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  Priest Accused of Abuse Ordered to Take Leave
Syracuse Diocese Asks the Rev. Thomas Keating to Step down during Investigation

By Renee K. Gadoua
Post-Standard (Syracuse, NY)
February 25, 2004

A Binghamton-area priest temporarily removed from ministry denies allegations that he sexually abused several teenage girls in the 1980s.

Syracuse Bishop James Moynihan last week asked the Rev. Thomas Keating, 64, pastor of Most Holy Rosary, Maine, Broome County, to take a temporary leave while the diocese investigates, diocesan officials confirmed Tuesday.

"This action in no way indicates an assumption of guilt," the diocese said in a prepared statement. "The bishop has asked for Father Keating's temporary absence to insure the mission of the parish is not hampered by the notoriety of the allegations."

Diocesan officials were unavailable Tuesday to comment on when Keating was asked to step down or how long they expect the investigation to take.

"Father Keating is not happy about the bishop's order. It was against his will," said Barry Abbott, a White Plains lawyer who said Keating hired him about a month ago. "Father Keating refused to step aside and has stated that he is innocent of these charges and he is not going to step aside for charges that are not true." Abbott said he and Keating will pursue canon and civil law to ensure the case follows due process.

John Aretakis, of Albany, who has filed two lawsuits accusing Keating of sexually abusing four women, provided statements from his clients about the bishop's action.

"The removal of Father Keating is a small step and people need to speak up and voices need to be heard and acknowledged," Amy Hanson, of Manhattan, said through her lawyer. "We as a society have to start protecting each other and those who cannot protect themselves, namely the children. The church needs to stop hiding behind their collars and their secrets."

Her sisters, Karen and Kristin Hanson, of Tampa, Fla., provided similar statements. Last month, the sisters and Aretakis held a news conference in Syracuse in which they accused Keating of groping, molesting and abusing them from 1982 to 1985 while they worked at the rectory of St. Mary Church, Cortland, where he was pastor.

Aretakis filed a lawsuit in Onondaga County Court on their behalf the same day, claiming negligence on the part of the diocese for not removing Keating from the ministry. In March, Aretakis filed a similar lawsuit on behalf of a woman identified in court papers as Jane Doe.

Keating did not return several phone calls seeking comment Tuesday. His voice remained on the church's answering machine greeting. It's unclear where he is living or if the bishop has appointed a temporary replacement at the parish.

 
 

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