Egan Resources – May 2002
By Thomas J. Lueck
A judge in Connecticut ordered yesterday that confidential court records be unsealed in 23 lawsuits involving priests who were accused of sexually abusing children.
The ruling, by Judge Robert F. McWeeny of the State Superior Court in Waterbury, came in a case brought by The New York Times and The Hartford Courant. The judge said in his ruling that "the legitimate interest of the public in these allegations trumps the privacy rights of clerics and their church."
Referring to the lawsuits, the judge wrote, "The allegations recite numerous incidents of sexual abuse of minors over a period of decades, which horrors were covered up by the diocese." He ordered that the court records be opened on May 16, pending further court deliberation over psychiatric reports and some other material in the records that may be withheld.
Despite the court seal, The Courant has already obtained and published some of the court documents, including transcripts of depositions by Cardinal Edward M. Egan, the archbishop of New York, that raised questions about his handling of abuse allegations when he was bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport.
Lawyers for the Bridgeport diocese argued against opening the sealed records, saying that Judge McWeeny had no authority to open files of cases that had not reached trial, and that The Times was going to court only to compete with The Courant.
"We are aware that a decision has been issued, but we have not yet had a chance to review it, so we can not comment on the decision at this time," Joseph McAleer, spokesman for the diocese of Bridgeport, said last night.
A lawyer for The Times, Jonathan M. Albano, said that allegations of abuse by clergymen across the nation had created a pressing public need for disclosure.
Archdiocese's Crucial Fund Drive Turns to the Parishioners
By Daniel J. Wakin
He came to town with a reputation for a golden touch at raising money and for being a tough, cost-cutting administrator.
Cardinal Edward M. Egan has done his part for this year's Cardinal's Appeal, bringing in a professional fund-raiser to run the campaign, imposing a tougher burden on his pastors to bring in donations and personally tapping wealthy Roman Catholics for more than $2 million.
But with only two weeks left in the appeal and nearly half the goal unmet, the Archdiocese of New York is now looking to make up the rest from the men and women in the pews, a place where anger at the Catholic hierarchy is running high over evidence that for decades bishops looked away while child-abusing priests were kept in parishes.
Whether they will come through is a big question for Cardinal Egan, who was seen as the best hope to rescue the archdiocese's sinking finances when he was appointed archbishop in 2000 but who has rarely been credited with having the pastoral touch of his predecessor, Cardinal John O'Connor.
The archdiocese said that it had raised $8.2 million as of Wednesday in its annual fund-raising campaign, which has a goal of $15 million and ends May 26. The archdiocese says it is confident that a mail solicitation of modest givers starting in mid-April and appeals by pastors at Masses this month, the final phase of the campaign, will make up the difference. And officials point out that donations continue after the campaign formally ends.
There are plenty of anecdotal indications that the scandal has dampened the enthusiasm of New York-area donors, but no clear evidence that Catholics in the archdiocese, which includes Manhattan, Staten Island, the Bronx and five counties to the north, are broadly punishing the church.
"Are there some people who are angry?" asked Msgr. Charles M. Kavanagh, the archdiocese's vicar for development. "Yes. Are there people who are voting with their pocketbook? I'm sure there are." But, he said, he was satisfied with the results and expected that the goal would be met. The small-donor solicitation amounted to $8 million or $9 million in past years, he said.
But Cardinal Egan is facing pressure that his predecessor did not. Documents cited in news reports have suggested that the cardinal, while bishop of Bridgeport, knew that some priests had been accused of sexually abusing minors but allowed them to keep working in parishes and did not pass on information about them to law enforcement authorities.
New York City's other diocese, which covers Brooklyn and Queens, has not been immune to the trouble but officials say donations from a similar appeal have not dropped. Bishop Thomas V. Daily of Brooklyn has been criticized for failing to act while he was a top official of the Archdiocese of Boston in the early 1980's, and for allowing a priest accused of serious sex abuse to keep serving.
Despite reports about the bishop's role in Boston and reports of abuse in the Brooklyn diocese, pledges to its Annual Stewardship Appeal since Feb. 3 have reached about $5.9 million, well above the goal of slightly more than $4 million, said Frank DeRosa, a spokesman for the diocese. "We're on track to do as well as we did last year," he said.
