Monsignor Charles Kavanagh defrocked

The long, long case of Monsignor Charles Kavanagh, the once powerful head of fundraising for the Archdiocese of NY, is finally over.

According to a statement just released by the archdiocese, Kavanagh was found guilty of sex abuse by a church court and has been dismissed from the priesthood.

I’m on deadline with a completely unrelated story. So here is the release in full:



A church court empowered by the Vatican has found Charles M. Kavanagh, ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of New York in 1967, guilty of acts of sexual abuse of a minor in the 1970’s, and dismissed him from the priesthood.

A canonical trial requested by Kavanagh and approved by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was conducted in 2004.  That trial, which took place outside the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of New York, found Kavanagh guilty and imposed the most severe penalty possible, dismissal from the clerical state.  Again at Kavanagh’s request, the decision was then reviewed by a church appellate court, also outside the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese.  This appellate court announced this week that it had upheld the lower court’s decision.

This decision of the appellate court cannot be appealed, and concludes a process that began over eight years ago.

Edward Cardinal Egan, then the Archbishop of New York, first learned of the allegation in mid-May 2002 by way of a letter from the accuser, who had already submitted his accusation to the Manhattan District Attorney.  Promptly after learning of the allegation, and after a preliminary investigation was conducted according to the policies of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Archdiocese of New York, Kavanagh’s priestly faculties were removed pending a resolution of the matter.  He was directed not to engage in active ministry or in any way to present himself as a priest.

Between July 2002 and July 2003, the District Attorney’s office, which had been working closely with the Archdiocese on this matter, investigated the allegation and informed Cardinal Egan that in their opinion  the allegation was credible.  At the same time, the independent Archdiocesan Advisory Review Board conducted its own investigation and also concluded that the allegation was credible and recommended to the Cardinal that Kavanagh not be returned to ministry.

As mandated by church law, the case was then referred to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which ordered the aforementioned trial, as requested by Kavanagh.

On December 15, the appellate court communicated its decision to Kavanagh and to the Archbishop of New York, Archbishop Timothy Dolan.  The Archbishop said that, “Although all of this took place before my arrival as Archbishop, I am well aware of the seriousness of the charges involved in this case, and I am grateful for the careful way that it has been handled by my predecessor, Cardinal Egan, and by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.   I would like to take this occasion to renew our apologies to all those who have been harmed by the sin and crime of sexual abuse, and in particular to apologize to the gentleman who was the victim in this case.  It is my prayer that the resolution of this case will bring a sense of peace and consolation to all who have been affected by this tragic situation.”

Mosque controversy the religion story of 2010

The national association of religion journalists, a group I belonged to for many years, has just named the top 10 religion stories of the year.

Can you guess what was number one?

The members of the Religion Newswriters Association chose the “Ground Zero mosque” controversy. I think it’s a reasonable choice. The debate over the proposed Islamic center raised all sorts of questions about Islam’s place in the U.S., almost a decade after 9/11. Obviously, there is a lot of work to be done.

But I don’t get Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the religious figure behind the Islamic center, being voted religion newsmaker of the year. He hardly said a word until the controversy was white hot. He has done a few TV interviews since, but has still stayed largely out of the limelight.

If you’re talking about newsmakers — people who make the news — I would have chosen the vocal opponents of the Islamic center before the reserved imam.

The other top stories?

Number two was faith-based relief efforts after the earthquake in Haiti.

Number three was the Catholic Church’s sex-abuse problems exploding in Ireland and Germany and the pope’s possible role in past decisions made and not made.

Four? Religious voices in the Tea Party movement.

Five: The religious divide over health care reform.

The rest of the top 10: Mainline Protestants continuing to duke it out over sexuality; the recession’s effects on religious life; bullying; Americans’ poor performance on a survey of religious knowledge; and the newly Protestant-free U.S. Supreme Court.

The (Buddhist) Dude abides

So I was cleaning off my desk — a rare event — and came across a couple of interesting things.

First, the fall issue of the Buddhist magazine Tricycle features a cover story on the actor Jeff Bridges.

Somehow it strikes me as amusing that the actor who played The Dude in The Big Lebowski is a practicing Buddist. I have one of those talking keychains, a gift from my wife, that features some of the Dude’s most memorable lines, like “This agression will not stand, man.”

Very Buddhist.

In the magazine’s interview, Bridges is asked whether it irritates him “when people confuse you with the Dude?”

He answers: “Oh God no. There’s a lot of stuff where we don’t match up and a lot where we do. I admire the Dude. He’s very true to himself, whereas I can get my hair shirt on and beat myself with my whips and say, Why can’t you take more interest in others?

Got that?

Also, I got a new paperback version of a book called “What is GOD?” by the philosopher Jacob Needleman. The back cover says: “A leading American philosopher’s personal journey from Godlessness to the experience of God.”

I realized that I have a growing pile of books on my desks about non-belief. But they’re not written from the Angry Atheist point of view.

I have “Between a Church and a Hard Place: One Faith-Free Dad’s Struggle to Understand What It Means to Be Religious (or Not)” by Andrew Park, “Spiritual Atheism” by Steve Antinoff, and others.

Is there some kind of new movement afoot? At least in publishing.

Kanye West and latkes?

Are you ready for some new Hanukkah music?

A vocal group called Six13 that includes two Rockland County natives has released a video that turns three popular songs into Hanukkah anthems.

It’s also tremendously fun to watch.

