Cardinal Dolan Ousted Priest for Sex Abuse Claim, but Accuser's Lawyer Says Children Still at Risk
By Michael O’keeffe
New York Daily News
September 26, 2016
|A view of St. Margaret of Antioch at 112 W Central Ave (GOOGLE MAPS)|
Timothy Cardinal Dolan has removed a Rockland County priest accused of sexual abuse — but children may still be at risk, said a lawyer for the clergyman’s alleged victim.
Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian said the Archdiocese of New York told him in August that Monsignor John J. O’Keefe — most recently the pastor of St. Margaret of Antioch in Pearl River — had been permanently removed from his duties following an investigation into allegations he had sexually abused his client in the 1980s.
But the archdiocese has not shared its findings with the public, which Garabedian argued puts kids at risk. The archdiocese continues to provide O’Keefe with a place to live, although it would not comment on where the disgraced priest has been living.
“Children must immediately be made safe from predators like Monsignor O’Keefe,” Garabedian said. “The archdiocese failed miserably in its supervision of O’Keefe, and now it is playing more children in potential jeopardy.”
|Timothy Cardinal Dolan removed Monsignor John J. O’Keefe — most recently the pastor of St. Margaret of Antioch in Pearl River. (ANTHONY DELMUNDO/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)|
Dolan spokesman Joseph Zwilling said the archdiocese informed parishioners in a Dec. 16, 2015 letter that O’Keefe had been suspended pending its investigation.
The archdiocese typically does not offer any further comment until the case has been reviewed by the Vatican.
“While we keep the parties involved (including both those who brought the allegation and the priest against whom the allegation was brought) informed of the progress of the case, we do not make public statements on the case until it is completed,” Zwilling said.
|Lawyer Mitchell Garabedian says the archdiocese not sharing its findings with the public puts kids at risk. (JEFFERSON SIEGEL/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)|
|Father John J. O'Keefe from a 1989 Cardinal Hayes High School Yearbook. Garabedian said O’Keefe, 71, abused his client twice when O’Keefe was a teacher and guidance counselor. (ANDREW SCHWARTZ/FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)|
Defrocking a priest is a process that could take years.
“Delaying O’Keefe’s permanent removal places more children in jeopardy,” said Garabedian, who was played by Stanley Tucci in the Academy Award-winning film “Spotlight.”
Garabedian said O’Keefe, 71, abused his client twice when O’Keefe was a teacher and guidance counselor and the client was a student at Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx.
One of the incidents allegedly took place at a Virginia hotel during a school trip to Washington, D.C. The other allegedly took place during a retreat in Ulster County.
O’Keefe has not been charged with any crimes — the incidents taking place beyond the statute of limitations. New York law bars child sex abuse survivors from pursuing criminal charges or civil litigation after their 23rd birthday. A bill that would have extended the statute failed to come to a vote in the last legislative session in Albany.
“The secrecy of the Archdiocese of New York surrounding the sexual abuse of an innocent child by Monsignor John J. O’Keefe is another example of why statute of limitations laws must be changed to help sexual abuse victims heal and to protect innocent children,” Garabedian said.
O’Keefe could not be reached for comment Monday.