In the New York Archdiocese, Michael Elmore, a 48-year-old librarian who attends St. Joseph's Church in Greenwich Village and has always contributed to the Cardinal's Appeal in the past, said he would give to Catholic Relief Services this year instead.
Referring to Cardinal Egan, he said, "His behavior has been reprehensible and I do not trust him, because of the way that he behaved when he was bishop of Bridgeport in covering up scandals."
The Rev. Walter F. Modrys of St. Ignatius Loyola Church on the Upper East Side, who has had a disagreement with the cardinal over renovation at his church, said he did not expect to reach his church's goal of $225,000.
"There is a lot of feeling out there, negative feeling among Catholics, that's making it increasingly hard to raise money for the Cardinal's Appeal," he said. He also blamed a more troubled economy.
And at Holy Name of Mary Church in Croton-on-Hudson, where two pastors have been removed over allegations of sexual impropriety, the new pastor, the Rev. Michael Keane, said he expected his parish would barely raise half of its $66,000 goal. "It's hit home, twice in a row," he said.
To respond to worries that donations may go toward settlements or legal fees to defend sex abuse allegations, officials in the New York Archdiocese have shaped their message. "There was a much greater emphasis on our clear-cut needs and where the money was going to go," Monsignor Kavanagh said.
The New York Archdiocese says all of the $15 million will go to Catholic schools and religious education programs, help for poor parishes, social services and pastoral outreach, St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers, and support for retired priests.
The appeal is critical to the operations of the archdiocese. Last year, Cardinal Egan reorganized the financing system. Before, parishes were assessed a lump sum, which included both general assessments on parish income and a goal for the Cardinal's Appeal. Parishes that reached the goal received a 25 percent rebate, and half of any excess. Now, parishes are assessed 7.5 percent of collections and given a goal for the appeal. There is no rebate, and the parish gets 60 percent of any excess. The effect, pastors say, is to increase the amount of money parishes are asked to raise.
Cardinal Egan brought in an outside fund-raiser, Community Counseling Service, last year to run a new kind of campaign for the Cardinal's Appeal. It focused on the biggest donors in the early months of the campaign, in February and March. Pastors, bishops and Cardinal Egan himself attended cocktail parties, large dinners and intimate meals.
By last Friday, the archdiocese had raised $5.8 million from donors who gave more than $1,000 each. Cardinal Egan was personally involved in appeals to a dozen who pledged more than $100,000 each, including one over $1 million, the monsignor said. None had given more than $50,000 before, he said.
Cardinal Egan, in closing schools and offices, has declared fiscal order to be one of his main goals. Monsignor Kavanagh said the deficit had dropped from about $20 million to about $9 million.
Cardinal Egan's predecessor came from a working-class background and was reluctant to ask for donations. One diocese official recalled a meeting at which Cardinal O'Connor told a donor he did not want his money, just his advice. "Can't you take both?" answered the incredulous donor.
Cardinal Egan, by contrast, moves easily in wealthy circles and feels no embarrassment in asking for money. While he was in Bridgeport, the diocese said, it reached or surpassed its appeal goal every year.
In '97 Testimony, Egan Said Abusive Priest Could Stay
By Dean E. Murphy
Cardinal Edward M. Egan, in testimony videotaped in 1997 in a sexual abuse lawsuit in Connecticut, acknowledged that he had allowed an abusive priest to keep working after the priest "made a good impression" on him, according to the lawyer for the plaintiff.
The abusive priest, the Rev. Laurence Brett, was later suspended by the cardinal, who at the time was the bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport. The suspension came after more allegations of abuse against Father Brett came to light, including some by a Milwaukee man, Frank Martinelli, that resulted in the lawsuit.
Some excerpts from Cardinal Egan's videotaped testimony, which was played during a federal court trial in August 1997, appeared yesterday in The Washington Post and in March in The Hartford Courant. A lawyer for Mr. Martinelli in the lawsuit, Jennifer D. Laviano, yesterday confirmed their accuracy.
