Head of abuse survivor network urges criminal charges for priest - New York News

Head of abuse survivor network urges criminal charges for priests

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

After several high-profile departures at the University of St. Thomas, the president of the Survivor Network of those Abused by Priests says criminal charges need to be filed against key members of the Catholic Church.

Earlier in the week, a 28-year-old woman filed a civil lawsuit against Rev. Michael Keating, claiming that he sexually abused her when she was 13 years old. Keating, a professor at the University of St. Thomas, has since taken a leave of absence from the school.

Yet, he's not the only one walking out the door following the filing. First, Father Kevin McDonough -- vice chair of the Board of Trustees at the university and former vicar general of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis -- suddenly resigned.

On Saturday, the University of St. Thomas sent out a bulletin announcing former Archbishop Harry Flynn had suddenly retired two days earlier. That decision is effective immediately, leaving many to wonder if the institution is trying to distance itself with some damage control.

Both Flynn and McDonough were involved in sex abuse cases for the Archdiocese, and they had been involved with the university for 18 and 22 years respectively; however, it's unclear whether administrators at the school knew that Keating had been investigated by the Archdiocese prior to hiring him in 2006, or that it had recommended that he not be placed in any mentoring position with young adults.

McDonough had been on the board member for the university since 1991, and Flynn had served as board chair since 1995. Both men were involved in investigating Keating after other underage girls leveled allegations against him -- and they also participated in the investigation of Father Jon Shelley, who is currently under investigation over pornography found on his computer.

The school has been mum on whether the board shakeup is connected to the cases, but internal church documents leaked to Minnesota Public Radio show McDonough writing to Flynn in detail about the alleged abuse. The matter was turned over to police, and the documents concluded that Keating's counseling and mentoring activities should be limited with young adults.

Criminal charges were never filed against Keating, and the Jeff Anderson, attorney for the alleged victim who filed the civil suit, said he's not sure why.

"We didn't know exactly how they handled it," he explained.

As state president of the Survivor Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, Bob Schwiderski doesn't mince words when it comes to what he believes should come next.

"I want to see indictments," he said.

Schwiderski, who was abused at age 7, believes that criminal charges against key members of the church will help victims who felt the church didn't listen.

"That would at least give that large group of people some reason to be proud of what they have tried to point out in the past," he contends.

The dual departure holds meaning for Schwiderski too.

"I think the powers that be at St. Thomas said, 'We love you, but you're hurting our name now. There's too many questions,'" he theorized.

Furthermore, he says the moves are long overdue.

"I'm overjoyed with the fact that that kind of pressure is being applied to those folks who, I'm confident, have not done everything they possibly could to prevent sexual abuse of children," Schwiderski told Fox 9 News.

Since both men were involved in investigating Keating 7 years ago and investigating Shelley 9 years ago, Anderson says the resignations may not be the end of their woes if he and his client win their case -- or if St. Paul police investigators seek charges.

"There may be not only resignations. There probably should be serious investigations and indictments of top officials for obstruction of justice," Jeff Anderson said.

At McDonough's St. Paul parish, he told the congregation more questions would be answered in the coming weeks during a private meeting after Sunday's mass -- but Anderson believes the coming weeks will only bring more resignations.

"To me, the real question -- and more important question -- is: When will the full truth be revealed?" Anderson asked.

In a statement, the University of St. Thomas said it has hired an outside lawyer to lead an independent investigation of the allegations against Keating.

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