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Esme’s Blog: A Widening Scandal

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS) Esme Murphy
Esme Murphy, a reporter and Sunday morning anchor for WCCO-TV, h...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — What exactly is the standard in the Catholic Church these days? Among the lurid revelations in the past few weeks there is one that I keep coming back to.

It is not the most graphic, but it is one that those at the highest levels of the Archdiocese knew about. In 2006, Father Kevin McDonough, then the Vicar General for the Archdiocese, knew that Father Michael Keating had told another Catholic priest that he had “a passionate encounter” with a 14-year-old Italian girl.

McDonough investigated. Keating told McDonough that the words “passionate encounter” did not mean what they appeared to mean. Both the girl and Keating denied any impropriety. McDonough at the time was investigating another underage girl’s claims against Keating, claims that the Chisago County Attorney’s office declined to prosecute.

McDonough concluded there was insufficient evidence to remove Keating from the priesthood, but put restrictions on Keating when it came to dealing with adolescents and young adults. At the time of the investigation Keating was a professor at the University of St. Thomas, where he lived on campus until last weekend when he took a voluntary leave.

Earlier this month, Father McDonough resigned his position as a board member at the University and Keating’s attorney has said that these allegations were “discredited” six years ago. In criminal law there is the presumption of innocence and guilt must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Is it the criminal standard the Archdiocese has been using in its investigations of priests?

The standard expected of those who minister, teach or counsel, especially to minors, should be greater than the standard that would hold up in a criminal or even civil court. Consider the words “a passionate encounter,” words that Keating does not deny using when describing his dealings with a 14-year-old. There is no possible explanation for a person in position of authority or with ministerial duties to describe an encounter with a child that way, none. The Catholic Church and all who minister must understand that.

The archdiosese announced Saturday evening that retired Archbishop Harry Flynn has resigned from his position as chair of the board of trustees at the University of St. Thomas.

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