University of St. Thomas priest takes leave of absence, says archdiocese

Rev. Michael Keating
The Rev. Michael Keating gave a talk in March 2013 as part of the archdiocese's Rediscover speaker series called "Living in Communion with God." The speaker series continues its second round this fall.

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis said today in a memo to all clergy that the Rev. Michael Keating, a popular speaker and professor at the University of St. Thomas, has taken a leave of absence.

Several hours later, attorney Jeff Anderson announced he plans to file a lawsuit against Keating on behalf of a woman who says Keating "engaged in sexual contact" with her when she was a minor. The lawsuit will be filed Monday in Ramsey County, the statement said.

Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piche, who wrote the memo to clergy, characterized the leave as temporary and voluntary. During the leave, "Father Keating will not be exercising public priestly ministry," Piche wrote.

A spokesperson for the archdiocese wouldn't provide the reason for the leave of absence. "At this point I can only confirm that Fr. Keating has taken a voluntary leave of absence," spokesperson Jim Accurso said in an email to MPR News on Sunday. Keating did not return a call for comment.

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The University of St. Thomas also wouldn't provide the reason for the leave. "I can't comment on that," said Doug Hennes, the vice president of university and government relations. "I can only say that he has taken a voluntary, temporary leave of absence."

Hennes said Keating's classes will be assigned to a different professor. He said he doesn't know when Keating will return.

Keating, 57, gave several speeches within recent weeks as part of the archdiocese's "Rediscover" program, which aims to reconnect Catholics with their faith.

He also serves as associate professor of Catholic Studies at the University of St. Thomas, manager of the University's Rome program, and director of the Habiger Institute for Catholic Leadership, according to the university's website.