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Continued: Jan. 19: Doubts shadowed St. Thomas priest on the rise

  • Article by: TONY KENNEDY , Star Tribune
  • Last update: September 17, 2014 - 3:54 PM

Tamara Kaiser, a St. Thomas professor emerita of social work and an expert in supervisory relationships with a focus on boundary violations, said the recommended restrictions on Keating indicated strong concerns about his behavior.

“One would expect such recommendations to be forwarded to Archbishop Flynn and to the university and be implemented,” she said. “If that didn’t happen, something seems to have gone terribly wrong.”

Neither the university nor the archdiocese would comment on what happened to the recommendations.

Four months after the recommendations were shared with the woman who brought the complaint, McDonough circulated a memo to Flynn and two other archdiocesan officials. He suggested it was time to wrap up the investigation with a document that “should clearly exculpate Father Keating.” The memo did not mention any restrictions on the priest.

By then Keating was deeply involved in students’ lives, even beyond the classroom.

A star in Catholic Studies

With 250 students, St. Thomas’ Center for Catholic Studies is one of the largest and best known in the country. A celebration late last year to mark its 20th anniversary drew 600 guests, including Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York.

“When it comes to Catholic Studies programs, you are the New York Yankees,” Dolan said.

Keating is director of the Habiger Institute for Catholic Leadership at St. Thomas and an associate professor of Catholic studies. He joined the university’s full-time faculty in 2005 and won tenure and a promotion in 2011.

First as an adjunct professor and then as a full-time faculty member, Keating taught Catholic doctrine in various classes that students begged to get into. He headed St. Thomas’ signature Rome program, which sends upward of 30 St. Thomas students each semester to study at Angelicum ­University.

“Even in terms of cooking pasta, students took what he said as bible,” said Isaac Huss, a St. Thomas graduate who studied in the university’s junior seminary from 2004 to 2008.

In the May 2007 issue of the Catholic Studies magazine “Perspectives,” Keating wrote that “one important task of a Catholic university is to contribute to the honing of a ­genuinely Catholic mind.”

He also defended the Catholic Church as a “good and necessary” institution, writing in a paper featured last summer at a St. Thomas faculty seminar that Christ left behind an organization that became the “true home of the human race.”

Like other professors, Keating privately advised and mentored students. He also spearheaded the formation of men’s and women’s “Catholic Houses,” living quarters for groups of devoted students, according to meeting minutes from the Catholic Studies Advisory Board. Keating oversaw the application process and visited for weekly dinners at the first Catholic House for women when it opened in the fall of 2007.

Keating also led students in spiritual retreats away from campus and helped choose “Leadership Interns” for a program in which he and other chaperones led juniors and seniors on “Catholic leadership” excursions to France, Peru and Colorado, according to university publications and Advisory Board records.

“He was deeply involved in Catholic Studies and he genuinely loved what he was doing,” said Paul Wojda, a St. Thomas theologian and ethicist. “He loved to form young minds.”

He did it so well that Don Briel, the director of Catholic studies, believed Keating should be featured prominently in any marketing of the center.

“In any new strategy the department should highlight Father Keating and me since we seemed to have had the highest impact on student recruitment,” Briel wrote in a 2008 job performance self-assessment.

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