The years change, the Catholic Church grows and weathers controversies, yet one truth remains in Orange County: John Urell is the most disgusting Catholic in Orange County history. Worse than Serra. Worse than Brownie. Worse than even the king of the county pedophiles, Eleuterio Ramos.
We have written much about how Urell--a favored priest of Orange County Supervisor Bill Campbell and Red County blogger Matt Cunningham--openly protected pedophile priests and berated their victims. After the jump, details on the latest Urell pedo-protecting incident to emerge!
The Diocese of San Diego earlier this week released thousands of pages of personnel files that showed how church leaders protected pedo-priests, just like in the Orange and Los Angeles diocese. The secular saints over at BishopAccountability.orghave posted all the documents
, including the files of one Patrick J. O'Keefe.
In 1994, the Diocese of San Bernardino effectively forced O'Keefe to resign after quietly settling a sexual misconduct lawsuit filed against the priest. They did not laicize him, but explicitly prohibited him from saying Mass or even working as a priest in another diocese. That didn't stop O'Keefe from moving to Orange County and asking Urell for permission to say Mass at a funeral. Urell called the San Bernardino diocese for background info on O'Keefe, per documents in O'Keefe's personnel file; they told him O'Keefe's past.
"I have informed [St. Timothy's in Laguna Niguel, where O'Keefe lived] that Msgr. O'Keefe does not have the faculties of the Diocese of San Bernardino, that he is aware of the fact he has no faculties, and is also aware of the fact that he is not to seek any form of ministry," Urell wrote in a Sept. 30, 1994 letter to San Bernardino diocese chancellor Donald Webber.
But instead of informing parishioners about O'Keefe's pedo-problem, Urell took his side. "I certainly hope that Msgr. O'Keefe will respond more favorably to his status in order that I don't have to put out a general letter to our presbyterate about him," Urell--who at the time was in charge of investigation sex-abuse allegations in the Orange diocese--wrote to Webber. "I'm certain that he would rather keep his privacy than to have such a warning sent out about him."
Niiiice. Better to not embarrass a guy who banged teenage girls instead of alerting the public!
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Two years later, questions began to emerge about O'Keefe's past after he took a job with the St. Anne School, a private Catholic K-8 school not affiliated with the Orange diocese. The perp had ignored San Bernardino's request and celebrated Mass at St. Anne's and even took to wearing priestly garb around the school. Urell wrote another letter to Webber asking for "some sort of official statement regarding his status," adding "there is no pressing need for this." Webber replied by excerpting a quote from the official diocesan letter advising O'Keefe to leave them, with the recommendation he "seek and obtain a job in the secular world," one that in "no way would be associated with priestly duties or ministry."
Despite these warnings, St. Anne's board hired him as director of curriciulum and religious education--and Urell never did issue that public warning about O'Keefe. The school kept him until 2002, when the San Bernardino diocese informed St. Anne's that someone had lodged an abuse allegation against O'Keefe. Chairman and mega-developer Tim Busch told the media at the time that he never received any warnings from anyone about O'Keefe's past--not from San Bernardino, not from Urell. Busch had written a letter to Webber in 1997 inquiring about O'Keefe's status; Webber cryptically replied that their disgraced priest had their permission "to seek work in the business world."
Busch, however, was hardly disgusted by the news O'Keefe had a past. In an April 2002 letter to Orange diocese Michael McKiernan--then the secretary to Orange Bishop Tod D. Brown--he disclosed that the ongoing investigation against O'Keefe "is being maintained in the highest of confidentiality" among the St. Anne community...in the wake of all that is happening it is important to investigate the victims' rights,, but equally important not to taint the reputation of these men who are being indicted in this wave of complaints." The school's board placed O'Keefe on paid administrative leave; O'Keefe fled to Ireland a couple of months later after police filed charges on his past abuse, never to return.
Heckuva job, Brownie!