Priest charged with decades old sex assault

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Former teacher worked at St. Pius X High School

The Ottawa Citizen 
August 11, 2010 10:50 PM
By Meghan Hurley and Andrew Seymour 

 
Kenneth O’Keefe, 79, is charged with indecent assault in connection with an incident in 1972. O’Keefe now lives in Toronto

Photograph by: Christopher Pike, The Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA-For the second time in less than a month, a priest who worked at St. Pius X High School in Ottawa has been charged in connection with a sexual assault dating back almost 40 years.

Kenneth O’Keefe, 79, was charged with indecent assault in connection with an incident in 1972. O’Keefe now lives in Toronto.

Sgt. Jeff Webster, with the Ottawa police sexual assault unit, said a former student came forward in July. Webster said the victim was a teen when he encountered “inappropriate contact” with a priest in 1972.

Wearing a dark windbreaker and blue collared shirt, a ridge of wispy white-hair surrounding his bald head,

O’Keefe leaned on the glass of the prisoner’s box of an Ottawa courtroom during a brief appearance on Wednesday.

At one point O’Keefe waved to a fellow priest who was named his surety before being released on a $2,000 bond.

Following his release from custody, O’Keefe sat with his lawyer and surety in the hallway of the courthouse and started sobbing. “Will they know my name?” he was overheard asking as a throng of media waited nearby.

O’Keefe, who walks with a cane, was then helped into a waiting taxi.

As part of his release conditions, O’Keefe must live in Toronto. He is barred from having any contact with the complainant, may not be alone with children under 16 or visit any parks, playgrounds, pools, schools or daycares where children under 14 could reasonably expect to be present. He is also prohibited from volunteering or holding any position of trust with children under the age of 14.

The next court date for O’Keefe, who is being represented by a Windsor lawyer, is scheduled for Sept. 1.

Fr. Thomas Rosica, a spokesman for Basilian Fathers in Toronto, said he received a call from O’Keefe on Friday afternoon.

Rosica said O’Keefe had been visiting his sister in the Ottawa area when he was arrested. “It’s frustration, sadness, anger, but also compassion,” Rosica said. “Our hearts go out to anybody who has been hurt or victimized like this.”

Rosica said the Basilian Fathers would help victims in the case pay for therapy.

Rosica said he first met O’Keefe 25 years ago and described him as an “extremely kind” man and a poet.

O’Keefe published a book of his poetry in 2005, which he named Divine Whispers.

Rosica said O’Keefe worked as a teacher at several schools in Ontario during his career.

After leaving St. Pius, O’Keefe worked at the Assumption College School in Windsor, the Basilian Fathers of London, the Newman Centre at the University of Toronto and University of Western Ontario and Brescia University College.

O’Keefe retired in 2006 and moved into a retirement residence for Basilian priests in Toronto.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Ottawa issued a statement Wednesday, saying it would continue to co-operate in the police investigation.

“As Fr. O’Keefe is the second priest who taught at St. Pius X High School to be criminally charged in recent weeks, I want to assure the community of St. Pius X of my pastoral concern and personal support,” Archbishop Terrence Prendergast said in a statement. “The teachers, staff, students and families — past and present — have been rightly proud of the quality of Catholic education that has been offered at the school.”

Last month, Rev. William Joseph Allen, 80, was charged with three counts of indecent assault. The charges followed a police investigation into alleged sexual assaults involving two teenage boys dating back 40 years.

The investigation, which began in March, examined a “series of inappropriate acts” between the Roman Catholic priest and two teenagers in Ottawa between 1970 and 1976, police said.

The assaults took place on St. Pius X High School property and church property and in private encounters, police said.

Police won’t say if they believe the two cases are linked in any way.

Anyone with information about the cases is asked to contact the Ottawa Police Service sexual assault/child abuse section at 613-236-1222 extension 5944, or Crime Stoppers at 613-233-8477

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