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St. Thomas to launch own investigation of priest

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The University of St. Thomas will launch its own investigation after it was alleged in a lawsuit Monday that a high-profile Catholic studies professor had sexual contact with a 13-year-old girl in the 1990s, the Star Tribune reports.

The school's board of trustees plans to discuss the issue with the school's new president in Wednesday meetings.

A board member told the Star Tribune, “There is not a board member who doesn’t want to get to the bottom of this right away."

Meanwhile, more details are emerging about the allegations against the 57-year-old priest and tenured professor Michael Keating. At the request of the Pioneer Press, the Chisago County sheriff's office released stark details from an investigative file related to the girl's claims. She is now 28 and living in the Twin Cities.

Among the details: The woman alleges that the priest, at the time in his 40s, would cuddle with her as they read, and that he would inappropriately touch her. The woman said that Keating had put his fingers in her mouth, and once, while the two were clothed, he pulled her on top of him and his genitals were pressed against her, reports WCCO, which also obtained the 68-page report.

The woman told MPR News that her family reported the abuse to Archbishop Harry Flynn in 2006, but he was not removed from ministry.

The Star Tribune and Pioneer Press also report that allegations of an encounter with a second woman in Italy have surfaced. Keating told a fellow priest in 2006 that a teenage Italian girl had "seduced" him, the Pioneer Press reports.

St. Thomas announced Sunday night that Keating had taken a leave of absence, and the Pioneer Press reported he was no longer living on campus. He has not responded to media requests for comment.

St. Thomas President Julie Sullivan, in an email message to faculty, parents and students, said that the university would pursue “whatever inquiries we determine appropriate,” the Star Tribune reported.

Students and faculty gathered Tuesday on campus for a closed-door discussion of the issue, KSTP reported. "It's been really enlightening to see the Church go on even with these problems," one sophomore told KSTP.

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