Ousted Priest O'keefe Should Get No Benefits: #lohudreacts
By Swapna Venugopal Ramaswamy
September 29, 2016
|Monsignor John O'Keefe in a file photo from May 12, 2000.|
Lohud and Facebook readers had a lot to say about a former Rockland priest who was permanently removed from ministry by the Archdiocese of New York following allegations that he sexually abused a minor.
Monsignor John O’Keefe, who once led Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains, had been suspended last year from St. Margaret of Antioch Parish in Pearl River based on alleged abuse that occurred more than three decades ago.
Some readers were upset that no criminal charges had been brought against O’Keefe because the incidents were past the statute of limitations.
“There should be no statute of limitations on these creeps, and rather than the church continuing to provide housing, they should be incarcerated,” wrote Anthony Tascione. “Let’s not cover up these horrific deeds no matter how old they are.”
The alleged victim claimed two acts of abuse — one in New York and another in Virginia — happened in the early 1980s.
Joseph Zwilling, spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, said the archdiocese would not make public statements on the matter until it is settled by the Vatican. For now, the archdiocese continues to be responsible for providing O'Keefe with a place to live.
That fact rubbed reader Paul Cocozza the wrong way.
“He should get NO benefits! I'm a Catholic and shame on the Church. Get rid of all these scum. They better allow priests to marry,” wrote Cocozza. “It is a stupid rule made by a pope 1,000 years ago. Jesus never said priests should not marry. It’s time to change.”
Mitchell Garabedian, the lawyer for the accuser, said his client was abused by O’Keefe between 1981 and 1983 while a student at Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx, where O’Keefe was a teacher and guidance counselor.
“I’ve requested the archdiocese compensate my client financially so his claim can be validated and he can try to move on and he can try to heal,” said Garabedian.
Some readers saw another motive behind the allegation.
“Sorry. Not buying this one,” commented David Pierre. “A sweet payday for the Church-suing lawyer Garabedian and his anonymous client.”
Wrote Gerry Moriarity: “After 30 plus years, a cash payout will enable the victim to move on and heal? Lawyer speak.”
O'Keefe's suspension was announced in a Dec. 16, 2015, letter to parishioners from New York's archbishop, Cardinal Timothy Dolan. O'Keefe, who was on leave at the time for medical issues, denied the allegations.
O’Keefe was named the first president of Archbishop Stepinac High School in 1992 and served as the school's leader for 11 years. He was reassigned to St. Margaret’s in 2003.
One reader who claimed to know O’Keefe jumped to his defense.
“As someone who was around him a lot, there was never any sense of inappropriateness, especially not pedophilia,” wrote Kevin McCarthy. “To not have a single story come out of Stepinac in his time there means a lot more than the tale from Hayes 30+ years ago. The church has a problem on their hands with pedophilia priests but Jack O'Keefe isn't one of them.”
Reader Ronnie Rodriguez Velez cautioned that appearances can be deceiving.
“I also went to a Catholic High in New York and there were allegations against a priest that I also thought to be totally false until he eventually admitted it,” wrote Velez.“What does a Pedophile look like anyway?”
Pina Rossi Bonamici lamented the loss of reputation suffered by the noble profession.
“This is a disgrace and gives a bad name to great priests," Bonamici wrote. "This is so scary. He is supposed to be doing the good work of God."