The Archdiocese of New York has confirmed that priest who has been accused of the sexual abuse of a minor on two occasions in New York and Virginia, over three decades ago, will never function as a priest again.
Monsignor John O’Keefe (71), formerly of Pearl River, NY and once president of a Westchester County Catholic high school, has been permanently removed from his ministry according to the lawyer for this alleged victim, Mitchell Garabedian. On Sunday afternoon a joint press release was issued by New-Jersey-based nonprofit Road to Recovery Inc, which helps victims of sexual abuse, and Garabedian. The Boston lawyer said he had been informed of this decision in August.
A spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York said they would not make any public statements until the process is completed. This would include bringing the matter to the Holy See, in the Vatican. The process of defrocking a Catholic priest can take years, but a church official confirmed with The Journal News “that O'Keefe will never be permitted to function again as a priest.”
Due to the statute of limitations O’Keefe has not been charged with any crimes. Garabedian said his client was abused between 1981 and 1983 while studying at Cardinal Hayes High School in The Bronx. O’Keefe was a teacher and guidance counselor at the school.
It is alleged that the abuse happened in a Virginia hotel room during a school trip to Washington, DC and at the Irish Christian Brothers’ retreat house in Esopus, NY during a weekend leadership training program.
O’Keefe was named the first president of Archbishop Stepinac High School, in White Plains, NY in 1992 and served as the school's leader for 11 years. He was reassigned to St. Margaret of Antioch, in Pearl River, in 2003.
On Dec 16, 2015 O’Keefe was suspended. It was announced via a letter from New York’s Archbishop, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who called the allegations against O’Keefe “credible.” At the time O’Keefe, who was on medical leave, denied the allegations.
Garabedian, who is based out of Boston, has represented hundreds of victims of sexual assaults. His groundbreaking legal work coupled with great journalism at the Boston Globe was the focus of the Oscar-winning movie “Spotlight.” He told The Journal News, “I’ve requested the archdiocese compensate my client financially so his claim can be validated and he can try to move on and he can try to heal.
“This claim is another example of why the statute of limitations has to be amended so that victims of sexual abuse can try to heal.”
According to Patch.com Garabedian has acted as an attorney for other local victims alleging sexual abuse at the hands of a priest. He represented seven of the 21 victims who settled sex abuse cases in August 2016 with Bergen Catholic High School in Oradell, NJ for $1.9 million. Those victims were abused between 1963 and 1978 by 10 Irish Christian Brothers.
Although O’Keefe has not been charged, Garabedian told the New York Daily News that the public are still at risk because of him. He told the New York Daily News that as the Archdiocese of New York continues to provide O’Keefe with a place to live and has not shared their findings on his case with the public kids are being put at risk.