A THIRD lawsuit has been filed in the United States against an Irish priest who fled the country where a civil jury found him guilty of molesting an altar boy.
Fr Michael Kelly (63) insisted on his innocence after he returned to stay with family in Ireland last April.
The Catholic priest from Ballingarry, Co Tipperary, has rarely been seen since he returned to Ireland.
The Irish Independent understands that he has not been involved in any priestly duties since he came back to Ireland.
The cleric was first accused in 2008 of sexually abusing a student in the mid-1980s. He denied the allegations since they were made.
No criminal prosecutions have been taken against Fr Kelly.
In the US, a third lawsuit was filed against him last month by a former altar boy at a Calaveras County church in California. The ' Modesto Bee' newspaper reported that the allegations brought about a "swift response from the priest" in an email.
"The allegations are completely and totally false. They never happened. Never. They are utterly untrue," he wrote.
The third lawsuit follows a civil case taken alleging sexual abuse by Fr Kelly, which was settled for $3.75m (€2.8m) in April.
A second lawsuit was filed on September 11 by another former Calaveras County resident.
A former friend of the priest's from Ballingarry said the cleric has "not been seen" in his local village in recent months.
Attempts made to contact Fr Kelly yesterday were unsuccessful.
Fr Kelly joined the Stockton diocese in California in 1973. He was removed from ministry after the civil verdict when he was sued by a man for sexual misconduct when the plaintiff was an altar boy in the mid-1980s.
In a letter to his bishop, Fr Kelly attempted to explain why he fled the US earlier this year.
"I have spent the last 39 years of my life serving God," he wrote. "Now I have not only lost my ministry, but this whole thing has taken its toll on my very being."
He said he needed the unconditional love of his family to begin to heal from the ordeal.