Fr. Thomas C. Kelley – Diocese of Erie

| Jan 27, 2019 | Abuser Profiles, Catholic Church

Father Thomas Kelley

Diocese of Erie

Ordained: 1967

Retired: 2001

Died: 2005

Assigned as follows:

  • 1968-1972: St. Peter Cathedral (Erie, PA)
  • 1972-1978: St. Mark’s Seminary (Erie, PA)
  • 1972-1979: Our Lady of Mercy Church (Harborcreek, PA)
  • 1979-1985: St. Mark’s Seminary (Erie, PA)
  • 1985-1989: North American College (Dean) (Rome, Italy)
  • 1989-1990: St. Michael’s Church (Greenville, PA)
  • 1992-1994: Diocesan Review Board
  • 1994-1995: “Leave of Absence”
  • 1995-1996: Southdown Center (Aurora, Ontario, Canada)
  • 1994-1996: St. Agnes Church (Stockton, TX) (Diocese of San Angelo)
  • 1996-2001: “Incarnated into Diocese of San Angelo, TX”

Summary of Sexual Abuse Allegations against Fr. Thomas Kelley:

Father Thomas Kelley was ordained a priest in 1967 and served in the Diocese of Erie. He served in multiple parishes throughout his career in Catholic ministry across Pennsylvania, Texas, and Italy for over 30 years. According to media reports, at least five high school or seminary students, ages 18-25 have accused Kelley of alleged sexual misconduct, including one who did so in a civil lawsuit against the Diocese of Erie.

In 1995, the Diocese of Erie reportedly received an allegation of abuse and sent Kelley for a week-long psychotherapy assessment at Southdown Center in Aurora, Ontario. Southdown specializes in treating men and women in ministry accused of sexual misconduct. Doctors determined Kelley was a danger and need to be in restricted ministry far away from children. Kelley disagreed with the diagnosis and pleaded with Bishop Donald Trautman for a second opinion.

In 1996, a second doctor reportedly confirmed Southdown’s diagnosis and recommended the Diocese of Erie take a firm course of action against Kelley. Kelley spent several months at Southdown for treatment. After his discharge from the facility, he took some time off from the church to visit a fellow priest/friend in Texas. During this period, Kelley contacted the Diocese of Erie and claimed he was not ready to quit serving God.

According to church documents, Kelley served the Diocese of San Angelo for several years with restrictions on his ministry.  Eventually, Kelley submitted a request to both Bishop Trautman and Bishop Pfieffer of the Diocese of San Angelo, for full reinstatement of his priestly faculties. Both Bishops agreed to the application and the restrictions were limited – Kelley was again allowed to minister to children.   

Kelley reportedly continued to see a therapist in Erie, Pennsylvania, occasionally. Kelley’s therapist conferred with Kelley, Trautman, and Pfieffer in regards to Kelley’s suitability as a priest. In an email to Bishop Trautman, Kelley’s therapist stated, “If Tom Kelley has in fact been a predator, I think it is time he is removed from the priesthood…I think it is time to ensure that Tom Kelley (although in Texas) no longer abuses children.”  Kelley’s therapist criticized Bishop Pfieffer and the decision to allow Kelley into San Angelo.

According to a list maintained by Bishop, Father Kelley was accused of repeatedly sexually abusing a 12-year-old boy in approximately 1968. During relevant times, Father Kelley was assigned to St. Peter’s Cathedral in Erie, Pennsylvania, and the boy served as an altar boy at St. Peter’s Cathedral. The alleged abuse occurred inside St. Peter’s Cathedral at least three occasions. Kelley reportedly fondled the boy’s penis, skin-on-skin, and forced the boy to fondle Father Kelley’s penis, skin-on-skin. The claim settled in 2020 in the high five figures.

In 2018, Father Kelley was named publicly as accused in the PA Grand Jury report.

Kelley died in 2005 as a retired priest in good standing.

Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy in the Diocese of Erie. If you need a lawyer because you were sexually abused by a priest in Pennsylvania, contact our office today. Although many years have passed, those abused by Catholic clergy in the Diocese of Erie may have legal options, but filing deadlines will apply so please do not delay in reaching out to us.

Contact us at 888-283-9922 or [email protected] to discuss your options today.