'...when first we practice to deceive'. Or at least so said Sir Walter Scott, writing in 'Marmion'. The quote is a particularly apt choice to introduce my reflections on today's release of the personnel file of Father Michael Keating, a priest of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis 'on leave' as a result of accusations of sexual misconduct with a minor. Although much of what the file contains was known to me before today, this most recent review of its contents has left me with seven questions that I believe require a response from the Archdiocese. They are as follows:

1). Where is the rest of the file?

Those of you who have read my affidavit in the Doe 1 case know that I testified about the situation of Father Keating, and also listed several documents that demonstrate the extent of the Archdiocese's knowledge of the accusations of sexual misconduct against him and other clergy prior to my going public in September of 2013. Some of those documents became public with today's release, including the list of priests identified as requiring monitoring under the POMS [Promotor of Ministerial Standards] program (Keating File, Part 2, pp. 276-277). So, I ask, where are the other documents that named Keating, including John Selvig's April 2013 list of POMs participants and their offences, and the 'Assignment List' created by Judy Delaney? Also, where is the memo from Andy Eisenzimmer to Archbishop Nienstedt regarding Father Keating's participating in the 'Rediscover' initiative, the Archbishop's response, as well as all the other emails and memos exchanged during the planning for such major events? I would also ask why the file contains some emails and documents regarding Father Keating's 2011 appointment to the Presbyteral Council, but none whatsoever regarding the 2009-2010 decision not to allow him to serve the remainder of Father Laird's term as Academic Dean following Laird's appointment as Vicar General. Finally, where is the preliminary investigative report of Father Talbot, as well as the subsequent weekly reports required by the decree opening the investigation (more on this below)? 

2). What punishment has been administered to Father Kevin McDonough? 

This question is not the result of self-interest, as I have long believed that the only way that Father McDonough and I will resolve our quarrel is by meeting with pistols at dawn. Rather, I would like to know what punishment has been inflicted upon the former Vicar General and Delegate for Safe Environment for repeatedly undermining the efforts of his Archbishop(s). 

The Keating file demonstrates McDonough working against the will of his bishop beginning in 2006, when the Clergy Review Board recommended that Father Keating be enrolled in the POMS monitoring program (Keating File, Part 1, p. 128). Emails between [Bishop] Lee Piche, Father McDonough, and Tim Rourke show that McDonough deliberately delayed taking action until May of 2010, when it could no longer be avoided (Keating File, Part 2, pp. 1-3).

A similar undermining is evident in McDonough's exchange with Father James Shea of the University of Mary in August of 2012. Although Father Keating was instructed by Archbishop Nienstedt to disclose his history to the University, Father McDonough intervened and presented Father Shea with a significantly rosier account of what had transpired (along with plenty of his own opinions) in contravention of the Archbishop's order (Keating File, Part 2, pp. 156, 158, 159-161). 

Obviously, the University of Saint Thomas took conclusive steps by removing Father McDonough from its Board of Trustees. But has the Archdiocese taken any action against him? His resignation as Delegate was in the works long before I resigned, and at his request. The website for Saint Peter Claver parish in Saint Paul still lists him as pastor, as does this weekend's bulletin from Incarnation/Sagrado Corazon. Perhaps rumors of an investigation into Father McDonough's conduct are true, and the Archdiocese is preparing to impose some sort of penalty. Still, it would seem that leaving him in parishes in the meantime (especially given investigations by law enforcement and the questions that have been asked about Father McDonough's participation) calls into question the Archdiocese's commitment to its own disciplinary program.

3) Does it matter that Father Keating was not ordained when the abuse occurred? 


Canon law (including the Essential Norms which accompany the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People) impose penalties for violations of the obligation of clerical sexual continence. By definition, then, those penalties are only to be applied for actions undertaken by men in the clerical state (nowadays, deacons, priests, and bishops). So, were it only a question of applying canonical penalties, Keating would likely be in the clear.

However, that is only a small part of what is actually at stake here. A bishop is not only responsible for determining if a canonical delict (or violation) has occurred, but also for determining a man's fitness to be ordained for ministry, and to exercise that ministry once ordination has been received. If a bishop determines that a man is incapable of exercising ministry as the Church intends (meaning, for instance, for 'psychic' reasons such as a sexual interest in minors, or narcissism), then that bishop is to remove the man from ministry. I have spoken before about how the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis had become entirely self-referential, and this is a perfect example of that. For, by the time the allegations against Father Keating surfaced in 2006, it had long been the practice of the universal Church (especially here in the United States) to use the process of declaring a priest or deacon impeded or irregular to resolve situations where a man had committed acts of abuse against minors prior to his ordination (frequently involving acts of incest alleged against permanent deacons prior to their ordination). This practice also had been sanctioned by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. 

Thus while certain bars exist towards penalizing Father Keating under the Charter, it was (and is) still possible for his Archbishop to take the necessary steps to protect the public. Whether there is (or has been) the will to do so remains an open question. The decree opening the investigation into Father Keating's conduct, which limits the investigator to determining if there has been a 'delict that is punishable under canon law', suggests that there is not.

