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  Church Paid Indicted Priest
Disgraced S.F. Cleric Received 'Basic Sustenance' Checks for 4 Years

By Elizabeth Fernandez
The San Francisco Chronicle [San Fransico CA]
March 30, 2003

After stripping the Rev. Austin Peter Keegan of his priestly duties, after spending $2.4 million in legal costs because of his alleged molestation of children, the San Francisco Archdiocese paid the disgraced priest $900 a month for more than four years.

The "basic sustenance" payments began in 1998 after the archdiocese denied Keegan's request for a pension "because he was not a priest in good standing," said spokesman Maurice Healy. Payments were discontinued in October after Keegan was indicted on child molestation charges and failed to appear in court.

The archdiocese was obliged to Keegan, Healy said, because he was "incardinated" in San Francisco -- the process formally attaching a priest to a diocese or religious community.

Keegan's alleged victims have voiced fury at the subsidy.

"Why was the church giving him any money?" said Terence McAteer, one of two alleged victims in Keegan's Sept. 12 grand jury indictment on 25 counts of child molestation and sodomy in the late 1960s.

Now Nevada County superintendent of schools, McAteer said that as a 10-year- old he was repeatedly, forcibly molested by Keegan the summer after the death of his father, the late state Sen. Eugene McAteer.

"I find it reprehensible that the archdiocese would pay him any money at all," McAteer said.

The FBI arrested Keegan, 67, in Mexico March 1. He has pleaded not guilty.

San Francisco prosecutors learned of the church payments more than a month after Keegan's indictment.

"We were very surprised and requested that the sustenance be terminated," said Elliot Beckelman, assistant district attorney.

"It saddened me and made me angry . . . that he was allowed to receive this much money. What was the archdiocese thinking? Where is their loyalty, where is their sense of what is proper?"

At the same time that prosecutors urged payments be stopped, archdiocese consultants made the same recommendation, Healy said.

"The judgment was made that the payments could be stopped," he said, and they did in October.

The archdiocese has petitioned the Vatican to formally dismiss Keegan as a priest.

Ordained in 1962, Keegan served at St. Cecilia Church, Church of the Epiphany, St. Vincent de Paul, as chaplain at Mary's Help Hospital and in the Santa Rosa diocese.

In 1982, after years of complaints about alleged molestations, Keegan was suspended from priestly duties.

The archdiocese has paid $2.4 million in attorney fees, legal settlements and victims' therapy related to Keegan.

In January, a lawsuit against Keegan and Archbishop William J. Levada was filed in San Francisco Superior Court by Stephen Garibaldi, the other alleged victim in the indictment.

Garibaldi said in the suit that in 1965, when he was 14, he was molested by Keegan. Keegan would ply him with alcohol and cigarettes and wrestle with him, and he'd spend the night in the priest's rectory room.

"This is the most shameful episode involving the archdiocese," said Michael Meadows, a Walnut Creek attorney representing Garibaldi. "They had received reports involving his conduct with young boys going back to 1965. And the only response was to transfer him from parish to parish."

 
 

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