Files Detail Chisago County Investigation of St. Thomas Priest
By Emily Gurnon
The Pioneer Press
October 15, 2013
University of St. Thomas professor Michael J. Keating told a fellow priest in 2006 that a teenage Italian girl had "seduced" him and he was worried that his colleague might get the wrong impression.
The statement by the fellow priest emerged during a 2006 Chisago County sheriff's office investigation of Keating, following an allegation by a local woman that he had abused her beginning when she was 13.
The woman, now in her late 20s, filed a lawsuit against Keating on Monday in Ramsey County District Court, alleging sexual battery. The sheriff's office released its investigative file Tuesday at the request of the Pioneer Press.
Keating, 57, was not criminally charged in the case.
The priest and tenured associate professor of Catholic studies at St. Thomas announced over the weekend that he was taking a leave of absence. A university spokesman said that another instructor has taken over his classes and that Keating is no longer living on campus.
Keating has not responded to requests for comment.
He was a student at St. Paul Seminary on the St. Thomas campus in St. Paul when he began touching the Chisago County girl sexually, according to her lawsuit. He would have been in his early 40s.
The sheriff's office opened its investigation in March 2006, about a month after the girl's family brought her allegations to officials of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. She was in her early 20s.
Further details from the police investigation and Keating's response include the following:
-- The woman told police that Keating would cuddle with her on her family's couch when she was 13 to 15 years old. He was a close friend of the family and trusted implicitly by her and her parents.
-- While cuddling and reading "The Chronicles of Narnia" to her and her siblings, Keating would "rub his, ah, finger around my lips and then he would put his pointer finger or even two fingers ... inside my mouth and rub along the bottom part of my teeth and my lips," according to a transcript of her interview.
-- Keating rubbed her chest on several occasions. "He ... would rub my collarbone and then go and rub around both breasts and then underneath," she said. She would pretend to be asleep. "I distinctly remember thinking to myself this is not how my dad would touch me."
-- On one occasion, as Keating was reading to her, he lifted her by her armpits and placed her on his chest, "so we were basically belly to belly," she said. "I was in between his open legs, and I wasn't familiar with the male anatomy." She could feel that he was aroused "and his heart started to beat faster."
-- That night, about 3:30 a.m., Keating came to the couch, where she was sleeping, and asked her for a back rub. After she rubbed his back, he sat talking to her, holding her hands, saying, "What's going on? What are you feeling?" she remembered.
-- When she was learning to drive, Keating offered to help instruct her. But instead of moving from the driver's seat to the passenger seat, he had the girl sit on his lap, she said. She felt him smelling her hair and clothes.
-- Keating left in 1999 to study for a master's degree at the Dominican Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. He paid a visit to the girl's house to say goodbye. She gave him a hug and expected the usual kiss on the cheek. But this time, "he kissed me on the lips and it felt very wet and a little bit longer than usual and now that I've kissed someone (as an adult), I realize that ... it was an open-mouth kiss."
-- The girl later met another girl who had become acquainted with Keating in Rome. "She was my age," the Chisago County woman said. The Italian girl asked her, "So, what sort of things do you do with Michael? ... She asked me if I loved him." The Italian girl told her she loved Keating, and that they had kissed.
-- Keating denied it. He told the Chisago County girl, "I give you my word, I didn't. I've only kissed women I've ever loved."
-- The girl's mother told the investigator that she never saw any inappropriate touching.
The woman told the investigator that Keating's behavior was confusing, because she was feeling stressed and appreciated his interest in her.
Keating "paid special attention to me and I perceived it at first, well, I thought he was such a good man and he wouldn't do anything to hurt me, so I just loved that kind of special attention. It was like an uncle. You know, like a favorite uncle," she said.
A couple who knew both the girl and Keating confronted her, saying they believed the two of them were involved and that the girl loved Keating.
In 2004, the girl and Keating met at Annie's Parlor restaurant in Minneapolis. She told him the comments by the couple were highly embarrassing to her.
It wasn't until January 2005 that she confronted Keating with her accusation that he had touched her inappropriately several years before.
She met him at the Summit Avenue home of her uncle, a priest at St. Thomas who supervised Keating, among others. Keating told her, "I'm sorry that you perceived that that way ... I would never do that and my intentions have always been pure. ..."
A year later, the woman was hospitalized after a near-suicide. Her father and her uncle, the priest, went to Kevin McDonough, then vicar general of the archdiocese, and told him of the allegations. Within a month, in February 2006, Keating called the girl's uncle.
He was nervous, the priest told the sheriff's investigator, because he had learned the Chisago County girl and the Italian girl had spent some time together.
"He was anxious that (the Italian girl) may have let my niece know they had what he said was one passionate encounter together in Rome in which he said ... no clothes came off but Michael expressed the belief that (the Italian girl) seduced him, which is not easy for me to take. A 15-year-old and a 42-year-old guy here."
A sheriff's office investigator discussed results of the investigation with then-Chisago County Attorney Sue Drabek, and "the determination was made that there was not enough evidence to charge Keating."