Diocese Upholds Sex Abuse Charges against Priest

By William Kates
New York Newsday [Syracuse NY]
December 15, 2004

SYRACUSE, N.Y. - The Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse said Wednesday it was removing a 65-year-old priest from ministry after finding sufficient evidence he may have sexually abused three young girls and a woman in the 1980s. A second priest, meanwhile, was cleared of sexual abuse allegations.

Church officials said sufficient evidence was found incriminating the Rev. Thomas F. Keating, who allegedly abused three young sisters while serving as pastor of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Cortland from 1982 to 1993. The sisters were 12, 13 and 14 at the time and attended the church's grade school.

Keating also was accused of sexually abusing a woman who had gone to him in 1982 to tell him she had been raped by another priest.

Spokeswoman Danielle Cummings said the diocese's finding does not mean Keating is guilty, but his case had raised "serious concerns."

"These allegations are over 20 years old. Determining guilt or innocence is very difficult," Cummings said.

Nevertheless, Keating can no longer celebrate Mass, administer the sacraments or present himself as a priest.

Keating's case will be sent to the Vatican. If the Vatican finds the allegations are true, it can dismiss Keating from the priesthood, Cummings said. The Vatican also could call for a canonical trial, either in Rome or in Syracuse.

Keating served as pastor at Most Holy Rosary in Binghamton from 1993 until he voluntarily took a leave of absence in February while the investigation was pending.

Keating could not be found for comment. The diocese said he was represented by attorney Barry Abbott, but a call to Abbott's New York City office said the phone number was no longer in service.

A diocesan investigation into allegations against the Rev. James F. Quinn found insufficient evidence to substantiate the allegations against him.

In a statement, Quinn said he was "pleased and satisfied" by the diocese's findings.

"The past 19 months have been most difficult for me, my family and friends. I now look forward to moving on and living out my priestly ministry," said Quinn, who had taken a voluntary leave from his job as director of vocation promotion for the diocese, in which he was in charge of enlisting and counseling young men for the priesthood.

While his case was pending, Quinn was still permitted to celebrate Mass and perform other priestly duties. Cummings said Quinn had not been assigned to a new ministry.

Quinn was named in a $150 million lawsuit filed last year by John Zumpano of New Hartford, who alleged he was sexually abused by Quinn from 1963 to 1970 while he was a student at St. Agnes Church's grammar school and Notre Dame High School in Utica. The lawsuit also named the diocese as a defendant, contending that church leaders were aware of the abuse and did nothing to stop it.

A state judge dismissed the lawsuit, saying he did not have the authority to extend the statute of limitations, which expired. However, the judge said Zumpano's case had merit and encouraged Zumpano's attorney to take his decision to the state Appellate Court Division.

Zumpano's attorney, Frank Pollicelli, said he will continue appealing case regardless of the diocese's findings.

"It's a sham," Pollicelli said. "It's a self-serving statement from a co-defendant who is party to the same lawsuit. If Quinn goes down, they go down. So big deal they found him innocent."

Keating is the 20th priest removed from the ministry in the Syracuse diocese because of sexual abuse allegations, Cummings said.

The diocese serves 350,000 Catholics in seven upstate New York counties. Eight other priests, including the Rev. James F. Quinn, have been cleared. The diocese continues to investigate two other priests, Cummings said.


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