Catholic Priest

Thomas C. Kelley

Ordained: 1967
Diocese: Diocese of Erie

From the Report I of the 40th Statewide Investigating Grand Jury for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania:

Reverend Thomas C. Kelley served two different dioceses in two states, as well as in Europe, over the course of his 30 year career. He was accused of inappropriate sexual conduct with at least five victims and was named in a lawsuit that paid one sexual assault victim $34,500. His victims of choice were eighteen to twenty-five-year-old males in high school or in seminary. Kelley engaged in mutual masturbation, oral, and anal sex with his victims.

Although the Diocesan records do not reflect which one of his victims’ complaints prompted the Diocese to send him to psychotherapy, in the fall of 1995 Kelley was sent to the Southdown Center in Aurora, Ontario, Canada. Southdown is an inpatient residential treatment facility that specializes in treating men and women in ministry.  Kelley was sent there for a week-long assessment period. Per this assessment, it was determined that Kelley should have a restricted ministry that kept him away from young parishioners. Kelley disagreed with this assessment and asked Bishop Trautman to send him to a different facility for a second opinion.

A physician from DuBois, Pennsylvania saw Kelley in 1996 and in March of that year agreed with the course of action that Southdown recommended. Soon afterward, Kelley was sent to Southdown for several months of treatment. After his release, Kelley traveled to Odessa, Texas to take some time off and meet with an old friend with whom he attended seminary. He reported to Trautman that he had reflected on his conduct while in Odessa and decided that he was not ready to quit serving God. According to the documents, Kelley became interested in staying in active ministry in the West Texas area during this time period. Over the course of the next several years Kelley spent most of his time in the Diocese of San Angelo, Texas as a priest in that Diocese. It was found that Bishop Trautman had told Kelley that if he returned to the Erie Diocese, he would need to be assigned a severely restricted ministry. Faced with this harsh restriction, Kelley asked to be assigned full time in Texas by permission of Trautman and Bishop Michael Pfeifer of the Diocese of San Angelo. Both Bishops agreed to Kelley’s request. In their correspondence, Trautman and Pfeifer often referenced telephone conversations they had about Kelley and his troubled past.

During his visits to Erie during this period, Kelley also had some interaction with a licensed social worker and therapist in the Erie area. She would confer with Trautman, Kelley, and Pfeifer on Kelley’s treatment plan. She questioned Kelley’s suitability to be a priest and, in an e-mail message to Trautman, she wrote, “If Tom Kelley has in fact been a predator, I think it is time he is removed from the priesthood.”  In another e-mail she advised Trautman that, “I think it is time to ensure that Tom Kelley (although in Texas) no longer abuses children.”  She also criticized Pfeifer, writing, “it appears to me that he did not take responsibility to ensure the safety of those under his care.”

Kelley passed away in February, 2005.

Additional information regarding the widespread sexual abuse of children within the Catholic Dioceses of Pennsylvania and the systemic cover up by senior church officials is compiled in the Pennsylvania Diocese Victim’s Report published by the Pennsylvania Attorney General following a two-year grand jury investigation.  A complete copy of the Report is available on the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s website.