St. Thomas professor sued for child abuse resigns

Rev. Michael Keating
The Rev. Michael Keating served as keynote speaker at a parish leadership conference sponsored by the Archdiocese of Boston in Newton, Mass.
George Martell / The Pilot Media Group

The Rev. Michael Keating, who was sued for alleged child sex abuse last year, has resigned from his position as a Catholic Studies professor at the University of St. Thomas, according to a statement published Tuesday on the university's website.

Keating had been on a leave of absence since October 2013.

"After careful consideration of my current situation in light of my employment options and long-standing goals, I have decided to resign my faculty position with the University of St. Thomas effective immediately," Keating wrote in his resignation letter, according to the statement. "I have greatly enjoyed my time at the university and take with me fond memories of the St. Thomas community."

A university spokesman declined to comment.

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The university's statement does not refer to the abuse allegations against Keating. They became public in October 2013, when a woman sued the priest, claiming that he sexually abused her in the late 1990s when she was about 13 to 15 years old. The lawsuit remains unresolved.

Keating, through his attorney, has denied any wrongdoing.

A subsequent MPR News report showed internal archdiocesan documents raised questions about what University of St. Thomas administrators knew about the allegations years earlier. The university then ordered a private investigation of how it handled the abuse complaint.

Documents published in the MPR News report showed the woman's family first reported the allegations to the archdiocese in 2006. The archdiocese's clergy review board investigated and concluded in November 2007 that there was insufficient evidence of child sexual abuse. Nonetheless, it recommended to Flynn that Keating not be allowed to mentor teenagers and young adults.

Related: Clergy scandal needs more healing, less legalese, St. Thomas theologians tell Nienstedt

Documents showed then-vicar general Kevin McDonough had planned to inform Don Briel, the university's director of the Center for Catholic Studies, of the conclusion of the investigation. "To the extent that others in the University have to be notified, we should see to that as well," McDonough wrote in a March 13, 2008 memo to Flynn.

Keating's continued teaching of young adults at the university indicates that the board's recommendation was not followed. It's unclear whether Flynn rejected the recommendation and never passed it along to the university or if university officials knew of the recommendation and disregarded it.

The investigation into the matter has not been completed, a university spokesman said Monday. Briel retired in August.

Although the private University of St. Thomas is not run by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, the two organizations are closely connected.

Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piche said in a statement after Keating's resignation that he is "deeply sorry for the wounds caused to victims and survivors, their families and their friends by clergy sexual abuse."

Piche's statement also said "Father Michael Keating has been on a voluntary leave of absence from the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis since October 2013, which means he is not exercising any priestly ministry."

Last fall, former archbishop Harry Flynn and McDonough, his former deputy, resigned from the university's board of trustees amid reports about their efforts to cover-up clergy sex abuse.