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Speaking from Immaculate Conception Parish in Salem, where he resides as a senior priest, Father Keohan shared his experience of being falsely accused of sexual misconduct, being placed on administrative leave and ultimately being returned to active ministry.
"This has not been an easy time," he told The Pilot.
In Jan. 2003, on his birthday, Father Keohan was accused of sexually assaulting a boy from 1981 to 1983 while serving at St. Rose of Lima Parish in Chelsea.
According to Father Keohan, then-Cardinal Bernard Law “gave me the option of voluntarily leaving or continuing” as administrator of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Revere.
"I knew I was innocent," he said, "so I chose to remain in the parish while the charge was investigated."
However, seven months later, when the Archdiocese of Boston adopted its “Zero Tolerance” policy that required placing any priest with an allegation against them on immediate administrative leave, Father Keohan was “taken off duty,” he recalled. He left his parish assignment and went to live with friends.
"I was very disappointed at the fact that the change in policy changed my position," he said.
He added, however, that the parishioners at Our Lady of Lourdes were “a wonderful support for me during this time” and “always believed I was not guilty.”
Despite the hardships, Father Keohan consistently maintained his innocence, even taking a polygraph test to prove that he was wrongly accused.
"Even though that [the polygraph test] is not admissible in court, it still is credible enough to be used by police departments," Father Keohan said.
"And I passed it 100 percent," he added.
“I had overwhelming proof that I was innocent,” he said, noting that he even had “signed affidavits from the siblings of the accuser in my favor.”
According to Father Keohan, he and his lawyer, Philip Moran, “sent all the evidence that this was a false charge” to the archdiocese, hoping that his name could be cleared and the charges dropped.
Eighteen months later, the phone call came.
"On Monday of Holy Week, I was called by Bishop [Richard] Lennon who gave me the good news and invited me to go to the Chrism Mass," Father Keohan said. A few hours later, Archbishop Seán P. O'Malley also called to personally invite Father Keohan to the Chrism Mass.
The Chrism Mass is celebrated in the Archdiocese of Boston on Tuesday of Holy Week. Though the Mass takes its name from the sacramental oils that are blessed during the liturgy for use throughout the year, it is also traditionally an occasion to celebrate priestly fraternity. During the Mass, priests renew their vow of service to God in the priesthood.
Shortly after, Father Keohan was assigned to Salem, where he had served as pastor of St. Mary Parish for nearly 20 years.
"I am very happy that the ordeal is over," he said. "I was a bit disappointed that it took a year and a half for the charges to be dropped, but I am more thankful that it is over."
"I'm not angry about what has happened," he continued. "I'd just as soon just forget about this whole ordeal."