Basilian priest charged with abusing Ottawa student in 1972

By 
  • August 12, 2010
The Basilian Fathers are encouraging any possible victims of sexual abuse by Fr. Kenneth O'Keefe to come forward.

O'Keefe was charged Aug. 11 with one count of indecent assault stemming from his contact with a teenaged boy at St. Pius X High School in Ottawa in 1972. But if there are other victims or other unreported incidents to be dealt with, the Basilians want to hear about them and will work with police and the court system to see justice is done, said Basilian spokesman Fr. Tom
Rosica.

"We are committed to making available financial support for restorative therapy for anyone who has been abused by Fr. O'Keefe or by any other Basilian," said a statement from the religious order.

The Basilians have released a list of O'Keefe's ministerial assignments from 1949 to 2006 to jog memories of possibly aging victims.

The O'Keefe case is the second charge in less than a month against a priest who taught at St. Pius X in the 1970s. Diocesan priest Fr. William Allen, now 80, was charged with three counts of indecent assault in July.

Faced with another 40-year-old case of sexual abuse, the Basilian community is experiencing "excruciating pain," said Rosica.

"It's about humility and it's an opportunity to do penance," Rosica told The Catholic Register.

The Basilian order is also watching the case of Fr. William "Hod" Marshall play out in the press and the courts. Marshall is facing abuse charges in Windsor, Ont. In the Marshall case, the Basilians also encouraged victims to come forward.

"After the whole thing hit the press on May 19 and 20, three more cases came forward — and there could be others," Rosica said. "So we deal with them as they come, and we have to be very wise and very prudent in how we deal with them."

The Basilians' first concern is the victims, Rosica said.

"We have to be about the healing of memories and the correction of anything in our institutional policies that prevents authenticity, that prevents transparency, that prevents systems from being radically changed. We can't be afraid," said Rosica.

Ottawa's Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, S.J., reached out to the students and parents of St. Pius X.

"I want to assure the community of St. Pius X of my pastoral concern and personal support," said Prendergast in a release.

The archdiocese of Ottawa co-operated with police in the investigation into O'Keefe, Prendergast said.

The Basilians have had sexual abuse policies in place since 1990 and were the first Catholic religious order in Canada accredited by Praesidium Inc. in 2008. Praesidium is an American organization that certifies sexual abuse policies and audits practices around child safety for religious institutions and other organizations that care for vulnerable groups.

Accreditation and ongoing audits are part of a general effort by the Congregation of St. Basil to respond appropriately to past abuse cases and limit the possibility for future cases, said Rosica.

"The accreditation though does not guarantee that no more cases will surface. But the accreditation is one more step in the right direction," he said.

In O'Keefe's 60 years with the Basilians he was stationed at 14 different posts between 1950 and his retirement in 2006: Richmond Hill Novitiate from 1949-50; University of St. Michael's College 1950-53 and 1954-55; St. Basil's College 1953-54 and 1956-59; St. Michael's College School 1955-56; St. Joseph's High School (Ottawa) 1959-77; St. Pius X (Ottawa) 1977-80; Assumption College School (Windsor)1980-82; Basilian Fathers of London, Ont., as chaplain 1982-83; Newman Centre University of Toronto 1983-85 and 1992-94; Newman Centre University of Western Ontario 1985-92; and Brescia College, University of Western Ontario 1994-2006.

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