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  Catholic Church Settles 2 Molestation Suits
Men Awarded $ 500,000 and an Apology

By Carl Nolte
San Francisco Chronicle
August 10, 1995

Two men who claim they were molested as boys by two Bay Area priests were given a $ 500,000 settlement yesterday by Catholic authorities who also issued an apology for the episodes, which occurred more than a decade ago.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco and the Diocese of Santa Rosa announced the out-of-court settlements in the highly publicized case that involved a one-time top aide to San Francisco Archbishop John Quinn.

The two are among nine individuals who have said they were molested by Monsignor Patrick O'Shea, former pastor of San Francisco's St. Cecilia Church, and the Rev. Austin Peter Keegan, who served as a priest in both San Francisco and the Santa Rosa diocese.

The settlement includes a payment of $ 500,000 to the two victims. Quinn and Santa Rosa Bishop G. Patrick Ziemann also issued a joint statement expressing "our regret and sorrow for the pain suffered by these individuals, their families and all other affected parties."

Neither victim was identified by name. According to Maja Ramsey, the attorney for the two men, one of them, who is now 28, was abused "on multiple occasions" by Keegan in Santa Rosa when he was 12 to 14 years old. He will receive a settlement of $ 450,000.

Ramsey said the other man was molested by O'Shea at Lake Berryessa when he was 12 years old. He will receive $ 51,100 and an additional $ 5,000 for therapy.

Money for the settlements includes contributions from O'Shea and various insurance carriers, and $ 75,000 from the San Francisco archdiocese.

Reports of child abuse charges against several priests surfaced last spring, when O'Shea, formerly one of Quinn's most trusted advisers, was relieved of his duties and placed on administrative leave. Civil suits were then brought against O'Shea and Keegan, alleging that they had molested a number of minors, some of them altar boys.

O'Shea was later arrested, but felony child abuse charges against him were dismissed in San Francisco Municipal Court last month because the alleged molestations occurred before 1988 and could not be prosecuted under the statute of limitations.

Keegan, who is in Mexico, was not arrested, but Ramsey, the attorney for the molestation victims, said the San Francisco archdiocese had agreed to send letters to every Catholic diocese in the country and to church authorities in Tijuana, Mexico, advising that allegations against Keegan "appear to be true" and he had been stripped of his priestly authority.

Ramsey and another attorney, Michael Meadows, said civil litigation would continue against Gary Timmons of Santa Rosa, a third priest named in the suit.

The lawsuit had alleged that church officials had failed to take necessary steps to stop the priests and then had tried to cover up the cases.

In a statement yesterday, Quinn said times and attitudes had changed. "In the last 10 years there has been an enormous increase in knowledge . . . about the nature and treatment of child abuse. There has also been an increased awareness of the issue not only by the church, but society as a whole. We must and do respond differently now."

Ramsey said the settlement meant that the two dioceses had "acknowledged the reality of child abuse and the severity of harm suffered by victims. We're particularly pleased that the San Francisco diocese agreed to action aimed at prevention."

 
 

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