NY priest removed from clergy after being found guilty of abusing former student

The New York Post/December 18, 2010

The highest-ranking New York priest ever accused of abuse has been bounced from the clergy after a church court found him guilty of sexually abusing a former student, Catholic officials said yesterday.

Monsignor Charles Kavanagh, who was the chief fund-raiser for the Archdiocese of New York, committed two lewd acts toward Daniel Donohue when the victim attended Cathedral Preparatory Seminary in Manhattan between 1978 and 1982, the archdiocese said.

"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 the gentleman who was the victim in this case," Archbishop Timothy Dolan said yesterday.

Donohue accused Kavanagh, 73, of jumping on top of him while the teen was lying on a rectory couch and climbing into his hotel bed, wearing just his underwear, while they attended a pro-life rally in Washington, DC.

He came forward in 2002 after years of trying to repress the horrific memories.

After an initial investigation -- during which Kavanagh was removed from St. Raymond's Church in The Bronx -- the archdiocese proceeded with a canonical trial in 2006 against him.

Donohue, now a 46-year-old married father of four living in Portland, Ore., said at the hearing, "I tried for years not to think of this, not to speak of this, but it never goes away.

"My poor wife has seen my suffering and my screaming in the night."

The three-priest tribunal, which took place in Erie, Pa., heard the evidence against Kavanagh and said he should be defrocked.

Kavanagh, who has not been charged with a crime by civil authorities, appealed the decision, but the church's appellate court upheld the ruling Wednesday.

There is no higher legal body in the church for Kavanagh to turn to, making his dismissal from the priesthood official.

It's a stunning fall from grace for a man who in 2000 organized the funeral for John Cardinal O'Connor.

The decision was blasted by his sister and lawyer, Anne Mandt, who said the church could find him guilty only of "hand holding."

"The archdiocese went to extraordinary lengths to ensure that this good priest would be judged guilty of something, anything," Mandt said.

"He is an innocent man and will never give up his fight for justice," she vowed.

Donohue, who said he was relieved by the outcome, still wished the process was more open.

"Transparency is absolutely vital . . . that is so important to all involved in these situations," he told The Post.

Additional reporting by Bill Sanderson and Dan Mangan

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