Ex-mountain Priest Linked to Molestation
By Glenn Barr
January 24, 2013
|Father Tim Keppel|
An allegation of child molestation which church officials believe to be credible has been raised against Father Tim Keppel, the former long-time pastor of Catholic churches in Crest Park and Running Springs.
The allegation surfaced in a letter read by Father Leonard Krzywda to parishioners attending all Masses at both Our Lady of the Lake and St. Anne’s in the Mountains on the weekend of Jan. 12 and 13. This newspaper obtained a copy of that letter.
It states that the Congregation of the Resurrection—the church order to which Father Keppel belongs—had received information about an incident of sexual misconduct involving a minor that involved Keppel.
“The case is alleged to have occurred in the late 1970s here in the Diocese of San Bernardino involving a minor who was not a member of your parishes,” says the letter, printed on the Congregation’s letterhead.
“The Diocese of San Bernardino has conducted an investigation of this allegation and has shared its findings with the Congregation of the Resurrection,” it says.
“Based on this investigation, both the Diocese of San Bernardino and the Congregation of the Resurrection have reached the conclusion that there is reasonable cause to suspect that inappropriate sexual behavior with a minor did occur and, as a result, Fr. Keppel has been removed from public ministry.”
The letter, which includes few specifics about the allegation, goes on to say that “the case will be sent to Rome for further consideration.”
After saying the Congregation offers its prayers to the parish and to all victims of abuse, the letter invites “anyone else who might have been abused by Fr. Keppel or any other priest or Church employee” to come forward by contacting the diocesan hotline or local law enforcement.
The letter does not specify when the reported incident occurred, what kind of sexual activity is alleged, whether it was a one-time or repeated activity or how Keppel came to know the victim.
John Andrews, a spokesman for the Diocese of San Bernardino, declined to comment on the specifics of the allegation, other than to identify the reported victim as a teenage male.
Though the letter states the victim was not a member of either parish, it does not say whether he was a mountain resident.
Andrews said the diocese learned of the alleged molestation “in the late summer of 2012.” Diocese officials reported it to police within 24 hours, consistent with diocese policy, he said, and then conducted an “extensive” investigation which went on “over a matter of months.”
Based on the timing, Andrews said, Keppel’s removal from public ministry was in no way related to recent news accounts of reported efforts by now-retired Cardinal Roger Mahony to shield molesting priests and provide damage control for the church following allegations of sexual misconduct by priests in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
An account of Mahony’s actions, as reportedly outlined in recently released court files, was published in Tuesday’s edition of The Sun.
The story describes how notes written by Mahony, included in previously sealed court documents, indicated he was disturbed over abuse allegations and sent problem priests for treatment, but apparently did not investigate further after receiving psychological reports on some priests indicating the possibility of many other victims.
In addition to reporting the local allegation to authorities, Andrews said, the diocese reported it to the Congregation of the Resurrection.
“When we became aware of it, we worked closely with that religious community in that process,” he said, referring to the order’s making a determination of where Keppel would live.
Keppel has been in Chicago, under the auspices of his order, for approximately two months, Andrews said.
A determination of the future status of his priesthood will be made once the allegation has been reviewed by the Vatican, he added.
Asked whether any other allegations of sexual abuse by priests are currently under investigation by the Diocese of San Bernardino, Andrews replied, “no, that’s the only one.”
FIRST SUCH ALLEGATION
Andrews said he believes the allegation represents the first of its kind involving a priest assigned to a parish in the San Bernardino Mountains.
Keppel, who according to www.peekyou.com is 62 years of age, pastored the two mountain parishes from 1997-2009, at which time he was replaced by Father Kryzwda.
When he left the mountain, Andrews said, Keppel pastored a combined parish in Fontana for a year before being transferred to Our Lady of the Desert in Apple Valley, where he was assigned prior to moving to Chicago.
“Any time we learn of a new allegation of abuse in this diocese we are very saddened and dismayed,” Andrews said. “We teach that sexual abuse of children is a crime and a sin.”
Anyone wishing to report an instance of sexual abuse by a priest may call either the Diocese of San Bernardino’s 24-hour hotline, (888) 206-9090, or the Twin Peaks sheriff’s station, (909) 336-0600.