The cardinal's remarks about Father Brett are receiving renewed scrutiny because of questions raised in recent months about Cardinal Egan's handling of sexually abusive priests during his 12 years as the bishop of the Bridgeport diocese. He became the archbishop of New York in 2000.
"The sense from his testimony was that these are just accusations and, 'I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt before I just assume they are true,' " Ms. Laviano said. "Unless he is thoroughly convinced otherwise, he is not going to believe a priest did this."
A spokesman for Cardinal Egan expressed irritation yesterday with what he characterized as the "continued rehashing of the past" by the news media.
"This has been going on for two months," said the spokesman, Joseph Zwilling. "Every time someone breathes another part of a deposition, we are not going to respond. This has been gone over in the past in the media. What is important is what we are doing now, not what was done 10, 20 or 30 years ago."
Excerpts from sealed documents in other lawsuits against the Bridgeport diocese, also published by The Courant in March, indicated that Cardinal Egan had allowed abusive priests to continue to work by moving them to new assignments after treatment or counseling. Those documents also suggested that in certain instances, he removed priests only when new reports of abuse were received or lawsuits were filed.
The videotaped testimony in 1997 indicated a similar pattern in the case of Father Brett. Mr. Martinelli said he was molested by Father Brett in the early 1960's when he was a teenage parishioner in Stamford, Conn. When asked about Father Brett, the cardinal read into the court record a memo he had written after he met the priest for the first time in 1990, decades after Father Brett had admitted to diocesan officials that he committed sexual abuse while working under Cardinal Egan's predecessor in Bridgeport, Bishop Walter Curtis.
In the memo, the cardinal wrote, "All things considered, he made a good impression," The Courant reported. "In the course of our conversation, the particulars of his case came out in detail and with grace."
Asked in the testimony about his decision in 1991 to allow Father Brett to continue working, the cardinal replied: "I had sufficient information for myself and for others to decide that he would continue, but I certainly wouldn't say I stopped keeping an eye on the thing."
Two years later, in 1993, with new allegations of previous abuse by Father Brett brought to his attention, Cardinal Egan suspended the priest. That year, Mr. Martinelli filed his lawsuit, which was settled out of court in 2000. Ms. Laviano said Father Brett had disappeared, and his whereabouts have been unknown for years.
Aide Defends Egan's Action in Priest Case
By Daniel J. Wakin
The Archdiocese of New York issued a detailed defense yesterday of Cardinal Edward M. Egan's actions regarding a priest in Connecticut who had been accused of sexually abusing minors in the 1960's.
The statement was prompted by news reports over the weekend about videotaped testimony that the cardinal gave when he was bishop of Bridgeport in 1997. The testimony came in a lawsuit brought against the Rev. Laurence Brett, who was accused of serious sexual misconduct in 1964 and whom Bishop Egan allowed to keep working as a priest after becoming the leader of the Bridgeport Diocese.
Bishop Egan, newly installed in Bridgeport, met Father Brett in 1990 for the first time. He testified that the priest made a "good impression," discussing his case "in detail and with grace," and that he allowed him to keep working.
The archdiocese has repeatedly defended Cardinal Egan's actions in Bridgeport, and the cardinal has apologized, "if in hindsight we also discover that mistakes may have been made."
The Hartford Courant published excerpts in mid-March from secret documents in other lawsuits against the Bridgeport Diocese showing that under Bishop Egan abusive priests were allowed to continue working after treatment or counseling.
In the statement yesterday, the cardinal's spokesman, Joseph Zwilling, noted that Bishop Egan's predecessor in Bridgeport, Bishop Walter Curtis, sent Father Brett for psychiatric testing in 1964 and allowed him to remain as a priest on a psychiatrist's recommendation.
With no new accusations for 25 years, Mr. Zwilling said, Bishop Egan concluded that "Bishop Curtis's decision seemed sound." A clinical psychologist confirmed the decision in 1991, he said.
Eighteen months later, Bishop Egan learned of other charges of misconduct and ordered an investigation, based on which Father Brett was barred from acting as a priest.
