ROCKLAND Priest Suspended after Sex Abuse Allegations: NY Archdiocese
By Michael D'Onofrio
December 18, 2015
|This file phone from May, 12, 2000, shows Monsignor John O'Keefe.|
A Rockland priest who once led Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains has been suspended after a "credible" allegation that he sexually abused a minor more than three decades ago, the archdiocese told parishioners.
Monsignor John O’Keefe, a pastor at St. Margaret of Antioch Parish in Pearl River, was accused of abusing the minor on two occasions, according to a letter issued on Wednesday to members of the parish from Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York.
See the entirety of Cardinal Timothy Dolan's letter below.
O’Keefe has denied the allegations, which have not been substantiated, Dolan wrote.
|In this file photo from April 7, 2012, Monsignor John O'Keefe, right, lights a candle during the the Easter vigil at Saint Margaret of Antioch Catholic Church in Pearl River. (Photo: Peter Carr/The Journal News)|
“But in keeping with the policy and practice of the archdiocese, … Monsignor O’Keefe is not permitted to publicly function as a priest until the matter is resolved,” Dolan said in the letter.
O'Keefe, in 1992, was named the first president of Archbishop Stepinac High School. He is also listed on the school's Alumni Hall of Fame on the school website.
In 2003, he was reassigned to St. Margaret's. While pastor of St. Margaret parish in 2012, O'Keefe celebrated his 40th anniversary of his ordination.
Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the archdiocese of New York, said the archdiocese was contacted by a lawyer from the person making the allegation. The person alleged two acts of abuse — one in New York and another in Virginia — happened in the early 1980s.
The person making the allegations lived in the Bronx when the abuse reportedly happened, Zwilling said. He currently does not live in New York.
Dolan said in the letter that the allegations were “immediately” turned over to the Bronx and Rockland district attorney’s office, and also the district attorney in Virginia.
The archdiocese cooperated with the district attorneys in New York and Virginia on their investigations, Zwilling said. Those are now complete, Zwilling said, which is why the archdiocese is now releasing information about the allegations to parishioners.
O'Keefe has not been charged with any crimes, Zwilling said; both incidents are beyond the statute of limitations.
The archdiocese is now conducting its own internal investigation, which will be done by a lay review board, outside professional experts, and internal staff, Zwilling said.
|Cardinal Timothy Dolan, gets a tour of the school after celebrating Mass and before blessing the new science labs at Albertus Magnus High School in Bardonia, Dec. 16, 2015. (Photo: Mark Vergari/The Journal News)|
O’Keefe had already been on leave from the parish recovering from unrelated health issues, according to the letter and Zwilling. He is now in a “supervised setting,” states the letter, “while he undergoes a thorough evaluation and risk assessment.”
A woman who answered the phone at St. Margaret's referred a reporter to the archdiocese for comment.
The Rockland County District Attorney’s office could not be reached for comment.
In his letter, Dolan "strongly" urged anyone with additional "concerns or suspicious" regarding O'Keefe "in this regard" to contact the Assistant Rockland County District Attorney Jennifer Parietti at (845)-638-5001.
This is not the first time Dolan has had to inform area parishioners in the Lower Hudson Valley that one of their own priests had been accused of sexual abuse of minors.
In September 2013, Dolan told parishioners that Deacon Al Mazza had been dismissed from his duties at the Church of the Holy Name of Mary in Croton-On-Hudson after allegations surfaced he was engaged in immoral and illegal conduct with minors before becoming deacon in 1996.
Mazza's dismissal was the third time an ordained minister faced allegations in the Croton parish.
Michael D'Onofrio can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow him on Twitter at @mikedonofrio_.