Former Catholic School Principal Named in Lawsuit
Sex Abuse Claim Filed against Priest

By Nancy Dooling
Press & Sun-Bulletin (Binghamton, NY)
March 22, 2003

A Syracuse-area woman is claiming that a former principal at Seton Catholic High School in Endicott sexually abused her when she was a teenager in Cortland.

The woman, now in her late 30s and married, says she went to Bishop James Moynihan and Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Costello a year ago and told them she'd been abused between 1978 and 1981 by Monsignor John M. Zeder.

The allegations are in a lawsuit filed Thursday in state Supreme Court in Onondaga County. Zeder was a priest at St. Mary's Church in Cortland at the time of the abuse, said the woman's attorney, John A. Aretakis.

The woman, referred to as "Jane Doe" in the lawsuit, is also claiming she told the Rev. Thomas Keating, who came to the Cortland parish after Zeder left, about the incident in 1982 and Keating didn't take action on the allegations.

Keating has been a priest at Most Holy Rosary Church in the Town of Maine since 1993. He did not return telephone calls Friday.

Zeder was a principal at the former Seton Catholic High School in Endicott from 1956 to 1967. He also served short stints at St. Ambrose Church and St. Anthony's Church, both in Endicott, St. Mary's in Cortland, and St. Malachy's Church in Sherburne, according to Press & Sun-Bulletin archives. He now lives in a retirement home for priests in Syracuse, Aretakis said.

Officials with the Roman Catholic Diocese refused to comment on the lawsuit Friday, claiming that they had not been served with court papers. But Aretakis disputed that claim. "The diocese has been doing its own investigation for a year. They know more about these allegations than I do," Aretakis said.

Keating will continue to serve at his church, said the Rev. Michael Minehan, chancellor of the Syracuse diocese. "There is no change in that status right now," Minehan said.

The woman alleges in the lawsuit that Zeder forcibly raped her when she was a teenager.

Zeder threatened her and later stalked her when she went to college, court documents allege. Zeder also called her two years ago and asked her to go to lunch, court documents indicate.

Zeder, Moynihan, Costello and Keating, as well as the diocese, are accused in the lawsuit of violating the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, most often used by prosecutors to fight organized crime. Aretakis said church officials concealed the criminal sexual conduct and committed other conspiracies. The statute of limitations for filing both criminal charges and filing a civil lawsuit seeking damages for negligence expired years ago.

Aretakis also said Keating had mild sexual contact with the woman in 1982, but that conduct is not mentioned in court documents. Aretakis, a Manhattan attorney, said he has pursued cases of clergy misconduct for nine years.


Msg. John M. Zeder History

St. Ambrose Church, Endicott: February-July, 1954.

Seton Catholic High School, Endicott, principal: 1956 to 1967.

Missionary to Korea: 1967-1969.

St. Anthony's Church, Endicott: 1969

St. Patrick's Church, Chittenango: 1969-1970.

Missionary to Ecuador, South America: 1970-1978.

St. Mary's Church, Cortland: 1978-1981.

St. Malachy's Church, Sherburne: 1981-84.

Sabbatical, University of California, 1985-1986.

St. Malachy's Church, Sherburne: 1986-1987.

Mater Dei Institute, Spokane, Wa., rector: 1987

St. Anthony's Church, Endicott, temporary associate pastor: 1989.

St. Anne's-St. Patrick's Church, Williamstown: 1992-1996.

Source: Press & Sun-Bulletin archives


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