Twin Cities woman sues priest, alleges improper contact and gifts

Lawyer says case of teen girl is another example of church ignoring reports of sex abuse.

A Catholic priest and University of St. Thomas professor has been accused of sexual contact with a 13-year-old Twin Cities girl more than a decade ago, and of then giving her his car when she confronted him about the incidents eight years later.

The Rev. Michael J. Keating, 57, has taken a leave of absence from St. Thomas and did not respond to requests for comment on the allegations, which are contained in a lawsuit filed Monday in Ramsey County District Court. A university spokesman said Keating “no longer is on campus.”

St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson, who filed the suit, said that his client and her family took her accusations to the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis seven years ago but that they were rebuffed by an internal review panel. Anderson said the case, the latest of several explosive allegations to surface in the archdiocese, is another example of church officials in St. Paul protecting the church’s reputation at the expense of victims and the faithful.

The archdiocese did not comment. “We’re not going to be responding to her claims,” spokesman Jim Accurso said.

University of St. Thomas President Julie Sullivan told faculty and students at the school late Monday that the administration is reviewing the Keating situation and “will conduct whatever inquiries we determine are appropriate.’’

In an email addressed to “members of the St. Thomas community,’’ she said she learned from media reports on Sunday evening that Keating would be named in a sexual abuse lawsuit.

“The news is shocking and it is sad,’’ Sullivan wrote. “St. Thomas has zero tolerance for child abuse and sexual misconduct, and great compassion for all victims of abuse. Please keep them in your prayers.’’

Sullivan urged school personnel not to gossip about the case, “but to engage in constructive and thoughtful dialogue.’’ She said in the email she will be limited in what she can say about Keating because personnel matters are confidential.

The woman suing Keating is now 28, married and living in the Twin Cities. She is named in the lawsuit as “Doe 20” and asked during an interview with the Star Tribune that her name not be published to spare her from more trauma.

The woman, who describes herself as a devout Catholic, said she was hospitalized twice and suffered long periods of self-loathing and depression because the alleged abuse ruined her early teenage years.

“I believe that every child has the right to innocence,” she said at a news conference Monday. “That is why I cannot stay quiet any longer.”

Anderson said that the abuse continued for three years and that it occurred in the woman’s home after Keating, who was studying to be a priest at the time, befriended her parents.

The woman said the abuse consisted of fondling and inappropriate touching, often while he read to her on the family couch, starting when she was 13 and continuing until she was 15.

She said it stopped when Keating left for Rome to study theology in 2000. On leaving, she said, he surprised her by giving her an open-mouth kiss — her first kiss. Anderson said she was so young, she didn’t know the word for it.

“I was abused in the name of love,” she said. “I was abused — and this is hard to say out loud — in the name of Christ.”

She also said that Keating gave her his car — a 1998 red Ford Escort — in mid-2004, a few months after she first confronted him about the incidents. At the time, she said, she still blamed herself for the earlier episodes and viewed the gift as a kindly gesture.

“Now I see it as a thing he gave me to keep me quiet,” she said.

Insufficient evidence

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  • Attorney Jeff Anderson talked about a lawsuit that was filed Monday in Ramsey County against the Rev. Michael Keating.

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