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!

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:

*****

STATEMENT CONCERNING CHARLES M. KAVANAGH

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.”

Msgr. Kavanagh writes he was charged with ‘grooming’

I don’t know how many times I wrote about the case of Monsignor Charles Kavanagh.

A lot.

I still get emails every now and then asking what happened to the guy. Well, I now have a small update.

Going back a bit, Kavanagh was the chief fundraiser for the Archdiocese of NY and a very visible and well-known priest in Westchester and all around. Then he got removed from ministry in 2002 after a former Peeskill resident named Daniel Donohue charged that Kavanagh had an improper, sexually charged relationship with him three decades before at a high school seminary.

He didn’t say there had been sexual contact, but that Kavanagh had manipulated him into a strange and inappropriate relationship. Donohue did say that Kavanagh once got into a bed with him on a trip wearing only underwear.

This was supposed to have happened while Donohue was a student at Cathedral Preparatory Seminary during the late 70s/early 80s and Kavanagh was the head of the place.

Kavanagh has maintained his innocence as his case has…languished. That’s him at a birthday party in Harrison in 2005.

Little happened before a church trial was held in 2006. No result was ever announced.

Both Kavanagh and Donohue have told me in the past about their extreme frustration over not being able to get (their version of) justice or even any information about what might happen.

In 2008, I wrote that Donohue, who now lives on the West Coast, believed a decision had been made, but no one would tell him what it was.

In 2009, Archdiocese Dolan, recently arrived, told me he would look into Kavanagh’s case.

Now Kavanagh has sent a letter to his supporters updating things from his point of view. A copy of the letter, dated July 4, was sent to me by one of the recipients.

Here’s the key part:

*****

Although I have never had sexual contact with anyone, I am now being charged with “grooming.” The fact that, thirty years ago, I took a student to ballgames, drove him home from school, helped him with tuition is a crime because, supposedly, those kindnesses were “preparatory acts” aimed at sexual exploitation.

*****

So some party in the church — A jury of priests? A Vatican tribunal? The CDF? — has concluded that Kavanagh was guilty of “grooming” Donohue for exploitation. But Kavanagh apparently has not given up. He also writes:

*****

Needless to say I am protesting the charge and hope to prevail soon. I have to keep on trusting that the Church will treat me with the respect and fairness I know I deserve after 47 years of service.