Egan Says Claims of Abuse Will Go Right to Prosecutors
By Daniel J. Wakin
Under pressure from prosecutors, Cardinal Edward M. Egan announced yet another policy change yesterday regarding priests who abuse minors, promising to pass on allegations of abuse directly to district attorneys.
In doing so, he discarded detailed guidelines adopted by the Archdiocese of New York six weeks ago that called for a review board to examine each case before deciding whether to refer it to prosecutors.
District attorneys from the 10 counties in the archdiocese began objecting to the review board idea within days of the announcement, said Joseph Zwilling, the spokesman for the archdiocese.
"They let us know pretty clearly they did not approve of such a policy," he said. "And so we went back to the drawing board." Officials at the archdiocese discussed the issue with outside legal and psychiatric experts, who advised that allegations be reported directly.
Mr. Zwilling defended the previous policy as a "good faith effort," but said, "We got the message that a more straightforward approach would be the better way to go, so in an effort to cooperate we adopted that approach." Prosecutors have said that they are better prepared than church officials to evaluate criminal charges.
The archdiocese told prosecutors about the new policy in a letter delivered yesterday, the same day it was first reported by The Daily News.
One district attorney, Jeanine F. Pirro of Westchester County, said she was pleased with the new policy and the cooperation of the archdiocese. "My question is, will it be immediate notification?" she said. Speedy reporting is important, she said, so that the authorities can provide effective help to the victims, analyze any forensic evidence and remove potential abusers from access to children.
She also said she was confident that the new policy of immediate reporting to civil authorities would not give the archdiocese the opportunity to wash its hands of problem priests if, for example, an investigation did not lead to charges.
"The fact that I don't have enough evidence, or that I'm limited by some technicality, doesn't mean they are absolved of their responsibility in making sure that people preaching from the pulpit are of high moral integrity," said Ms. Pirro, whose office placed an advertisement in today's Gannett newspapers with a number for abuse victims to call: (914) 995-4031.
The new policy states, "When an archdiocesan official has reason to suspect that a priest has sexually abused a minor, the archdiocese will immediately refer the matter to the appropriate district attorney's office for investigation." After consulting with the district attorney's office, the archdiocese will take any action necessary against the priest, it said.
Guidelines announced on April 3 said that allegations must be in writing and that they would be investigated by at least two archdiocesan officials, who would interview the accused priest. He would then respond in writing. The statements were to go to the review board, which would then have decided whether to present the matter to law enforcement.
That board has held an opening meeting, but its future is an "open question," Mr. Zwilling said.
At the time the earlier guidelines were announced, Cardinal Egan also reversed his policy on the reporting of old cases, and said the archdiocese would turn over a list of all priests accused of sexual abuse of minors in past decades.
Cardinal Egan's decision to hand over new accusations directly to law enforcement follows that of Bishop Thomas V. Daily of Brooklyn. Four out of five of the nation's 178 dioceses have lay boards to evaluate accusations, but critics question whether the boards are aggressive or open enough, given that the bishops appoint their members.
On the other side, many priests are concerned that innocent men could be tarnished if false accusations are passed straight to the authorities. Cardinal Egan discussed the possibility of establishing a legal defense fund for falsely accused priests during a meeting with priests last month, but has made no decision, Mr. Zwilling said.
Egan Paid Accused Priest
By Elizabeth Hamilton
While he resisted compensation for an alleged victim of a disgraced priest, Bridgeport's then-Bishop Edward M. Egan gave the accused clergyman as much as $17,000 to settle bank debts and pay for a criminal-defense lawyer, court documents show.
The unusual payment - made in 1989 after the Rev. Gavin O'Connor had been accused of molesting boys for years and was in the process of leaving the priesthood - was later condemned by the plaintiff's attorney in court as "a payoff" intended to buy O'Connor's silence in the case pending against him and the diocese.
During a March 4, 1998, pretrial hearing, a Hartford Superior Court judge found the hush-money allegation plausible enough to allow testimony about it during the upcoming trial, but the diocese avoided that possibility when it abruptly settled the case for an undisclosed sum the very next day. The court file was sealed and has since been destroyed.
