Ex-priest strikes back, sues his accuser

He was laicized, but that doesn’t mean he’s been silenced.

Details, from the New York Daily News:

A once-prominent Bronx priest who was defrocked after a church tribunal found him guilty of sexually abusing a teen is suing his accuser for defamation.

Charles Kavanagh, who was once in charge of the archdiocese’s fund-raising arm, claimed in a federal suit filed Tuesday that he’s innocent.

Kavanagh, 73, was dismissed from the clergy after former seminary student Daniel Donohue said the priest took him to a Right to Life rally in Washington and molested him in a motel room.

“When he made this accusation in writing, Donohue knew it was false and he made it with malice,” Kavanagh says in the lawsuit.

“Any reasonable person would consider a false accusation of such conduct against a holy priest to be outrageous and highly offensive.”

Donohue, now 46, received a settlement from the New York Archidiocese, the lawsuit says.

The priest’s filing includes an affidavit from the former dean of Cathedral Preparatory Seminary, saying students weren’t allowed to go to the Right to Life rallies.

It also includes affidavits from two former students saying they were never taken to the rallies and didn’t know anyone who was.

And it notes minor inconsistencies in Donohue’s story, such as the time of day that the 1973 abuse allegedly happened.

There’s more at the link.

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24 responses to “Ex-priest strikes back, sues his accuser”

  1. Msgr. Charles Kavanagh was removed from the priesthood after an eight-year church review of sexual abuse accusations against him, the archdiocese announced.

    This is not a simple he said – he said. But a defrocking after a long investigation by the Church itself.

    “The monsignor contested an archdiocesan review board’s finding of guilt in 2003, then asked the Vatican to authorize a formal trial by a tribunal of priests from another diocese. When that body also found him guilty, he sought an appeal from a second tribunal. The second tribunal concluded its review, ruling that Monsignor Kavanagh should be defrocked, said Joseph Zwilling, the spokesman for the New York archdiocese.”

    “Nineteen priests in the archdiocese have been discharged from the priesthood since 2002.”

    Now, the former priest is just re-victimizing his prey.

    Also, the victim in this case states there are other cases of abuse from the same seminary working their way through the process.

    “I have classmates who are going through similar processes. I just hope it doesn’t take eight years for them, too.” – Daniel Donohue

  2. The New York civil statute of limitations for slander and libel is only one year. This law suit is likely to be thrown out very quickly.

    I don’t want to start a tangential discussion in the comments but I disclose when I comment on Roman Catholic sites that I have left for the Episcopal Church.

    [Thank you, Eugene. You’ve mentioned that before. I don’t see how that’s germane to this topic. Dcn. G]

  3. 1) Kavanagh’s sister and lawyer, Anne Mandt, said the former priest maintains his innocence.

    “The archdiocese went to extraordinary lengths to ensure that this good priest would be judged guilty of something,” Mandt said in a statement.

    She said the archdiocese never gave Kavanagh due process and refused to reveal the evidence against him.

    2) 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.

  4. I agree my denomination is irrelevant to the topic. I mention it only for full disclosure,

  5. Eugene: “The New York civil statute of limitations for slander and libel is only one year. This law suit is likely to be thrown out very quickly.”

    Maybe not, if the accusation was repeated within the last year.

  6. This is what happens when the Church chooses to protect those accused of child abuse from the courts. Had he been tried in court and found guilty this case would never have been filed. As it is his guilt is not a matter of law, but a matter of church administrative procedure. Before the law he remains innocent.

    I fear that this case will not only go forward but will be judged in his favor. If it is then we need to look for a run on the courts as other such former clerics seek their day in court.

    Meanwhile, the Church continues to drag its heels with regards to cooperation with law enforcement.


    And the victims continue to be abused.

  7. “If it is then we need to look for a run on the courts as other such former clerics seek their day in court.”

    And what’s wrong with that if the priest is innocent?

  8. ds0490, I think you are quite naive to think that anyone in the church hierarchy is motivated by a desire to protect priests from anything. They’ve got just as much concern for the accused as for the victims — namely none, zero, zippo. If their OWN interests just happen to coincide with the accused in a particular circumstance, then they will go with their own interests irregardless of any possibility that they are aiding and abetting an evil pervert. Then, if in some other circumstances it’s in their interests to throw the accused to the wolves, it won’t matter to them at all whether or not the accusations are true or false.

    They have never been either for or against either accusers or accused. Only for themselves, and who that works out for depends on circumstances.

    Kavanagh is most assuredly guilty of the only crimes that matter to the heirarchy — making them look bad and causing them trouble. Whether he is guilty or innocent of sexual abuse is of no interest to them at all.

  9. cathy,
    What makes you think the hierarchy doesn’t care about the abused or abusers? Do you have inside info? Such a generalization doesn’t help matters at all. Not to mention it lacks any sign of charity.

  10. “What makes you think the hierarchy doesn’t care about the abused or abusers?”

