Chelsea Pastor Barred from Priesthood Sues Church over Child Porn Claims
By Maya Rajamani
May 22, 2017
|Keith Fennessy was the pastor at St. Columba on West 25th Street between 2011 and June 2015.|
A former Chelsea pastor who was barred from the priesthood last year for allegedly possessing child pornography claims in a new lawsuit that the Archdiocese of New York falsely accused him.
Rev. Keith Fennessy filed a lawsuit against the Archdiocese, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling and the archdiocesan newspaper Catholic New York in Manhattan Supreme Court on Friday, claiming they made “defamatory statements" about him last year, the filing shows.
All of the defendants “falsely alleg[ed] that… Fennessy possessed child pornography with at least reckless disregard as to the truth or falsity of the statements,” the suit adds.
Fennessy, a former Community Board 4 member, was the pastor at St. Columba Parish, on West 25th Street between Eighth and Ninth avenues, from August 2011 to June 2015. Before that, he served as pastor at St. Margaret Mary R.C. Church on Staten Island.
Zwilling on Monday said the Archdiocese could not comment on the suit, as it had not yet seen it.
“Please note that our Lay Review Board carefully examined his case and recommended that Fennessy not be allowed to function as a priest,” he wrote in an email. “Cardinal Dolan accepted their recommendation and thus Fennessy will not ever serve as a priest again.”
The review board recommended barring Fennessy from the priesthood in March 2016 after determining material found on the former pastor’s computer violated a church charter. The Manhattan District Attorney’s office declined to charge him with any crimes after investigating the matter.
Fennessy was not officially defrocked, according to the New York Post, which first reported on the suit.
His attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.