Attorneys who have filed a sexual abuse lawsuit against prominent St. Paul priest Michael Keating released documents Monday that show church leaders helped cover up abuse allegations against Keating so he could perform a wedding in another state.
Attorney Jeff Anderson said the documents show top officials in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis lied about sexual abuse accusations against Keating that the church had been dealing with for several years.
Keating was a full-time faculty member at the University of St. Thomas at the time the lawsuit was filed, and he has since resigned from that post.
Anderson also introduced the plaintiff, 28-year-old Marie Mielke, at a Monday afternoon news conference – the first time she has spoken publicly about her claims that Keating abused her when she was 13 years old.
Mielke filed suit against Keating and church officials in October 2013, claiming Keating touched her when she was 13, 14 and 15 years old and he was a seminary student.
She said Keating, who was a close friend of her family, “touched her breasts on several occasions, gave her massages, had her lie on top of him once while they were both wearing clothing.”
Mielke said it wasn't until years later, when she read about sexual abuse in a textbook in college, that she realized the behavior was abusive.
“I felt so ashamed that I wanted to die," she said at the news conference, according to the Star Tribune. Her family contacted the archdiocese about the incidents in 2006. Rev. McDonough investigated Mielke's claims but determined they were unsubstantiated.
According to the documents released Monday, Rev. Keating needed officials in the archdiocese to complete routine paperwork to allow him to preside over the wedding ceremony of his godson in Georgia in 2011, the Star Tribune reports.
One of the items asked local church officials to verify that Keating had “never been accused of any act of sexual abuse or sexual misconduct involving a minor.”
The archdiocese's canon lawyer at the time, Jennifer Haselberger, denied Keating's request because of several accusations that had been made against him, including Mielke's.
A few days later, Keating emailed McDonough asking him to approve the paperwork instead.
McDonough did so, and replied to Keating, "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.”
Anderson said the emails show church leaders did not take seriously the allegations against Rev. Keating, according to the Star Tribune.
Keating was placed on a leave of absence from his position at St. Thomas shortly after the lawsuit was filed, and he officially resigned in September. McDonough and retired Archbishop Harry Flynn both resigned from the St. Thomas board of directors in October 2013.
Haselberger resigned her position with the Archdiocese in April 2013 and went public with her allegations that the archdiocese did not take steps to remove priests suspected of sexual misconduct for decades.
Last fall, Anderson and the archdiocese settled a clergy abuse lawsuit which put in place a series of measures for handling allegations of sexual abuse against priests, in addition to undisclosed financial settlements for victims.