Priest Accused of Abusing Teen Will Face Trial in Erie
The Proceedings Are Closed to the Public, Because the Trial Will Follow Canon Law

The Derrick [Erie PA]
November 10, 2006

A Catholic priest accused of abusing a teen-age boy more than 20 years ago will go on trial Monday in Erie County, but the proceedings will be closed to the public.

That is because the trial will follow canon law - the legal system for the Catholic Church - instead of U.S. criminal law. Only the verdict will be made known.

The unusual case was detailed Friday in an Erie Times-News story.

Daniel Donohue, 42, has accused Monsignor Charles Kavanaugh of having a relationship with him that involved inappropriate touching. At the time, Donahue said, he was a student at a New York school run by the priest.

Kavanagh, who is 69, was a high-profile priest in the Archdiocese of New York. He was suspended in 2002 after Donohue accused him, and he has denied the charges.

The Vatican granted Kavanagh a trial before a church tribunal, according to the Erie Times-News story, and it is being held in Erie because of publicity in New York.

"The proceedings are kept closed in order to safeguard the dignity and privacy of persons connected to the case and the overall integrity of the process," Monsignor Tom McSweeney, a spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Erie, told the Erie newspaper.

A panel of three canon law judges will preside and will vote on Kavanagh's fate. He could appeal the decision to the Vatican.

If found guilty, Kavanagh could be defrocked.

McSweeney said Erie diocesan officials weren't at liberty to discuss details of the case.

Two of Kavanaugh's supporters told the Erie Times-News that the priest was unable to talk about the case because of the church's secrecy rules.

Donahoue said the Catholic Church's secrecy and denial have ruined as many lives as sexual abuse by clergy. He said no parents would have entrusted a child to a priest, as his did, if they had known about clergy sex abuse.

Donohue and his sister, Patricia Donohue of Pittsburgh, will testify next week. They are two of nine children from an Irish-Catholic family for which the church was central to their lives, according to the Erie newspaper story.


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