Priest's Accuser, Formerly of Peekskill, Testifies
By Gary Stern
Journal News [New York]
November 18, 2006
Daniel Donohue, a Peekskill native who accused Monsignor Charles Kavanagh of luring him into an inappropriate, sexually charged relationship when Donohue was a seminarian during the late 1970s, testified yesterday before a panel of priests that will decide Kavanagh's fate.
His testimony came on the last day of a closed, weeklong church trial in Erie, Pa., where the case was moved to avoid media attention.
Donohue, now 42 and a father of four, said he refused to sign an oath of secrecy and told the panel of three priests that he opposed the closed nature of the trial.
"I spoke of why I would not give up my voice, my truth," he said by phone. "I told them that this secrecy caused my abuse."
Donohue said that when one of his sisters testified this week and refused to promise confidentiality, she was told that she could be subject to papal discipline.
"They wouldn't tell her what it meant," he said.
Donohue, who now lives on the West Coast, said he was not told when the panel might reach a decision. A statement from the Archdiocese of New York early this year said the panel could remove Kavanagh from the priesthood.
Kavanagh was the chief fundraiser for the archdiocese, an influential figure with the region's most affluent Catholics, when Donohue wrote a letter to the archdiocese in 2002 accusing him of abuse. After a lay panel of the archdiocese reviewed the charges, Cardinal Edward Egan removed Kavanagh from ministry. Kavanagh publicly campaigned for due process - ignoring Egan's directive to stay quiet - until the Vatican decided early this year that the former vicar for development would get a church trial.
Donohue was a student at Cathedral Preparatory Seminary, a high school for prospective seminarians in New York City, from 1978 to 1982. He says that during that time, Kavanagh, who led the school, used his position to develop an emotional relationship with him that involved hand-holding and cuddling. He charges that Kavanagh lay on top of him on a couch and got into bed with him, fully clothed, in a hotel.
Kavanagh could not be reached for comment. He has stopped talking to the press since the trial was scheduled at the request of church authorities. The archdiocese is not commenting on the trial.
Donohue said the panel of priests asked him in detail about each of his charges. He said he testified for almost four hours.
"There were some emotional moments," he said. "No surprise questions. It's always hard to get to some places, but I went everywhere I felt I needed to go. I don't feel like anything was not heard or understood as best as it could be understood."
He did not get to face Kavanagh - or even see him. Witnesses from each side were scheduled so that they would not meet.
Donohue was essentially the star witness for the archdiocese in a trial that reviewed Egan's decision to banish Kavanagh. Donohue said that he sat at one end of a long table, surrounded by the three priests on the panel, a priest who served as notary, a priest who was promoter of justice for the archdiocese and Kavanagh's canon lawyer.
He said he asked each of the three priest judges to talk about the sex-abuse scandal - what they knew and when they knew it - so he could feel at ease.
"They spoke as canon lawyers, as priests, as Christian men," Donohue said. "It was a powerful moment. They later thanked me for that. I found integrity that I needed to find in order to speak."
Donohue said he never asked for the priests' identities beyond their first names.
After the long meeting and an informal gathering with media and others outside the Diocese of Erie, Donohue sounded hoarse and tired. He said he regretted that Kavanagh could not also speak and that the secretive process would probably not provide any public enlightenment.
"Whichever way this goes, whether Kavanagh gets thrown out or whatever, one side will be so hurt because they will never know why," he said.
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