Family Charges That O'Connor Was Aware of Allegations Years Ago

Associated Press
May 31, 2002

New York - The family of a man who has alleged he was abused by a Bronx priest said the late Cardinal John O'Connor knew of the allegations more than a decade ago, according to a published report.

According to a report Friday in The New York Times, Patricia Donohue-White said O'Connor was aware of her brother's allegations against the Rev. Monsignor Charles Kavanagh at least 15 years ago. Cardinal O'Connor died in 2000.

Kavanagh, who oversaw the Archdiocese of New York's fund-raising efforts, was removed from active duty last Friday after an allegation of an "improper relationship with a minor," according to archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling.

Zwilling did not discuss details of the accusations, but said the archdiocese learned of the allegations from the accuser, who had previously notified the Manhattan District Attorney's office.

Donohue-White's brother, Daniel Donohue, has alleged that Kavanagh molested him at the Cathedral Preparatory Seminary, where Kavanagh was rector and Donohue was a student as a teen-ager.

Speaking through intermediaries, Kavanagh has denied the charges, and other former students at the seminary have come forward in support of him.

Zwilling said there was nothing in the records to indicate that officials knew about the relationship until two weeks ago, when Donohue, 37, filed a report with the archdiocese.

Donohue-White, who is a professor of theology at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, told The Times that O'Connor expressed concern about the allegations at a meeting in the fall of 1986 or 1987.

"He wanted to assure me that the archdiocese was doing something about it," she said. Donohue-White said O'Connor told her Kavanagh would no longer be rector at the seminary. Kavanagh left his job there in 1985.

"At the time I appreciated Cardinal O'Connor's concern, and I thought he was really trying to do something," Donohue-White told The Times. "But now, I wonder what was done, and what was therefore not done."

Daniel Donohue's father, John Donohue, said that other church officials had expressed concern over the allegations. He said he told one monsignor about the contents of a letter Kavanagh wrote to him and his wife.

"What comes out of that letter was he was professing this love for Daniel, more a physical love, and he did make references in there to touching incidents, which he regretted," John Donohue told The Times. "It was a love letter."

Donohue said other church officials knew of the allegations, including Msgr. Michael Wren, the leader of a religious studies program that he and his wife attended, and the Rev. Patrick Sheridan, who is now a bishop.

Kavanagh had supervised the archdiocese's fundraising for eight years.


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