Local priest placed on administrative leave

A chaplain at three Carson City correctional centers has been placed on administrative leave by the bishops of Nevada and New York after allegations surfaced of sexual abuse dating to 25 years ago.

The Rev. James F. Kelly, 70, was chaplain for Boys Town near Omaha, Neb., from 1975 to 1983.

Boys Town is the defendant in the civil lawsuit. Kelly is named as one of two persons who allegedly sexually abused a boy while Kelly was a staff member of Boys Town.

On Wednesday, Kelly requested and was granted retirement from his post at the Carson City prisons, according to Jackie Crawford, director of the Nevada Department of Corrections.

Kelly asked to retire rather than being placed on indefinite leave so he could go to Omaha and fight the allegation, Crawford said.

Kelly told her he recently had been contacted by an Omaha reporter, who indicated Kelly is named, although not as a defendant, in a lawsuit filed last week against Father Flanagan's Boys Town.

According to the Omaha World-Herald, the suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Omaha by James Duffy, an Arizona resident who alleges he was molested when he lived in a cottage at Boys Town from 1977 to 1979.

Duffy said he was abused in 1978 in separate incidents by Kelly and a family counselor who was a live-in employee at the cottage.

Brother Matthew of the Reno Catholic Diocese said Thursday that Kelly was placed on administrative leave under the Dallas Charter and Norms, a national guideline recently accepted by the U.S. Conference of Bishops in June.

"It is now standard practice to place the priest on leave when accused of a sexual crime," Matthew said.

Action was taken by Bishop Howard Hubbard of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, N.Y., and Bishop Philip Straling of the Reno Catholic Diocese. Kelly was ordained in 1957 in the Albany diocese.

Kelly joined the Nevada Department of Prisons in October 1995. He rotated his time between the High Desert, Ely State and Nevada State prisons, Northern Nevada Corrections Center and Warm Springs Correctional Center, and every three weeks, he visited the Lovelock facility.

"During his tenure with NDOC, Father Kelly was a good chaplain who provided us with 'best practices' in religious services and was a source of support to many inmates and staff," said programs administrator Dorothy Nash Holmes, who supervises religious services at NDOC.

In a telephone interview Thursday, Kelly vehemently denied any wrongdoing and said he is hurt by the charge.

"You don't remember everyone, but from what I understand, James Duffy is a cousin of the current director of Boys Town, Val Peter. Duffy has been a disturbed person most of his life -- of course, that doesn't disprove this happened.

"All priests are vulnerable. And it used to be innocent until proven guilty. How do I prove my innocence? It's his word against mine. For priests these days, all it takes is an allegation. But I will pray for him (Duffy). You pray for those who persecute you so I'm praying for him."

Kelly said he feels badly about the impact his absence will have on the inmates and their families.

"I'm usually here to counsel them. Most people don't care about inmates, I do."

In a March 2001 interview with the Nevada Appeal, Kelly said his time as chaplain at Boys Town had prepared him for his work with inmates of Nevada's prisons.

"Working there gave me inspiration and the desire to work with those who've been 'thrown away,' " Kelly said.

Kelly said he was contacted by two Boys Town alumni who have offered to cover legal and financial costs and appear on his behalf. They were residents of Boys Town at the same time Duffy lived there.

"When I'm cleared, I hope to live and retire in Virginia City," Kelly said. "I want to come back and work with the prison system as a religious volunteer and continue to minister to inmates. It's my whole life now."

Kelly ministered to about 3,000 inmates in Carson City. He said he will visit with family in Las Vegas until called to appear in court in Nebraska.


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