    By their works shall you know them…

  11. This is interesting. Several posters with zero access to any of the relevant facts of the case are making assumptions about the merits of this former priest’s law suit. This is nonsense on stilts. It should be obvious that significant numbers of the accused clerics are likely innocent. We can assume this based on the fact that in the US criminal justice system, organizations like the “Innocence Project”( started by Law Professors at Yeshiva University) have estimated about 1-2 % of the folks in US Prisons are falsely convicted. Almost 300 of these cases have been overturned by DNA testing. This occurs not withstanding a system in which there are standards of due process and defendant rights. Similarly there have been many high profile “abuse cases” not necessarily involving Priests, which have turned out to be false, such as the case of the Amirault’s widely reported by Dorothy Rabinowitz. Given these facts, it seems plausible that some accusations of priest misconduct would be false. It seems even more plausible when one considers that the current environment is such that plaintiffs can get rich suing Catholic dioceses, and the media by and large detest the Church and would like to see it wiped out, so will relish each and every claim. So clearly the incentive for making a false claim is very high. The Bishops themselves are unwilling to ever defend any priest lest they be called “insensitive” or victimizing the victims.. ( so the risk of making such a claim is very low, the chance of being exposed or even scrutinized seems almost nil. )It seems almost certain that a subset of the cases that were not tried but simply settled or investigated are cases in which the Priest is getting railroaded. This does not diminish the scandalous incompetence and even at times malfeasance of Bishops who failed to deal with the legitimate cases of abuse, nor does it minimize the evil of the real cases of abuse. Still if your are not a fanatic, it seems reasonable to assume some ( not all, maybe not even most, but SOME of the Priests are innocent and in fact deserve their day in court.

  12. I think that Cathy F is on to something. Most of the bishops I have seen in the 35 years I have been a Catholic were obviously chosen for their managerial skills, rather than for spiritual leadership or personal holiness. They are more like businessmen than shepherds. Maybe truly pastoral and holy bishops exist out there somewhere, but I haven’t seen them myself.

  13. I would think that the innocent party in this matter would be more than happy to submit to a lie detector test. Does anyone do that anymore?

  14. “It should be obvious that significant numbers of the accused clerics are likely innocent.” – mrd meet Denial… Denial meet mrd. Despite voluminous convictions of priests in state and local criminal courts and years long investigations by the Church, they are all innocent? I am starting to wonder if their are those who want to keep the pedophilia in the church alive.

  15. George, if you want to convince people that mrd said all when in fact mrd said “significant numbers”, you really shouldn’t have quoted mrd saying “significant numbers” right there a few lines above. Of course if you merely wanted to convince us that you are not smart enough to understand the words that you quoted, well then you are far along the way on accomplishing that.

    Those of you who have such a touchingly naive belief that conviction means guilt are probably beyond help. Those of us who live in IL got to watch prosecutors try 2 men in a capital murder case over and over because the men kept getting new trials on appeal. It came out in the middle of the fourth trial that the prosecutors had known beyond any shadow of a doubt the the men were innocent since between the first and second trials. But you admirers of the “law and order” prosecutors don’t have a problem with government officials conspiring to commit cold-blooded premeditated murder in your name with your money. I’m pretty sure that the kind of prosecutor willing to conspire to commit murder is going to be willing to railroad an innocent priest without even a second thought.

  16. Let me say up front that I have known, loved, and trusted Monsignor Kavanagh for nearly 20 years. I deeply appreciate the people who have actually been keeping an open mind and considering the facts of THIS case. You are right, Mary, with regard to the lie dectector tests. Monsignor Kavanagh has taken 2 tests and passed. His accusor has taken none and has changed his story repeatedly. And George, I do understand your anger. Pedophiles make us all angry. Pedophile priests make us seethe. But, in all honesty, is there no possibility in your mind that any of the accused are innocent? Does it seem reasonable to you that a man is called a “molester” or a “rapist” when he is accused of no sexual act or anything that can be clearly construed as sexual? (The accuser in this case has confirmed over and over again that there was no genital touching/contact.) Is it fair that one accusation causes a man–any man, let alone one who has helped so many–to lose a 47-year career, his pension, his healthcare, his housing, his good name, and his ability to continue his mission in life?

  17. Not sure if this is the same priest from my old parish, St. Teresa of Avila(Sterling Pl., Bklyn, NY) but if it is…..I worked in the Rectory every Sunday and was an alter boy during his tenure. Father Kav, as we called him was a good man and great spiritual leader. I refuse to believe the stories of one man(although “witnesses” allegedly came forward) over the body of work of a priest I worked very closely with. Never a touch or statement ever happened to me or the others from this man. I believe that he is innocent and only GOD can judge him.

    [Leo…it’s doubtful he’s the same man, since this priest is affiliated with the Archdiocese of New York, not the Diocese of Brooklyn. Dcn. G.]

  18. Not to put too fine a point on it, but George if you read the post I specifically said that I did not claim all or even most priests were innocent only that some probably were. I wont reiterate the reasons I think this is likely, as they are outlined in the original post. Suffice it to say common sense dictates this, after all we let convicted criminals appeal thier convictions, this presumes some of them will be wrongfully convicted.

    It is deranged to claim that anyone wants to keep abuse alive in the Church. It makes as much sense as saying those who want defendants accused of murder to have procedural and due process rights as being pro murder. What is worth keeping alive is the idea that an accused is innocent until proven guilty and is entitled to some degree of due process. Careful before you dispense with this, someday you may be the one falsely accused of something and you may value a society in which the rights of the accused are protected.

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