The video, called “I Like It,” is said to be going viral. I’m not sure what the standard is, but the video has gotten over 61,000 views in a couple of days on YouTube.

Alan Zeitlin, a member of the group who comes from Monsey (and used to work for the Journal News), says this: “It was very cool when Adam Sandler’s Chanukah song came out. But it was definitely time for something new. I think in an age where viral videos have become extremely powerful, it’s a great way to impact people. I think people appreciate this video because the parodies are funny but also musically sound and it’s great to see different people in parts of the city.”

Six13 is a Jewish a cappella group that performs all over, including during the seventh-inning stretch of a Mets game.

Band member Mike Boxer, who arranged the music and wrote most of the lyrics, is from Spring Valley.

The video turns Justin Bieber’s “Baby” into “Dreidel,” Kayne West’s “Heartless” into “Latkes,” and  Enrique Iglesias’ “I Like It” into “I Light It.”

The National Council of Synagogue Youth asked Six13 to come up with some Hanukkah parodies of pop songs. Boy did they deliver.

Check it out:

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Here’s a comment from Boxer: “It wasn’t too tough to come up with new words. These are great songs with great melodies that you can take it all sort of lyrical directions, and when it comes to our heritage, there’s lots to sing about!
I’m definitely happy with the way we came off in the video — after all at the end of the day we are six white Jewish guys doing hip-hop. But what I love best is getting to see the whole city getting down to the music, all races, all ages, all backgrounds. Truly a unifying effort and really embodies the spirit of the holiday season!
Rapping like that was tough, because I’d never really tried anything much like it before. But I took a deep breath and gave it my best shot. Turns out, I got flow.”

Have an (early and easily understood) Happy Hanukkah

If Hanukkah seems to be starting early this year, that’s because it is.

The Jewish “Festival of Lights” begins at sundown today. It’s the earliest start of Hanukkah in eight years.

We all know that Hanukkah is one of the most difficult religious holidays to get a handle on. I’d like to see someone hold a contest for the shortest, most compact, airtight explanation of the holiday.

How’s this:

Long ago, the Maccabees fought for religious freedom and reclaimed the Temple. A lamp burned for eight days with little oil. We remember the Maccabees’ fight and celebrate our own freedoms today with oily latkes and jelly donuts, dreidels and, to mark the eight days, menorahs.

Or something like that.

A pre-Thanksgiving giving of thanks

I mentioned yesterday that I was speaking this morning at the annual Thanksgiving Diversity Breakfast, put on by the Westchester chapter of the American Jewish Committee (with help from the Westchester Jewish Council and Manhattanville College).

They had a nice turnout and a packed program, which I was happy to be part of. This is what it looked like:

Catholic schools in danger: 9 in Westchester, 1 in Putnam

The Archdiocese of NY just released a list of 31 elementary schools that are considered to be “at risk.”

This means that they may well lose their subsidies from the archdiocese and shut down.

Everyone knew this day was coming since Archbishop Dolan said it was. He wants to close schools that can’t survive on their own so that he can strengthen the rest. That’s the goal.

The list includes 9 schools from Westchester (including 3 from Yonkers and 2 from Mount Vernon) and 1 from Putnam. There are no Rockland schools on the list.

Here are the 9:

Saint Ann, Ossining
Saint Anthony of Padua, West Harrison
Christ the King, Yonkers
Saint Bartholomew, Yonkers
Saint Mary, Yonkers
Saint Joseph, Croton Falls
Saint John the Evangelist, Mahopac
Sacred Heart School for the Arts, Mount Vernon
Saints Peter and Paul, Mount Vernon
Holy Name of Jesus, Valhalla

Archbishop Dolan says: “Catholic schools are here to stay, but, it is clear that we need to take a hard look at some of our schools and our resources.”

A night of Jewish learning in White Plains

Twenty seven Westchester rabbis will gather in White Plains on Saturday evening to lead the county’s first-ever County Wide Night of Jewish Learning and Celebration.

The rabbis will each lead two 45-minute workshops covering, among other things, “Jewish thought, text, philosophy, spirituality, sports, culture, life and love.”

That’s a lot of ground.

The whole shindig is being sponsored by the Westchester Jewish Council and the Westchester Board of Rabbis.

Rabbi Joshua Davidson, president of the Board of Rabbis, says: “This will be an extraordinary night of learning. I am delighted to be joining so many wonderful colleagues to share in it.  I hope that people from around the county will participate and enjoy the depth and richness of Jewish study.”

This big shul-in will take place at 7 p.m. at Temple Israel Center of White Plains.

$25 tickets cover a glatt kosher Chinese and sushi buffet dinner.

You can send a check to the Westchester Jewish Council at 701 Westchester Ave., Suite 203E, White Plains, 10604.

There may be tix at the door.

For info, contact the WJC at 914-328-7001 or

Will Dolan see red?

The Catholic blogosphere is buzzing with reports that Pope Benedict will name a new class of cardinals tomorrow morning.

Most folks don’t seem to think that Archbishop Dolan will be among those getting a red hat next month.

Why not?

Cardinal Egan is only 78. He’s eligible to enter a conclave to vote for the next pope until he turns 80. The powers that be may not want two archbishops of NY voting at once.

So Tim may have to wait for the next class.

But we’ll see.

One American, Archbishop Raymond L. Burke, head of the Vatican’s highest court, is considered something of a sure thing to become a cardinal.

A second, Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington D.C., has a shot. His predecessor, retired Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, recently turned 80.