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New York priest defrocked for child sex abuse

By Megan Miller, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Monsignor Charles Kavanagh was first accused in 2002
  • A church appellate court upheld a lower court's decision this week
  • Archdiocese apologizes to victim

New York (CNN) -- A high-ranking New York priest has been found guilty by a church tribunal of sexually abusing a minor in the 1970s, according to a statement obtained Saturday from the Catholic Archdiocese of New York.

Monsignor Charles M. Kavanagh was dismissed from the priesthood following the decision Wednesday by the tribunal, which was acting on authority from the Vatican.

The accuser, a former seminary student of Kavanagh's, brought the case to the Manhattan district attorney in 2002. He then wrote to Edward Cardinal Egan, the former Archbishop of New York, informing him of his claim, according to the Office of Communications for the Archdiocese.

Between July 2002 and July 2003 the district attorney's office worked closely with the Archdiocese and found the allegations to be credible. Following an initial investigation that was conducted under the policies of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Archdiocese of New York, Kavanagh's priestly faculties were removed, according to Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the New York diocese. Kavanagh was instructed not to engage in any active ministry or even appear to be a priest.

Kavanagh requested a canonical trial as approved by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, according to Zwilling.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith ordered the trial, which was conducted outside the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of New York in 2004, Zwilling said. The trial found Kavanagh guilty and dismissed him from the clerical state.

Kavanagh requested the decision be reviewed by a church appellate court, also outside the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of New York. The appellate court upheld the lower court's decision on Wednesday, Zwilling said.

In a phone interview Saturday, accuser Daniel Donohue, who was a teenager when the abuse occurred, criticized the judicial process.

"This was an eight-year process with not a lot of transparency," he said. "The judicial system under the Vatican is not an open system, unlike our judicial system. Nobody has access to the testimony. You're sitting on the outside doing this difficult thing and in the situation under that system, only the clerics and the priests have rights. In my case, this was the Archdiocese of New York Vs. Kavanaugh, not Donohue vs. Kavanagh."

Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan apologized to Donohue in a statement.

"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," he said.

The decision of the appellate court cannot be appealed, bringing a definitive conclusion to the eight-year process of appeals.