Bishop Accountability
  Two women drop sex abuse suit against bishop

St. Petersburg (FL) Times
From Religious News Service
July 3, 1993

Davenport, Iowa - Two Minnesota women who accused a Roman Catholic bishop of sexually abusing them more than 30 years ago dropped their lawsuits last week.

Bishop Gerald O'Keefe, head of the Diocese of Davenport, said he harbors "no anger toward these women," who have long histories of mental illness. But he took the opportunity to blast their attorney, who specializes in cases of sexual abuse by priests.

Calling the decision by the women to drop the suits "a mixed blessing," O'Keefe, in a June 25 letter to Catholics in his diocese, said, "I am obviously relieved that the litigation has ended. At the same time, I am disappointed that I will not have the opportunity to prove in court that the allegations are false."

When the unnamed women filed the actions 16 months ago, they alleged that they were sexually abused by O'Keefe while he was auxiliary bishop of St. Paul, Minn., and rector of the Cathedral of St. Paul.

O'Keefe, who has headed the Davenport Diocese for 26 years, said he was "appalled at the conduct of their attorney," Jeffrey R.

Anderson of St. Paul, who says he is involved in "over 200" cases on behalf of people who allege sexual abuse by clergy.

"This attorney knew very well that there were many reasons to doubt the women's stories. Had this attorney contacted me, I would have given him information that would have left no doubt in his mind about my innocence. And yet, without even giving me the courtesy of a telephone call, this attorney sued me, attacked my reputation and called into question everything that I have done in my 50 years as a priest."

While he was accused of abusing his power as a priest, O'Keefe said, "The only power abused here was the power entrusted to members of the legal profession."

In a telephone interview, Anderson called O'Keefe's statements "misguided" and said they were ""designed to direct attention (away) from the real issue" of sexual abuse by clergy in the Catholic Church.

"When they attack me, it's really an attempt to attack the messenger," Anderson said. "I don't take their statements seriously."

On the substance of O'Keefe's charges, Anderson said, "We did do what is necessary and required to present and bring a claim of this kind." In the letter to Catholics in his diocese, O'Keefe gave some details of the litigation "so that you will have no doubt about my innocence."

"We discovered that both of the women who accused me of sexual abuse have long histories of dishonest and criminal behavior. . . . Both women made sworn statements that were false and withheld evidence from us," O'Keefe wrote.

"More importantly, in describing their alleged abuse, the women accused me of doing things that were literally impossible in locations that did not exist and at times that I was most likely not even in the United States."

O'Keefe said he harbored no anger toward the women because both "have been hospitalized many times for mental illness," each suffers from multiple personality disorder and both claim to have been sexually abused by family members and others.

"One of the women believes that she was abused by a satanic cult and that she had contact with a UFO. Both women have repeatedly said that they have trouble distinguishing real memories from false ones," he said.

He said he was "touched and comforted by the outpouring of support that I have received from all of you" and asked prayers for the women who accused him of abuse "and for all those who have suffered sexual abuse and mental illness."

[Religion Editor Thomas J. Billitteri contributed to this story.]


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