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Man Files Fourth Abuse Suit Naming Deceased Santa Barbara Priest

Mar 19, 2004 | AP

A local man who says a popular priest's death triggered memories of childhood molestation is suing the Roman Catholic Church for damages.

The complaint, filed Wednesday in Santa Barbara Superior Court, is the fourth such suit filed in Santa Barbara naming the late Rev. Matthew Kelly.

The lawsuit alleges the priest sexually abused the plaintiff while he was a student and parishioner at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church between 1967 and 1973.

The targets of the lawsuit are Catholic church officials, who "should have known" of Kelly's "pedophilic dangerous and exploitive propensities" and failed to protect the boy, according to the complaint.

The plaintiff, whose name is not listed in the complaint, was 12 when the alleged molestation began. He says the priest molested him at a cabin in the Santa Ynez Mountains and paid him $100 per encounter.

According to the suit, as a result of the abuse, the plaintiff continues to suffer spiritually and psychologically and "was prevented from performing daily activities and continues to sustain a loss of earnings and earning capacity."

All four suits naming Kelly allege the priest lured young boys with his knowledge of rock music and trips to the mountains, where most of the alleged molestations occurred.

"This is a man that the church received actual notice about as early as 1958," Hale said. "If they took the action they should have, these boys never would have been molested and their lives never would have been ruined."

According to the suit filed Wednesday, the priest had pictures in his cabin of barely clothed boys and asked the victim to pose for similar pictures.

"This is just the tip of the iceberg," said Hale, who predicts that Kelly had at least 50 child molestation victims in Santa Barbara alone.

Nearly half a dozen witnesses have reported seeing child pornography in Kelly's possession and in his mail.

Although the alleged abused took place decades ago, the lawsuit can proceed because the victim just became aware of his abuse. Child molestation victims can file lawsuits until they are 26, or within three years of realizing they were an abuse victim. The latter applies in this case, lawyers said.

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