A transcript of the hearing, obtained by The Courant, shows that the diocese argued that church law required Egan to pay O'Connor's personal debts because he was "removing the man's ability to practice his professional calling." The diocese denied that the payment was an inducement for O'Connor to avoid testifying.
The disputed payment has emerged as the latest example of deferential treatment that Egan, now a cardinal and archbishop in New York, exhibited toward several priests accused of sexual misconduct during his tenure in Bridgeport - treatment he didn't extend to the victims of sexual abuse, critics say.
Egan gave thousands of dollars to O'Connor, even though, Egan later testified, he found the allegations against him so substantial that O'Connor became the only accused priest that Egan successfully "laicized" - or defrocked - during his tenure in Bridgeport. At the same time, the diocese aggressively fought O'Connor's accusers in court, battling one complainant for six years before settling.
"What I find grossly lacking is any sense of equitable compassion for the victims," said the Rev. Thomas Doyle, a priest who is an expert in canon law and has testified in numerous cases of clergy misconduct.
"Egan did nothing - nothing - for victims in Bridgeport except infuriate them and further victimize them," Doyle said. "I've never seen anybody in my 17 years of dealing with this issue as heartless as Egan, and as callous in his treatment of the victims."
David Clohessy, national director of Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests, said the lump-sum cash payment by Egan to O'Connor "raises a red flag" because it was so unusual. However, he said, the current clergy sex-abuse scandal has shown that it is not uncommon for bishops to take steps to assist accused priests in more general ways.
"What the Bridgeport bishop did was no different than what [Boston] Cardinal Bernard Law did repeatedly: enable their personal feelings for the brother priest to cloud their judgment about what's right and what's best for children," said Clohessy.
In a statement issued late Friday, Egan's spokesman, Joseph Zwilling, not only defended Egan's handling of the O'Connor case, but said it was "a textbook example of how to treat a case of sexual abuse of minors by a priest."
"It is outrageous to suggest anything else," Zwilling said.
According to Zwilling, Egan took immediate action to suspend O'Connor within weeks of his appointment as bishop in December 1988, and later personally delivered O'Connor's petition for laicization to Rome. As Egan's lawyer did during the 1998 court hearing, Zwilling defended the cash payment to O'Connor, saying "all bishops are required by canon law to provide for the support of their priests."
Doyle disputed Egan's claims about that requirement. A bishop must provide financial assistance only when a priest is destitute as a result of a penalty imposed on him by the bishop, Doyle said.
In O'Connor's case, the priest was employed as a federal prison chaplain in Arizona in 1989, earning $34,000 to $44,000 a year. He later went to work at a federal prison in San Diego, and retired from the federal prison chaplaincy in 1998, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. Today, he co-owns a real estate office in San Diego.
"[Egan's] not required to pay off his bank loans and he's not required to support him," Doyle said.
O'Connor was accused in two lawsuits of molesting three boys from the same family from 1977 to 1985. One of the boys attempted suicide in 1985, prompting the disclosure of the abuse to the diocese in 1986 by his family.
Two of the brothers sued in 1988, a lawsuit that Zwilling said was settled in 1989 shortly after Egan became bishop of Bridgeport. The third brother sued in 1992, and the diocese fought that case until the settlement in 1998.
Allegations of the payoff that are included in the March 1998 courtroom transcript are also referenced in a chapter of a book written by the presiding judge in the case, Richard Rittenband, and recently excerpted in the Connecticut Law Tribune. In it, Rittenband wrote that "charges of a payoff were too serious to permit a blanket preclusion of testimony."
The plaintiff's attorney, Hubert Santos of Hartford, told Rittenband he had evidence that Egan and his aide, Monsignor Lawrence Bronkiewicz, paid O'Connor between $12,000 and $17,000 around the time the bishop was asking O'Connor to request laicization from the priesthood. Santos cited correspondence from O'Connor to another priest - documents that remain under seal and are unavailable - that he said showed the money was part of a "side deal" to keep O'Connor quiet.
