Marie Mielke, Clergy Abuse Accuser, Comes Forward with Her Identity

Jeff Anderson and Maria Mielke

Jeff Anderson and Maria Mielke

Formerly known as one Jane Doe out of dozens of anonymous clergy sex abuse accusers, 29-year-old Marie Mielke stepped forward Monday to tell her story of being groomed for molestation by the Rev. Michael Keating, who is currently still employed by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Mielke says Keating initiated a string of unwanted sexual contact with her when she was just 12 years old. She didn't go into detail about the actual abuse, but she said he took advantage of her trust in him as a family friend in order to touch her inappropriately when they were alone. The official complaint against Keating alleges "sexual battery."

Mielke says she didn't know how to process what happened to her as a child until she was 19 years old, a college freshman taking a social problems class. She remembers sitting in the back of the class one day and reading a chapter about sexual abuse, mentally checking off the bullet points of all that applied to her own experiences with Keating.

"From that point on it was just this downward spiral," Mielke said, recounting the emotional turmoil of uncovering repressed memories from her early teenage years. "I remember being seduced by him at one point and I could see the [First National Bank] sign in downtown St. Paul flashing. Whenever I looked at that I would all of a sudden have flashbacks to something that I didn't understand. I would have trouble breathing. I would start crying."

See also: Father Richard Rice Refuses Questions About Allegedly Abusive Clergy, Citing Priest Privilege

She said in those days, she became so depressed she lost her sense of taste, and she lost feeling in the places where he touched her. To bring back feeling she started to cut herself. "I felt like I must have been the one to somehow allow this to happen, so I needed to punish myself for that," Mielke said.

Following a suicide attempt and hospitalization, Mielke decided to file an official complaint against Keating with the archdiocese in spring 2006.

Former Vicar General Kevin McDonough assembled an internal review board to interrogate Mielke about her accusations. They asked where Keating supposedly touched her and what it felt like, where she was and what her parents were doing, Mielke says - "There was no compassion." The review board's final report dismissed her complaint as unsubstantiated.

However, Mielke's lawyer, Jeff Anderson of Jeff Anderson & Associates, says the archdiocese should have known at the time that Keating had a penchant for young girls. As early as 2005, another priest asked Keating if he'd ever had a relationship with a minor and Keating didn't deny it. Documents also show that Keating had emotionally intense and perhaps sexual relationships with two other young women. When Mielke's uncle, another priest, became involved, Keating reportedly admitted to a passionate physical encounter in Rome with a girl who seduced him.

Mielke has a lawsuit pending against the archdiocese for negligence and another one for defamation against McDonough, who dismissed her original complaint as delusional despite therapists' reports to the contrary. Both are currently pending.

As for criminal charges, Anderson says the archdiocese preempted Mielke when it filed a report discrediting her to the Chisago County Attorney in 2006. Seven years later, after Anderson received formerly confidential files on Keating, it was too late to prosecute.

Mielke, a married mother of two who is still a practicing Catholic, says she decided to uncover her identity because she doesn't want to carry the shame that should be Keating's. She says she considers Archbishop John Nienstedt to be a good man who perhaps suffers from cowardice, but that McDonough is simply a snake.

"I think that he's conniving and I think he twists his power to get what he wants and to protect people he thinks should be protected," Mielke said. "He's not a true man of Christ."

Send news tips to Susan Du.