Law firm releases list of 27 NY priests accused of sexually abusing minors

USA Today Press Connects, New York/March 14, 2018

By Hannah Schwarz

A law firm that specializes in clergy sexual abuse Wednesday released the identities of 27 New York clergy members accused of sexually abusing minors.

The release compiles cases made public throughout the years into a sort of master list that the Diocese of Syracuse has declined to release.

Jeff Anderson & Associates distributed the list, which contains pictures of some of the alleged and convicted abusers, the specific allegations against them and timelines of their assignments. 

Nineteen of the clergy members were from the Diocese of Syracuse, which includes Broome County. Eight were from the Diocese of Ogdensburg.

Seven of the accused clergy from the Syracuse Diocese served in Broome for at least part of their careers. Most notable, perhaps, are Father Robert A. Ours, who in 2014 was convicted of sending child pornography through the mail, and Father Thomas F. Keating, who in the early 2000s was accused of sexually abusing four girls in the 1980s.

Keating was removed from the ministry in 2004, and his case was sent to the Vatican.

Both Ours and Keating worked at Seton Catholic High School, Keating in 1973 and Ours from 1990 to 2011.

Other accused clergy who served in Broome County include: 

  • Father Daniel W. Casey, Jr., who served in Johnson City. Anderson & Associates' list does not make clear whether Casey served at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament or Blessed Sacrament School. Two civil suits in 1992 alleged Casey sexually abused three children in the 1980s.
  • Father Charles H. Eckerman, who served at St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Binghamton in 1985, was defrocked and sentenced to a "life of prayer and penance" in 2014 for allegations of child sexual abuse.
  • Father John F. Harrold was arrested in 1983 for allegedly sending child pornography via mail. Those charges were dropped after he entered a treatment center. Harrold served at St. Catherine in Binghamton from 1979-1980 and was the executive director of the Catholic Charities in Broome County in 1980.
  • Father Bernard Garstka, who served from 1954-1958 at the Church of St. Ann in Binghamton and from 1959-1960 at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Johnson City, was accused of child sexual abuse in two civil suits filed in the early 2000s.
  • Father James C. Hayes, who served at the Church of St. Mary in Binghamton from 1966-1967, was permanently removed from the ministry in 2003  because of allegations of child sexual abuse.
  • Father John M. Zeder served at St. Ambrose Church in Endicott from 1955-1959 and Seton Catholic High School, where he was the principal, from 1960-1967. Zeder was accused in a 2003 civil suit of raping a woman between 1979 and 1981. The Diocese said he had been permanently removed in 2003 because of allegations of child sexual abuse.

Wednesday's release of the list comes a month after the Diocese of Syracuse announced the creation of a clergy sexual abuse settlement program modeled on similar programs downstate. At that announcement, Bishop Robert Cunningham said the Diocese of Syracuse would not be releasing the names of accused clergy because, he said, victims worried that doing so would make it easier to identify the accusers.

But J. Michael Reck, attorney at Jeff Anderson & Associates, shot that idea down on Wednesday.

"Until your abuser's identity is known and acknowledged, many survivors still think they're alone," he said. 

The Diocese of Syracuse is establishing a settlement program for victims of clergy sexual abuse spanning decades, Bishop Robert Joseph Cunningham announced Wednesday. Hannah Schwarz / Staff video

Failure to produce a comprehensive list of accused clergy has also left his firm guessing about whether there are cases that haven't been made public.

The Diocese of Ogdensburg in 2004 said they knew of 23 priests accused of sexual abuse of minors. But they didn't name names, and Anderson & Associates has been able to compile only eight names.

"We know there are additional alleged perpetrators," Reck said, and called on both dioceses to release the names of all clergy accused.

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