FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 17, 2010
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 1963, 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.”