Aging Priest Sentenced to House Arrest for Sex Assault on Student
By Andrew Seymour
September 6, 2012
An 81-year-old pedophile priest and retired high school teacher who asked a male student “if you can’t trust a priest, who can you trust?” before indecently assaulting him has been sentenced to house arrest.
Father Kenneth O’Keefe was a teacher at Ottawa’s St. Pius high school when he touched the 16-year-old during a sleepover at his apartment in 1974.
The Grade 11 student had been fighting with his parents when he went to see the priest, who was also his homeroom teacher. O’Keefe invited him to stay.
O’Keefe told his victim not to be “foolish” when he suggested sleeping on the floor. Instead, O’Keefe offered to share the bed.
The teen later woke up to the naked and sexually aroused priest grinding against him from behind. O’Keefe was also reaching around with his hand in the boy’s underwear, touching him.
The victim said he jumped out of bed. O’Keefe told him not to overreact and to come back to bed.
The victim said he went home and told his parents, who called the school principal the next day.
Neither the victim or his parents ever received any followup from the principal or O’Keefe.
But when he returned to school, a smiling O’Keefe welcomed him back. The student took one look at him, felt sick, and left the school for good.
The victim only went to police in 2010 after learning another teacher at the school had been accused of molesting a student.
Court heard O’Keefe is facing a similar sex allegation in Gatineau. That matter is still before the court.
“Father O’Keefe was in a position of trust, responsibility and authority as a priest and teacher at a Catholic high school,” said Ontario Superior Court Justice Lynn Ratushny. “When he succumbed to his pedophilia, aided presumably by his consumption of alcohol ... he breached the trust of a young man then on the cusp of adulthood.”
Ratushny sentenced O’Keefe, a one-time alcoholic who now suffers from dementia, to a nine-month conditional sentence that he can serve in the community. Six months of that sentence will be spent under house arrest at the Cardinal Flahiff Basilian Centre in Toronto, where O’Keefe’s lived for the past five years with other infirmed priests.
She agreed with a psychiatrist’s finding that he was a very low risk to reoffend.
The Crown had asked for a six-month jail sentence.
The victim, now in his 50s, told the judge the encounter with O’Keefe has haunted him.
“He, through an act of violence, perversion and power, ripped me off the path I should have followed at a very young age,” the victim said. “Father O’Keefe robbed me of my boyhood, of my manhood, of my future,” he said. “No one has the right to do this to any human being.”
O’Keefe’s lawyer, Andrew Bradie, said his client used to drink as much as 12 ounces of hard liquor a day. He kicked his habit and hasn’t committed another offence in the nearly four decades since.
Bradie also showed the judge a 1980 letter from then-Ottawa mayor Marion Dewar, praising the priest for his kindness and wisdom. O’Keefe retired from active ministry in 2006.
O’Keefe is the second priest from St. Pius to have been found guilty of an indecent assault in 1974.
Father William Joseph Allen, 81, was also given a nine-month conditional sentence after being found guilty of sexually molesting three brothers at the high school in the early 1970s.