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  3 Women Sue Diocese
They Say Priest Molested Them When They Were Teens

By Renee K. Gadoua
Post-Standard (Syracuse, NY)
January 23, 2004

Three sisters stood arm in arm Thursday and called on the Syracuse Roman Catholic Diocese to dismiss a priest they say sexually assaulted them 20 years ago in Cortland.

Amy, Karen and Kristin Hanson said the Rev. Thomas Keating groped, molested and abused them from 1982 to 1985 while they worked at the rectory of St. Mary Church, where he was pastor. The women are now in their 30s.

"Father Keating's behavior was inappropriate in a sexual manner," said Amy Hanson, who said she was 13 at the time. She traveled from Manhattan and her sisters traveled from Tampa, Fla., to join their lawyer, John Aretakis, of Albany, in announcing a lawsuit accusing Keating of sexual abuse, slander, defamation and harassment.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in Onondaga County Court, names the Syracuse Diocese and Bishops James Moynihan and Thomas Costello, saying they were negligent in not removing Keating from ministry. The lawsuit accuses the diocese of violating the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act by conspiring to conceal criminal sexual conduct by a priest.

Keating, 64, who remains pastor of Most Holy Rosary Church, Maine, Broome County, was sued in March - accused of similar behavior with a teenage victim identified in court papers as Jane Doe. He could not be reached Thursday but has denied allegations.

"These are three women we have not heard of," said Danielle Cummings, diocesan spokeswoman. "If they have details of abuse, the diocese wants to know about it."

She said the diocese is investigating allegations against Keating. Diocesan policy allows priests to remain in active ministry until allegations are found credible.

Keating has served at parishes in Endwell, Cortland, Endicott, Johnson City and Binghamton.

He is one of 13 priests diocesan officials say they are investigating for allegations of sexual abuse. The bishop has permanently removed 16 priests from ministry since the clergy sexual abuse scandal began about two years ago.

"It grieves me to reveal these deeply disturbing aspects of our adolescence," Karen Hanson read from a handwritten note that twisted in the harsh wind during a noon news conference outside the courthouse at Columbus Circle.

"We want to publicize the very real events that happened to us," she said, wiping away tears.

About six members of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, including at least two who said they are survivors of clergy abuse, stood with the Hansons.

The lawsuit accuses Keating of taking advantage of the sisters, who were then teenagers.

The diocese was negligent in continuing to employ Keating and should have known he was a threat to minors, the lawsuit says.

"I didn't have a clue," said Philip Hanson, the women's father said Thursday. He traveled from Florida to support his daughters, he said.

"My daughters were working at the rectory. What could be better?"

Philip Hanson, who said his three daughters and an older son attended the former St. Mary Catholic School through the ninth grade, recalled working with Keating on church fund-raisers, youth events and the parish council.

"He used to smoke half my cigarettes," he said. "All the time he was having his little sport with my daughters."

Kristin Hanson said she and her sisters decided to come forward after learning of the lawsuit filed by Jane Doe, who she said also worked at the rectory.

Aretakis, who has offices in Albany and New York City, said he represents about 130 victims in 12 to 15 clergy sexual abuse cases in the state. About 15 victims are in the Syracuse Diocese, he said. He confirmed that the Diocese of Albany has filed four complaints with a state ethics panel questioning his methods.

He said the complaints are an attempt to intimidate him and silence victims.

"In addition to his public apologies, he must get these people out of the reach of children," Aretakis said.

Protecting children is the priority, the Hansons said. They said they would also like Keating to be held accountable.

"I would want to hear what he would say," Amy Hanson said. "I want him to acknowledge what he did."

 
 

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