In 1981, as the battle between conservatives and liberals in the Jesuits intensified, the order's superior general, Pedro Arrupe, suffered a stroke. The Jesuits nominated the Rev. O'Keefe, an ardent American liberal, to run the order until a successor could be found. O'Keefe had been a senior aide to Arrupe. The pope, in a highly unusual and historic decision, intervened and appointed instead Father Paolo Dezza, who was known as a brilliant scholar and also a traditionalist, as a special pontifical delegate to serve as the Jesuits' interim leader.
In 2004, O'Keefe responded to criticisms from Malachi Martin and stated that Martin had been released from all his priestly vows save the vow of chastity. It is claimed that attacks were mounted on Martin in retaliation for his book The Jesuits, which is hostile to the Jesuit order, of which he had formerly been a member. In the book, he accuses the Jesuits of deviating from their original character and mission by embracing Liberation Theology.
O'Keefe voted for John Kerry in the 2004 American elections. A self-described Democrat and a big fan of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, O’Keefe chose Kerry even though he disagrees with the senator's position on abortion.
- "America Magazine RIP Vincent O'Keefe, SJ". Americamagazine.org. 2012-07-24. Retrieved 2012-12-09.
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