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  Diocese Asks Maine Priest to Take Leave
Keating to Step Aside from Parish during Sexual-Abuse Investigation

By George Basler and Nancy Dooling
Press & Sun-Bulletin (Binghamton, NY)
February 25, 2004

MAINE — The Rev. Thomas Keating will leave his church post while sex-abuse allegations against him are investigated, but a lawyer representing one of his accusers says the church should have removed him sooner.

The Town of Maine priest, accused of sexually molesting three sisters when he served a Cortland parish 20 years ago, will temporarily relinquish his duties at Most Holy Rosary Church in the Town of Maine at the end of the day Friday.

Sisters Amy, 33, Kristin, 35, and Karen Hansen, 34, claimed in court documents last month that Keating sexually molested them while they worked at the rectory of St. Mary's Church in Cortland. Keating has denied the allegations.

Amy Hansen, asked about Keating Tuesday, said the church "needs to stop hiding behind their collars and their secrets."

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse last week asked Keating, a priest at Most Holy Rosary since 1993, to step aside pending the outcome of an investigation, diocese spokeswoman Danielle Cummings said Tuesday. The diocese had said last month that Keating would continue to celebrate Mass at Most Holy Rosary while the investigation continued.

Keating announced at Masses last weekend that he would serve through Friday, Cummings said.

Cumings said the Rev. Charles Opondo-Owora, who now serves at St. Ambrose Church in Endicott, will take Keating's place. Opondo-Owora will be the temporary administrator at Most Holy Rosary.

That Keating is being asked to step aside "in no way indicates an assumption of guilt," the diocese said Tuesday in a statement.

Bishop James Moynihan has asked Keating to step aside to ensure the parish can operate without the distraction of the allegations, the statement says. The diocese, it says, is committed to finding the truth.

Cummings said she doesn't know where Keating will go, but said he will leave Broome County.

Keating did not return messages left Tuesday at the church.

Albany lawyer John Aretakis, who is representing the sisters, Tuesday called Keating "a notorious molester of young girls." Aretakis last month had criticized the diocese for allowing Keating to celebrate Mass in light of the allegations.

Aretakis also represents a Syracuse-area woman, calling herself "Jane Doe," who filed suit last March alleging that Keating and she had mild sexual contact in the 1980s, court documents show. The lawsuit also accuses Keating of not taking action when the woman made allegations to him about another priest sexually molesting her.

 
 

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