accused in Pennsylvania case

August 21, 2018

Area Catholics have been rocked by news that a priest who served in Midland and at a series of San Angelo Diocese churches from 1994 until his death in 2005 has been named in a Pennsylvania investigation that concluded some 300 priests had sexually molested more than 1,000 children in the Keystone State.

However, church officials said mental health counseling and restrictions on the late Father Thomas “Tom” Kelley’s ministry were apparently effective because there were no allegations of impropriety against him after he left Erie, Pa.

Bishop Emeritus Michael Pfeifer, who retired in 2014, deferred comment about his reported approval of Kelley’s reassignment here to Bishop Emeritus Donald Trautman of Erie, who had reportedly asked Pfeifer to accept Kelley’s transfer to the San Angelo Diocese after the priest was accused of molesting at least five young men between the ages of 18 and 25 in the early 1990s.

Kelley was an administrator or a pastor at churches in Fort Stockton, Sanderson, Imperial and Coyanosa before his assignment to Our Lady of San Juan Catholic Church in Midland, which has since been renamed San Miguel Parish, said Bishop Michael Sis. Kelley died of cancer in Midland at age 62.

Bishop Sis had issued a statement that he said would be read at all the Masses of all churches in the diocese last weekend and this weekend. It says in part, “Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, in recent days the Church in the United States has experienced a crisis triggered by the sexual abuse allegations against the former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington and the release of the grand jury report from Pennsylvania.

“These shocking allegations have led to feelings of hurt, anger, betrayal, frustration and disgust,” Sis wrote. “As a human being and as a Catholic, I share in these same feelings.”

“We have not found any allegations of sexual misconduct by Father Kelley while serving in our diocese, but the Pennsylvania grand jury report states that he committed serious immoral actions in the Diocese of Erie before coming here. We are still studying the background of this situation.”

Sis said anyone “who has been harmed by someone representing the church” should contact Diocese Victim Assistance Coordinator Lori Hines at 325-374-7609 “so that we can protect others by removing offenders from ministry and offer healing to those who have suffered abuse.”

“As your bishop, I hereby offer my apology to anyone who has been hurt by any person affiliated with the Catholic Church as well as for any time that any minister of the Church has failed to live up to Christ’s call to authentic holiness of life,” he said.

Efforts to contact Sis on Tuesday were unsuccessful.

Trautman said in a statement that he commended the grand jury but regretted its omission of “the concrete steps some Church leaders took to correct and curtail abuse and to help victims.”

“My record includes disciplining, defrocking and ultimately laicizing (removing from the clergy) pedophiles in the Diocese,” Trautman wrote. “It also includes efforts to provide care and support for victims.”

He didn’t address his transfer of Kelley to the San Angelo Diocese.

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