Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Former MetroWest priest defrocked

Former MetroWest priest defrocked.By Julia Spitz/Daily News staff
MetroWest Daily News
Posted Aug 25, 2010 @ 12:00 AM
Two Catholic priests, including one who served in Framingham and Marlborough parishes in the 1990s, have been voluntarily defrocked, as much as a decade after being accused of sexual abuse.

The Rev. Dennis Keefe, who was parochial vicar at Marlborough's Immaculate Conception Church for three months in 1994, served as a team ministry member at St. Stephen in Framingham before he was placed on administrative leave in March 1995, following an accusation of sexually abusing a minor.

Keefe maintained his innocence, and, according to a 1999 letter by Cardinal Bernard Law, refused archdiocese requests for professional evaluation.

A message left at Keefe's last known residence was not returned yesterday afternoon.

According to published reports, Keefe was accused of assaulting a 15-year-old altar boy. It is not clear if the allegation was made at either local parish.

"That (information is) one thing that's often difficult to procure," said Anne Southwood, chairwoman of the Boston area council of Voice of the Faithful, a group of Catholics pushing for more openness in how the church operates.

Southwood said she is troubled by the 11-year gap between the time Law accepted Keefe's resignation and the Vatican's decision to have him "removed from the clerical state."

"More than 10 years later, people in the diocese are only now being informed through a diocesan press release that he is officially reduced to the lay state," she said.

"It's a long time that could cause heartache for another child," said Southwood. "Parents need to know the status of a priest against whom there is a credible allegation.

"Diocesan children deserve better."

Keefe's "priestly faculties" were withdrawn by Cardinal Law in June 1999, following a letter of resignation from Keefe.

"Father Keefe sought, through a voluntary process, to be removed from the clerical state," the archdiocese announced last week in its press release.

"As a result of the Holy See's decision, he ceases to receive any financial support from the archdiocese and may no longer function in any capacity as a priest, with the exception of offering absolution to the dying."

A second priest, The Rev. Robert P. Beale, was stripped of his role under the same terms, the archdiocese also said on Friday.

Beale, who served as chaplain at the Norfolk County House of Correction, was director of Our Lady's Hall in Milton, a retreat for troubled priests, from 1982 to 2002. He was removed after being accused of molesting a minor in the 1970s. His 1970s postings included St. Ann in West Bridgewater, St. Mary of the Annunciation in Cambridge and St. Luke in Belmont.

The Vatican decision to defrock Keefe and Beale "provides an important opportunity for me to again apologize for the crimes perpetrated by clergy and for the suffering so many members of our community have endured," Cardinal Sean O'Malley said in a statement.

"I remain committed to providing pastoral care and support services to all who have been harmed by the tragic reality of clergy sex abuse," O'Malley said.

Those in need of support services are encouraged to contact the archdiocese's office of pastoral support and outreach, said O'Malley.

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