Tier Priest to Appeal Removal
Bishop Rules in Case of Maine Pastor Accused of Sexual Abuse

By Nancy Dooling
Press & Sun-Bulletin
December 16, 2004

A Roman Catholic priest, who was removed Wednesday from his Town of Maine church as a result of sexual-abuse claims at a former parish, will ask the Vatican to reinstate him, his attorney said Wednesday.

Thomas F. Keating, 65, will appeal his removal by Syracuse Diocese Bishop James M. Moynihan and expects to be exonerated, said Barry Abbott, a White Plains lawyer who represents the priest.

"Father Keating is deeply saddened by the bishop's actions and is disappointed in the bishop's refusal to hear from witnesses on his behalf, address facts uncovered by his investigation and consider the motives of his accusers," Abbott said in a statement.

Three of Keating's accusers, meanwhile, also issued a statement Wednesday, calling Moynihan's announcement "a small measure of comfort."

"We remain undeterred in our goal to make sure that what happened to us does not happen to others," sisters Kristin Hansen, Karen Hansen-Haraminac and Amy Hansen-Garrity said. The three are Cortland natives who said Keating abused them when they were 8, 10 and 12.

Moynihan announced Keating's removal Wednesday after an 18-month investigation. Keating's case is being forwarded to the Vatican. Church officials there will decide whether he should be defrocked. Keating can no longer celebrate Mass or perform other priestly functions, Moynihan said.

Keating's accusers have filed civil lawsuits against the priest, his bishop and the diocese. Keating has been sued by six women, including the sisters, and by a woman who alleged he failed to report her rape by another priest in the 1980s while Keating served a Cortland parish.

Albany lawyer John Aretakis, who represents the six plaintiffs accusing Keating, said Moynihan's announcement means "the community is safer today," but that "there are other predators out there in the diocese."

Aretakis had harsh words for Keating and for his former boss. Moynihan is one of six American bishops to vote against the churches' "Zero Tolerance" sex-abuse policy; 226 bishops voted for the policy.

"The bishop gave the benefit of the doubt to Father Keating," Aretakis said. "My clients were accused of being liars."

The attorney said the diocese refused to settle with the women he represents.

Keating was priest at Most Holy Rosary Church in Maine for 11 years, but had been temporarily removed in February while the diocese investigated. Keating was a priest at St. Mary's Church in Cortland from 1982 to 1993.

The temporary removal of Keating divided the 390 families of the Maine parish. His supporters were angry enough to draw Moynihan from Syracuse immediately after Keating left to speak of reconciliation.

Keating is the 20th priest removed from the ministry in the seven-county central and south central New York diocese because of sexual abuse allegations.


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