"It's our position that what Bishop Egan and Monsignor Bronkiewicz did here is they bought the silence of Gavin O'Connor," Santos said. "And this is not mere speculation."
Santos suggested that the diocese didn't want O'Connor available for questioning in the case because his testimony would damage the diocese's defense or draw more negative publicity.
"He isn't coming to court because they don't want him in court," Santos said at one point. "So you have a scenario here, a gentleman gets a check, his criminal defense lawyers get a check, he disappears from view."
The attorney for the diocese, Joseph Sweeney, disputed Santos' characterization, saying Egan "could not just throw Gavin O'Connor out like a civil employer would." He also argued that the court had no grounds to even allow Santos to question the church's motivation when dealing with one of its priests, as it might with a non-religious employer.
"He'd like to tar and feather the bishop of the diocese with improper motivations," Sweeney said. "But what [case law] say[s] is that no court in this country can get into the business of weighing and balancing that kind of motivation by a religious organization in dealing with one of its clergy in this context, even ex-clergy who have gone out and been bad boys."
None of the parties in the O'Connor lawsuits or their lawyers would agree to be interviewed because of gag orders imposed as a result of the settlements. Reached at his office in San Diego earlier this week, O'Connor refused to comment about the payments.
Although none of those involved in the case would talk about it, and many of the sealed case files have long since been destroyed, a 1992 deposition of the oldest victim, obtained by The Courant, describes the accusations in vivid detail.
According to the victim, O'Connor began fondling him in 1977 when he was 12, after striking up a relationship with his family, which attended St. Joseph's church in Shelton. Over time, as O'Connor was transferred to parishes around the diocese, the abuse intensified.
He would spend entire weekends with O'Connor at different rectories, the victim said, in bedrooms that typically contained only one bed. Other priests living in the rectory with O'Connor never questioned the boy's presence and seemed to want to avoid the issue.
The victim said most of his time with O'Connor was spent drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana. He testified that the priest would say "a private Mass between the two of us" after their sexual encounters.
He said he did not know O'Connor had also sexually abused his younger brothers until 1985, when one of them attempted suicide and told his mother what the priest had done. The family alerted the diocese in 1986.
By then, O'Connor was a prison chaplain in Illinois. In 1988, the year the family brought its first lawsuit against the Bridgeport diocese on behalf of the younger boys, O'Connor was given his own parish to run in Cobden, Ill.
Cardinal Describes Ouster of Priest Sued over Abuse
By Daniel J. Wakin
The Archdiocese of New York issued an unusual statement yesterday describing how, within weeks of becoming bishop of Bridgeport, Conn., in 1988, Cardinal Edward M. Egan settled a lawsuit over an abusive priest and arranged for his permanent removal from the priesthood.
The defense of Cardinal Egan's actions was issued in anticipation of what the archdiocese's spokesman said were news reports likely to come in the next few days about the former priest, Gavin O'Connor.
"Bishop Egan's handling of the Gavin O'Connor matter is a textbook example of how to treat a case of sexual abuse of minors by a priest," said the spokesman, Joseph Zwilling. "It is outrageous to suggest anything else." He said the statement was intended to "put the case in context."
Mr. Zwilling said that as soon as Bishop Egan learned of the suit, he flew in January 1989 to Tucson, where the priest was, suspended him and persuaded him to sign a petition to the Vatican seeking the priest's removal from the priesthood, which took effect that July, the spokesman said.
Mr. Zwilling defended payments to the priest in the interval, saying church law requires bishops to give financial support to priests under them. The diocese also helped the priest to pay "some personal debts," he said. As for the settlement with the family of the victim, he said, "It is wrong and misleading to call settlements 'cover-ups.' "
His statement contained no details of the case. However, an account of the case this week in The Connecticut Law Tribune lays out some of the facts. According to that report, the plaintiff charged Father O'Connor with sexually molesting him from 1977 to 1984, while he was an altar boy at St. Joseph's Church in Shelton and later when the priest was transferred to St. Edward the Confessor Church in New Fairfield, the report said.
The accuser said the diocese paid Father O'Connor a "substantial amount of money" to persuade him not to testify, the account said. The diocese argued that it had the obligation to support him.
