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Church pays $500,000 in alleged sex abuses

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Church pays $500,000 in alleged sex abuses

Dennis J. Opatrny, Elizabeth Fernandez and Stephanie Salter, OF THE EXAMINER STAFF

Thursday, August 10, 1995

(08-10) 04:00 PDT SAN FRANCISCO -- The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco will pay more than $500,000 to two men allegedly molested when they were children by priests. One of the priests is Monsignor Patrick O'Shea, formerly pastor at St. Cecilia's church in the Parkside District, said attorneys for the men and the church.

The payout is a partial settlement of a major lawsuit filed last year against the church, its officials - including Archbishop John R. Quinn - and three priests who have been accused of sexually abusing 11 then-youngsters, some more than 20 years ago.

The agreement means the church settled at least part of the lawsuit out of court rather than risk going to trial, where it likely faced even greater financial exposure and internal disclosure revealed through evidence, attorney Michael Meadows, the victims' co-counsel, said Wednesday.

Meadows said the archdiocese was anxious to allay fears by churchgoers that it was closing parishes in order to raise money to pay victims of child molestations.

"They're freaked about parishioners being angry that church property is being sold to pay for molest cases," Meadows said.

In a joint statement issued by Quinn and Santa Rosa Bishop Patrick Ziemann, the church expressed its "regret and sorrow for the pain suffered by these individuals, their families and all other affected parties."

"Abuse which occurred in past decades were dealt with in an environment that was not as informed and enlightened on the subject of child sexual abuse as the current environment," Quinn and Ziemann said.

Last week, The Examiner reported that the archdiocese has paid about $300,000 from its own coffers to settle molestation cases over the past two decades and to pay for subsequent counseling costs for the victims.

Church pays $500,000 in alleged sex abuses

Church acknowledges harm<

This week's settlement is costing the archdiocese an additional $75,000 in out-of-pocket expenses, church officials said Wednesday.

O'Shea will pay $1,100, The Examiner was told, and the remainder will be picked by insurance policies.

A year ago, the archdiocese closed nine churches - 20 percent of its churches in San Francisco - saying attendance did not merit keeping them open.

"The diocese by this settlement has acknowledged the reality of clergy abuse and the severity of harm suffered by the victims," said Maya Ramsey, lead counsel for the victims.

The church agreed to pay $450,000 to a 28-year-old Cotati man allegedly molested by Father Austin Peter Keegan, formerly of St. Eugene's parish in the Diocese of Santa Rosa. The man accused Keegan of molesting him for three years, beginning when he was 12 years old.

Meadows said Keegan had been a San Francisco Archdiocese priest who was "on loan to Santa Rosa" at the time the molestations took place in the early 1980s.

"What really happened was that San Francisco saw Santa Rosa as a place to unload a problem priest," Meadows said, referring to persistent allegations by young men that Keegan sexually molested them when he was an archdiocese cleric.

"Church officials, who knew Keegan was a child molester, could have stopped him 20 years ago, if they had been as concerned with the safety of the children as they were with the reputation of the church," said Meadows. "I'd like to think that this settlement reflects a significant change in the church's attitude."

Second victim gets $56,100<

Church officials also agreed to pay $56,100 to a 34-year-old Pittsburg man who accused O'Shea of molesting him in 1969 during a camping trip to Lake Berryessa in Napa County, when the man was


Of the total, $51,000 will be compensation for the act of genital fondling. Another $5,000 is to pay for the victim's psychological counseling, Meadows said.

He said both victims requested their names not be disclosed.

Joseph O'Sullivan, attorney for O'Shea, said his client admitted no illegal behavior in the settlement, but agreed to write a letter of apology to the victim.

Church pays $500,000 in alleged sex abuses

"He was asking millions from O'Shea," O'Sullivan said.

"We got out of it (the litigation) because it's the cheap way out, and my client acknowledges no wrongdoing. Nor was there any statement or deposition in this case to indicate wrongdoing."

The agreement also requires the archdiocese to send letters to every diocese in the United States, warning them of Keegan's predatory nature toward young men.

Keegan fled the country several years ago and now works at an orphanage in Baja California, where he remains out of the reach of California courts.

A letter will be sent to church officials in the Diocese of Tijuana to warn them about him, the victims' attorneys said.

Other accusations pending<

Although the agreement completes the civil proceedings against O'Shea and Keegan, the church must still defend itself against similar accusations made by nine other victims against a third priest, Father Gary Timmons of the Diocese of Santa Rosa.

The nine allege that Timmons sexually molested them at a summer recreation camp in Mendocino County.

O'Shea remains under investigation by the San Francisco district attorney for alleged embezzlement of church funds during the many years he served as a priest in San Francisco.

According to attorneys, O'Shea, 62, says he is destitute, but sources close to the criminal probe say investigators believe he may have sold property he owned and secreted the money.

Last month, 16 criminal counts of child molestation filed against O'Shea by the district attorney were dismissed by a judge because the statute of limitations for prosecution had expired.

Both O'Shea and Keegan, although not formally defrocked, have been stripped of their ability to publicly act as priests.

Timmons has been placed in residential home care at an undisclosed location, according to Ziemann, and is no longer active in church work. <

This article appeared on page A - of the Examiner

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