New Developments in Church Sex Abuse Investigations

Updated: 10/18/2013 7:29 AM By: Stephen Tellier

The storm swirling around the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis continues to gather strength.

There were two big developments on Thursday. Affectionate emails surfaced that a young girl said she got from an older man studying to be a priest. She's now suing him for sexual abuse. Also, police went public in their search for any potential victims of abuse by clergy.

The St. Paul Police Department's plea to come forward was not prompted by the emails. They're working an unrelated case, but both do involve priests, and some fear there may soon be more disturbing cases of misconduct to investigate.

Just days ago, Rev. Michael Keating was hit with a lawsuit, accused of sexually abusing a teenage girl more than a decade ago. On Thursday, the attorney who filed that lawsuit released more than 50 pages of emails he said were all sent from Keating to his client.

"The emails reflect the perverse kind of nature of the romantic relationship this adult, then a priest seminarian, had with her as a child," said Jeff Anderson, the attorney who filed the lawsuit.

The vast majority of the emails are simply friendly, ranging from recipes to religious counseling. Anderson admitted they contain nothing criminal.

But Keating begins a few with, "Dear sweetheart." Other excerpts include, "OK, my almost fifteen year old young and pretty friend," "I like you enough to make up for at least, say, 10 or 20 kids who don't, with some left over," "Remember how deeply lovable and loved you are... a kiss and a hug." And some end with, "Love you lots and lots," and, "All my love and even a little bit more." 

"She had no way of knowing that it wasn't love. It was perversity and abuse of power that he had over her," Anderson said.

Meanwhile, St. Paul Police have reopened an investigation into possible child porn once found on another priest's computer. On Thursday, investigators went public, asking other possible victims of clergy abuse to come forward.

Police wouldn't say what prompted their plea, only saying it was based on current and previous investigations.

"They can feel safe coming to us and telling their story, and their names are protected," said Cmdr. Mary Nash, with the St. Paul Police Department.

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis released the following statement: 

"We join in solidarity with the St. Paul Police Department, and all civil authorities, in continuing to encourage anyone who suspects abuse of a minor or vulnerable adult within Church ministry-or any setting including the home or school-to first contact law enforcement. Any act of abuse against a minor or vulnerable adult is reprehensible and morally repugnant and we will not tolerate it.

"Since 2002 we have implemented a long list of policy and procedural reforms to clarify guidelines and strengthen enforcement. Some of the actions we have taken include completing more than 3,000 adult safe environment training sessions for approximately 70,000 adults; conducting 105,000 background checks on clergy, staff and volunteers; and providing over 100,000 children with age-appropriate lessons to help keep them safe.

"As a further demonstration of our commitment to handling these matters aggressively and consistently, an independent, lay task force has been formed and they will conduct a full review of our policies and practices. Their findings will be made public when final.

"We are deeply sorry for any harm that has come from clergy misconduct. Eliminating any form of abuse is the highest priority for the Archdiocese. Our record is not perfect, but we have made great progress, and we are determined to do whatever is necessary to eliminate this problem."

We also reached out to Keating's attorney on Thursday night, but have not yet heard back.

The Chisago County Sheriff's Department, as well as the Archdiocese, did look into the Keating case several years ago. No charges were ever filed.

Click here to read the transcript the video testimony. WARNING: It includes graphic content.