Defrocked Kavanagh calls self ‘…a priest forever.’

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that the strange, eight-year case of Monsignor Charles Kavanagh had come to an end.

A Roman Catholic Church court defrocked Kavanagh, who had once been among the most visible and influential priests in the Archdiocese of NY.

Kavanagh had been accused by a former seminarian named Daniel Donohue, who grew up in Peekskill, of manipulating him into a romantic relationship with sexual overtones during the late 1970s. At the time, Kavanagh had been head of the seminary where Donohue was studying.

Donohue first wrote to the archdiocese in 2002 after — he once told me — he started reading about the sex-abuse crisis that erupted that year. At that time, Kavanagh was the chief fundraiser for the archdiocese (that’s him on the right during happier times for him.

I won’t reconstruct everything that happened since then, but the case lingered for eight years. Everyone involved complained about a lack of justice.

People disagreed vehemently about it. I heard from many Kavanagh supporters and others who thought that Kavanagh did Donohue wrong.

There was a lot of debate — and still is — about the nature of the allegations. Donohue essentially accused Kavanagh of using his position to manipulate him into a boyfriend-ish relationship. He said that Kavanagh once got into bed with him wearing only underwear.

Through the years, Kavanagh has dismissed the charges — and the church’s investigative process — in very public ways, even wearing his clerical collar after Cardinal Egan told him not to. He has periodically sent letters about his case to his many friends and supporters.

Kavanagh, 73, has just sent out another one. A bunch of people have forwarded it to me.

It begins:


I hope you had a blessed Christmas. I celebrated my 47th Anniversary of Ordination on December 18th and on the evening before that, the Archdiocese announced that I had been found guilty of a crime.

Words cannot describe how I feel. In almost fifty years, working with thousands of young people, I have never sexually abused anyone. No one has ever claimed that I sexually touched them and yet the Church has decided that all the times I was kind, (helping with tuition,driving a student home, buying a birthday gift, taking someone to a ballgame,) was “grooming” and that gestures like “hugging” and “holding hands” were crimes deserving the most severe penalty. I have been found guilty of the crime of “holding hands on the lap” which the Church has decided is a serious sin against the 6th commandment because it is considered physical contact with parts of the body which are
considered indecent.”

I cannot tell you how unjust this decision is and how I will never stop my fight to clear my name. I am so proud of my years of service and have been silent all these years hoping that I would be treated fairly.


Kavanagh writes that after he was accused, he became “damaged goods” and that he was denied due process because the church wanted to cover up its own mistakes.

He also quotes what he says is a letter to him from Donohue, circa 1983, in which the writer speaks of Kavanagh as a great friend and mentor.

Summing up the eight-year case, Kavanagh writes:


Any “case” which takes over eight years to decide cannot be fair. Any process which is so secret that one cannot talk publicly, or is not allowed to see evidence beforehand, or cross examine witnesses, cannot be fair. How can one defend himself against false statements and fabricated evidence when he is sworn to silence? In over forty years of priestly service how does one become a “predator” when there is a single claim of “inappropriate behavior” thirty years old, which involved no contact beyond hugging and holding hands? How can someone be considered a “threat to minors”, when I have worked so long with young people without even a hint of suspicion? There is much more to this story, which only compounds my feeling of injustice. Literally thousands of people have stood by me during these eight years. I do not know what the future holds but I  believe that the Lord is working in my life. I will never give up my fight for justice. I pray that people will stand with me in this struggle. I know what it means to give one’s life in service to God’s People, to be a priest forever!

The Irish report: 2,600 pages of madness

In case you’re interested, you can read online the entire report detailing decades of physical and sexual abuse at residential schools in Ireland run by the country’s Catholic religious orders.

The massive report — as in 2,600 pages — is the result of a 9-year investigation of abuse that occurred between the 1930s and 1990s. The abuse took place at 52 “workhouse-style” reform schools and 216 other church institutions for children.

