News from around the Archdiocese of Liverpool
Father Kevin Kelly, who died on Thursday 25 September aged 85, and in the 61st year of his priesthood, is probably best remembered for his work as a moral theologian.
For over fifty years he grappled, both as teacher and writer, with some of the major moral issues of our time. In 2007, in recognition of his contribution in the field of moral theology, he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Divinity by Liverpool Hope University.
Kevin Thomas Patrick Kelly was born in Crosby on 27 June 1933 the son of Patrick and Winifred Kelly. His early education took place at the parish schools in Crosby and Ainsdale, and then at St Mary’s College, Crosby, before he entered the junior seminary at St Joseph’s College, Upholland, where he was ordained on 31 May 1958. After ordination he completed his licentiate in canon law and a doctorate in moral theology, studying in Fribourg and Rome.
In 1963 he returned to the archdiocese to become assistant priest at St Clare’s, Liverpool. He returned to Upholland in 1965 to teach moral theology and in 1967 he published his doctoral dissertation ‘Conscience: Dictator or Guide? A Study in 17th Century English Protestant Moral Theology’.
In 1975, Kevin Kelly became the first director of the Upholland Northern Institute (UNI), which had been established as a centre for adult Christian education and to provide in-service training for the clergy. After five years, he took a sabbatical, a time that laid the foundations for his book ‘Divorce and Second Marriage’ which was published in 1982. He also spent two months visiting countries in the developing world, an experience that he said, ‘marked him for life’.
He then joined the team ministry in Skelmersdale as its leader and came to embrace the collaborative nature of the pastoral work done in that town. After four years, in September 1985 he took up a one-year Research Fellowship at Queen’s College, Birmingham, the fruits of which was ‘Life and Love: Towards a Christian Dialogue on Bioethical Questions’ published in 1987.
When he returned to the archdiocese in 1986 he combined working in the parish of Our Lady’s, Eldon Street, with teaching moral theology. Three more of his books were published in this period: ‘New Directions in Moral Theology: The Challenge of Being Human’ (1992); ‘New Directions in Sexual Ethics: Moral Theology and the Challenge of AIDS’ (1998) and ‘From a Parish Base: Essays in Moral and Pastoral Theology’ (1999).
In 1998 he was appointed parish priest at St Basil and All Saints, Hough Green, where the church was shared with the local Church of England parish. The experience of these years taught him ‘that the future is ecumenical.’
He retired from parochial ministry in June 2008 and he returned to Liverpool to act as chaplain to the Sisters of Notre Dame at their Woolton Road convent until ill-health forced his move to Formby in the autumn of 2016. His final book ‘50 Years Receiving Vatican II: A Personal Odyssey’ (2012), charts his own journey as priest and moral theologian as the Church developed her theology in the light of Vatican II.
His Funeral Mass was celebrated at Our lady of Compassion church, Formby, on Tuesday 9 October by Monsignor John Devine prior to burial at Ainsdale.