4). What is Father Keating's present status?

On October 11, 2013, the Archdiocese entered into an agreement with Father Keating that he would 'voluntarily take a leave of absence'. This was the culmination of an intense few days of negotiation, spearheaded by the University of Saint Thomas, which preceded the filing of the lawsuit against Father Keating. According to the 'Memorandum of Understanding', Father Keating retains his faculties and is not being 'penalized or canonically suspended'. 

Old habits die hard, especially in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. I am not sure that there is any canonical basis for such an agreement, especially given that it predates the initiation of the investigation by more than two weeks. And, the agreement follows too closely the tenor of McDonough's 'agreements' with Charter priests to allow any of us to feel comfortable that the Archdiocese has changed its approach to these matters.  

And what now? The University of Saint Thomas announced Father Keating's resignation from his faculty position in September of 2013. I am not aware of the Archdiocese providing any updates regarding his status, or making any final determination, despite the fact that we know now that their investigation into his conduct was to conclude by April of 2014.

5). Has the Archdiocese properly thanked the University of Saint Thomas?

A careful reading of the 'Memorandum of Understanding' proves what many of us have long known- Father Keating's 'leave' was not the result of the Archdiocese coming to its senses, but instead due to relentless pressure by the University of Saint Thomas following one of its official's review of Keating's clergy personnel file. 

The University could have thrown the Archdiocese under the bus, and may still. Those University officials who were not informed of the allegations (basically, everyone but the former Director of the Center for Catholic Studies, Don Briel), have plenty to be angry about. Moreover, the few positive actions resulting from this scandal have almost all been taken by the University (starting with its investigation). 

So, has the Archdiocese properly recognized the University's role in this matter, and has it looked at how it could benefit from leadership like that shown by the University's current President, the first layperson, and lay woman, to hold that role in the University's long history? 

6). What is the status of the POMS Monitoring Program?


In my affidavit, I described the Archdiocese's monitoring program during my tenure as Chancellor as 'pitifully inadequate' (pp. 16, 41, 42, 43, 44, 46, 47, 48). However, it would appear that such a description is generous given the way the program has operated since my resignation in April of 2013. For, the case notes (posted below) from the POMS administrator for the period from July of 2013 until March of 2014, while Keating was 'on leave' and being investigated by multiple organizations, show that the Archdiocese and its 'state of the art' monitoring program was unable to determine where Keating was living, or even whether he was in the country. 

This should be a cause of grave concern to anyone interested in the welfare of children and vulnerable adults in the territory of the Archdiocese and, if the reports are true, throughout the world.

7). What is going on at the Saint Paul Seminary? 

Disclosures like the one that occurred today are generally devalued by officials in the Catholic Church as reflecting past events, and the 'old way' in which things were done. They are quick to claim that the issues identified in the files have all been resolved, and are no longer a matter for concern.

Never has that been less true than in the case of the release of the file of Father Michael Keating. For, pages of documents in the second part of the file demonstrate that Keating was very involved and influential in the vocational discernment and spiritual formation of many young priests in this Archdiocese and elsewhere. Given the concerns about his conduct and his ministry (identified, ironically, by the Saint Paul Seminary when he was a student) this should be a grave cause of concern for us all. It is entirely possible that these men (who names have been redacted)  
also received counsel and encouragement from good, well-adjusted priests and formation advisors. We should all hope and pray that this is the case. But someone with integrity and independence should also look carefully into the claims of 'vocational turbulence' at the Saint Paul Seminary, especially in light of the allegations that have been made against Archbishop Nienstedt.


 


Comments

Corrine Carvalho
01/13/2015 11:36am

I speak as an individual and not as an employee of UST, but thank you for your continued bravery speaking out for justice. We all want answers to your questions.

Joe Jung
01/15/2015 8:51pm

The Keating file is instructive. It reminds me of something Robert Heinlein said: "Most of these jokers don't even want to use language you and I know--obscurity is usually the refuge of incompetence." When you would not sign off on Father Keating's plans to preside over a wedding in Atlanta, Father McDonough made an end run by using an evasive rationalization.

Apparently, you did not wish to certify that Father Keating had "Never been accused of any act of sexual abuse or sexual misconduct involving a minor." Father McDonough said you did "not know how to make a mental reservation. The question from Atlanta should read `credibly accused`. Every priest in the world has been falsely accused by some delusional person at one time or another."

Many people consider mental reservation to be an esoteric form of lying. By certifying the fitness of Father Keating to the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Father McDonough was using a deceptive form of communication. Convoluted reasoning such as this could explain some of the problems being faced by our diocese.


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    Author

    Jennifer Haselberger is a canon lawyer who served as the Chancellor for Canonical Affairs in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis until April of 2013, when she resigned in protest of the Archdiocese's handling of sexual misconduct by clergy.

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