I’ve skimmed parts of the report. It is shocking in its detail.

A section on physical abuse of boys includes:


Witnesses described a daily existence that involved the possibility of being hit by a staff member at any time, for any reason or for no reason. Witnesses also reported being physically abused by co-residents. It is notable that witnesses at times described daily, casual and random physical abuse as normal and wished to report only the times when the frequency and severity of the abuse was such that they were injured or in fear for their lives. Three hundred and forty six (346) of the 403 witnesses reported that they were subjected to frequent physical violence; they described a climate of pervasive fear in the Schools and provided consistent reports of generally not knowing why they were being beaten.

The forms of physical abuse reported by witnesses to the Committee included punching, flogging, assault and bodily attacks, hitting with the hand, kicking, ear pulling, hair pulling, head shaving, beating on the soles of the feet, burning, scalding, stabbing, severe beatings with or without clothes, being made to kneel and stand in fixed positions for lengthy periods, made to sleep outside overnight, being forced into cold or excessively hot baths and showers, hosed down with cold water before being beaten, beaten while hanging from hooks on the wall, being set upon by dogs, being restrained in order to be beaten, physical assaults by more than one person, and having objects thrown at them.


I hesitate to include anything about sexual abuse because it’s too graphic.

The whole thing can only leave one wondering how on earth this could happen (in Ireland, the U.S., anywhere).

There is extensive coverage in the Irish Times. Victims of abuse were not happy over being barred from a press conference for the release of the report.

An editorial in the Irish Independent is headlined: “Our Sinister Legacy of Abuse.”

It includes this:


Among the thousands of accounts are shameful details of boys and girls being raped, flogged, beaten up, burned, scalded, left hungry and cold and tortured in ways that only perverted sadists could invent.

The numbers of abused and the nature of abuses are so vast that trying to grasp the magnitude of the inhumanity is like trying to visualise the length of a light year, or the depth of the Atlantic ocean.

The extent of the cruelty involved can only be grasped when we hear personal accounts of individual incidents and multiply them a thousand fold.

SNAP takes on Dolan — outside St. Patrick’s

If you happen to walking past St. Patrick’s Cathedral this afternoon, you may see some commotion outside.

SNAP — the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests — is holding a news conference outside the cathedral at 1:30 to “warn” New Yorkers about Archbishop Dolan’s alleged failures in Milwaukee.

Clearly, Dolan has gotten a very positive overall welcome in New York. But it hasn’t been unanimous.

SNAP contends that Dolan has, among other things, failed to deal with abusive priests who are part of religious communities in Milwaukee.

According to a release from SNAP:


Based on Dolan’s promises to root out sex offending clergy, many Milwaukee Catholics felt hopeful, just like many New York Catholics feel now. Their initial optimism, SNAP says, was quickly dashed. They argue that Dolan is a ‘master’ of public relations and symbolism, while quietly but effectively continuing to keep archdiocesan cover ups covered up.

One survivor who will speak was sexually assaulted by a priest as child in the Milwaukee archdiocese and has had extensive written and verbal communications with Dolan. The other, raped as a seven year old child by a Milwaukee priest, was chosen by Dolan to serve on the archbishop’s ‘Clergy Sexual Abuse Advisory Board,’ has also met personally with Dolan.

Dolan still dealing with Milwaukee problems

Archbishop Timothy Dolan’s final weeks in Milwaukee may not be easy ones.

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee has reached a new settlement with a victim of a former Milwaukee priest named Siegfried Widera, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

In 2006, the archdiocese reached at $17 million settlement with 10 victims of sexual abuse — nine of whom were molested by Widera.

Widera jumped to his death in May 2003 after he was cornered by police.

Peter Isely, a local spokesman for the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said that the latest case was a surprise and called on Dolan to say how many other settlements may be in the pipeline.

“He never mentioned this case,” Isely told the JS. “How many other secret negotiations of sex abuse cases has Dolan got the archdiocese in?”