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Ex-Pearl River Priest Removed From Ministry After Sex Abuse Claims

Monsignor John O'Keefe
Monsignor John O'Keefe Photo Credit: WABC-7 screen grab

A Catholic monsignor with ties to churches and schools in Pearl River, White Plains and the Bronx has been permanently removed from his position as a priest because of “credible” claims of abuse, according to a nonprofit that assists sexual abuse victims.

Monsignor John J. O’Keefe, who last year was suspended as pastor of St. Margaret of Antioch Church in Pearl River, is accused of sexually abusing a teenaged boy on at least two occasions in the 1980s while working as a guidance counselor at Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx, according to a statement from Road to Recovery, Inc., a New Jersey-based nonprofit.

One incident is alleged to have occurred in Virginia during a Cardinal Hayes-sponsored trip to Washington, D.C., according to the statement, which said the second incident is alleged to have occurred at the Irish Christian Brothers’ retreat house in Esopus, N.Y. The accuser was said to be between the ages of 15-17 at the time.

O’Keefe was officially suspended in December 2015 by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who called the abuse claim “credible,” according to He had previously been out on medical leave for some time.

Though Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, declined to comment, a church official confirmed that O’Keefe will no longer be allowed to serve as a priest, according to

O’Keefe, who is alleged to have met his accuser for the first time in 1975 while serving as a priest at Christ the King Parish in the Bronx, served as the first president of Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains in 1992.

According to Road to Recovery, the accuser wants the church to investigate the Cardinal’s Leadership Program, which organized the trip during which the abused is alleged; publicly announce that O’Keefe’s career as a priest is over and that he will be continuously monitored; and to confirm that O’Keefe’s full case file is reviewed by officials in Vatican City, according to the statement.

According to, O’Keefe is not being prosecuted criminally for the alleged abuse because any statute of limitations surrounding the crimes would have expired long ago.

The accuser’s attorney, Mitchell Garabedian, believes this case perfectly illustrates why laws surrounding such abuse need to be reviewed.

“The secrecy of the Archdiocese of New York surrounding the sexual abuse of an innocent child by Monsignor John J. O’Keefe is another example of why statute of limitations laws must be changed to help sexual abuse victims heal and to protect innocent children.” Garabedian said in the Road to Recovery statement.

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