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Rev. Michael Keating, popular St. Thomas prof, allegedly abused 13-year-old girl [UPDATE]

Rev. Michael Keating
Rev. Michael Keating

-- Update at bottom --

Today, lawyer Jeff Anderson plans to file a lawsuit on behalf of a woman who claims she was abused when she was a teenage girl by popular priest and St. Thomas professor Michael Keating.

SEE ALSO: St. Paul police reopen child porn investigation aimed at priest Jon Shelley

Keating, notified of the pending lawsuit over the weekend, has taken a voluntary leave of absence from St. Thomas, where he was teaching two classes this semester. He hasn't yet publicly addressed the allegations.

Details about the lawsuit will be disclosed by Anderson during a news conference today, so stay tuned. But a Star Tribune report provides a bit of background:

Keating, 57, is 29 years older than the alleged victim, who Anderson said was 13 when the abuse began. That would mean the alleged abuse began about 15 years ago, before Keating completed his religious studies and was ordained as a priest in 2002...

Anderson said his client reported Keating's actions to the archdiocese, which is not named in the lawsuit, in 2006. He said he would elaborate on the litigation Monday at a news conference, but said it is "deeply troubling" that the archdiocese has kept Keating in ministry.

The Pioneer Press reports that Anderson "will present photos and a statement" from the alleged victim during today's presser.

Here's Keating's bio, via Crisis Magazine:

Fr. Michael Keating is a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. He is Associate Professor of Catholic Studies at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. He received his BA and MA (Education) from the University of Michigan. He has an MA in Theology from the Angelicum in Rome, and a PhD in Modern European Intellectual History from the University of Notre Dame. In addition to teaching, he is the founder and current Director of the Habiger Institute for Catholic Leadership at the University of St. Thomas. Fr. Keating has been involved in many apostolic initiatives, especially with youth and university students, and has been a speaker and retreat director in national and international venues.

Keating gets rave reviews on his Rate My Professors page, with one St. Thomas student who took a class of his last spring writing that Keating "is such a wonderful teacher and priest!" Another writes that he is "Easily the best professor at UST," and a third says it's "Hard to conceive how he's not one of the best teachers in the country."

:::: UPDATE ::::

MPR interviewed the woman Keating allegedly sexually abused. In a report published today, she said that in the late 1990s, when the abuse allegedly took place, Keating was a regular guest at her family's Sunday dinners.

The woman, whose name isn't disclosed in the lawsuit (which was officially filed today) or the MPR report, says Keating would sometimes abuse her after dinner while she sat on his lap and he read books aloud. (Update -- the Strib reports that the woman is now 28, married, and living in the Twin Cities. The woman told the Strib Keating gave her his car shortly after she first confronted him about the abuse in 2004.)

"I would be abused behind the book, behind Narnia," she told MPR.

More from MPR:

She said that when Keating left to attend school in Rome, he kissed her on the lips to say goodbye. It was her first kiss.

Keating's alleged advances left her confused, she said. "I remember thinking I must be perverted for thinking this is wrong," she said.

It wasn't until college that she realized that Keating's behavior wasn't her fault, she said.

The woman says the abuse, which took places from the ages of 13 to 15, left her so traumatized that she went through a suicidal stretch in college. She eventually told her family about the abuse, and her family notified the archdiocese. Then a whole new struggle began.

From MPR:

Before the case went before the clergy review board, Sawyer and other church officials asked her to tell her story over and over again, she said. At first, she agreed, but it soon became overwhelming, she said. "For me to just say I was abused by Michael Keating wasn't enough," she said...

No detail escaped scrutiny. Someone asked whether Keating's penis was erect when he touched her. "I was like, does it matter?" she said.

She left the review board meeting with a familiar, terrible ache. "I felt like I was traumatized again by that," she said. "I just felt numb."

A few months later, the clergy review board reached its conclusion. Keating didn't do it.

"Based on the record as a whole, the Board finds that there is insufficient evidence to support a finding of sexual abuse of a minor in violation of the Charter," [Greta Sawyer, the woman's archdiocese-appointed advocate], explained in a letter to the woman's family member.

With the archdiocese refusing to take action, the woman, who still describes herself as Catholic, told MPR she's proceeding with a lawsuit because "I feel that it's my responsibility to say something to break the silence."

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at arupar@citypages.com.


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