A Church court empowered by the Vatican has found Charles M. Kavanagh, ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of New York and a former pastor of St. Raymond’s parish in the Bronx, guilty of acts of sexual abuse of a minor in the 1970s, and dismissed him from the priesthood.
Kavanagh, 73, who was ordained in 1963 and later made a monsignor, was well known in the archdiocese, which he served as vicar for development in addition to his duties in the Bronx.
He took his appeal to the Vatican court after he was found guilty at a 2004 canonical trial, which imposed a penalty of dismissal from the priesthood.
The results of the canonical trial, conducted in the Diocese of Erie, Pa., had not previously been made public pending Kavanagh’s appeal to the Church appellate court.
That decision of the appellate court to uphold the lower court’s decision was announced Dec. 17 in the archdiocese. It cannot be appealed, ending a process that began more than eight years ago.
Then-Msgr. Kavanagh was removed from ministry in May 2002 by Cardinal Egan, who was Archbishop of New York at the time, when the cardinal learned of allegations that Kavanagh had an inappropriate and sexually charged relationship with one of his students at Cathedral Preparatory Seminary 20 years earlier. Kavanagh was rector of the seminary at the time.
The accuser, Daniel Donohue, now 46, had made his allegations in letters to Cardinal Egan and to the Manhattan district attorney. Cardinal Egan promptly held an internal investigation and, in accordance with policies of the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Archdiocese of New York, suspended Kavanagh from priestly ministry pending a resolution of the matter.
The case was then turned over to the independent Archdiocesan Advisory Review Board, which investigated it between July 2002 and July 2003, at the same time as the district attorney’s office conducted its own investigation, working closely with the archdiocese.
Both investigations concluded that the allegations were credible, and the archdiocesan review board recommended to Cardinal Egan that Kavanagh not be returned to ministry.
As mandated by Church law, the case was then referred to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which ordered the canonical trial at the request of Kavanagh. Found guilty at that trial, Kavanagh requested the appellate court review.
On Dec. 15, the appellate court notified Kavanagh and Archbishop Dolan of its decision to uphold the guilty finding.
Archbishop Dolan said in a statement, “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.”
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