Bishop gave priest thousands for debt
Associated Press, carried in the Baltimore Sun and reprinted in the Hartford
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. - As bishop of Bridgeport, Cardinal Edward M. Egan gave a priest accused of abuse thousands of dollars to settle bank debts and pay for a defense lawyer, court documents show.
The documents obtained by The Hartford Courant show the diocese resisted compensation for Gavin O'Connor's alleged victim but paid the priest as much as $17,000 in 1989.
The payment was condemned by the plaintiff's attorney in court as a payoff intended to buy O'Connor's silence in the case pending against him and the diocese, the paper reported. The diocese denied that claim.
During a March 1998 pretrial hearing, a Hartford Superior Court judge decided to allow testimony about the payment during trial, but the diocese settled the case for an undisclosed sum the next day.
The court file was sealed and destroyed, but a transcript of the hearing shows the diocese argued that church law required Egan to pay O'Connor's personal debts because he was "removing the man's ability to practice his professional calling."
In 1989, when the payment was made, O'Connor was earning $34,000 to $44,000 a year as a federal prison chaplain, The Courant reported.
The plaintiff's attorney, Hubert Santos, told the judge he had evidence that Egan and an aide paid O'Connor $12,000 to $17,000. Santos cited correspondence from O'Connor to another priest - documents that remain under seal - that he said showed the money was part of a "side deal" to keep O'Connor quiet.
Court documents show Egan testified he found the allegations against O'Connor so substantial that O'Connor was the only priest that Egan defrocked during his tenure in Bridgeport. At the same time, the diocese fought O'Connor's accusers in court, battling one complainant for six years before settling.
O'Connor was accused in two lawsuits of molesting three boys from the same family from 1977 to 1985. One of the boys attempted suicide in 1985, prompting the disclosure of the abuse to the diocese in 1986 by his family, who attended St. Joseph's Church in Shelton.
In 1988, the year the family brought its first lawsuit against the Bridgeport diocese on behalf of the younger boys, O'Connor was given his own parish to run in Cobden, Ill.
Two of the brothers sued in 1988, a lawsuit that was settled in 1989 shortly after Egan became bishop of Bridgeport. The third brother sued in 1992, and the diocese fought that case until the settlement in 1998.
O'Connor retired as a federal prison chaplain in 1998, according to the Bureau of Prisons. Today, he co-owns a real estate office in San Diego.
Accusation Leads to Suspension of High-Level Priest in New York
By Daniel J. Wakin
The sexual abuse scandals in the Roman Catholic Church reached the highest levels of the Archdiocese of New York yesterday, when the archdiocese announced it had ordered the suspension of the monsignor in charge of fund-raising after he was accused of having an "improper relationship" with a minor 20 years ago.
The monsignor, Charles M. Kavanagh, was ordered not to act as a priest and was removed from his positions as the archdiocese's vicar for development and pastor of St. Raymond's Church, the archdiocese said. St. Raymond's, in the Parkchester section of the Bronx, is among the city's biggest and most prominent parishes.
As vicar for development, Monsignor Kavanagh is one of the archdiocese's most powerful clerics. He was involved in the planning for the annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Dinner, a prestigious gala that has drawn politicians up to and including campaigning presidential candidates, several archdiocese officials said. He also oversees the annual Cardinal's Appeal fund-raising drive, which is currently under way, and has worked closely with Cardinal Edward M. Egan. At the same time, he has presided over St. Raymond's, which has a school noted nationwide for its basketball program.
The charge that led to the suspension was made by a man who said he had a relationship with Monsignor Kavanagh as a student at Cathedral Preparatory Seminary, once the archdiocese's main high school for young men headed for the priesthood, said the archdiocese's spokesman, Joseph Zwilling. Monsignor Kavanagh, who turns 65 on Monday, was rector of the seminary from 1977 to 1985. He was assigned to St. Raymond's in 1988 and was named vicar for development in 1994.
The man reported the allegation to the archdiocese late last week after first going to the Manhattan district attorney's office, Mr. Zwilling said. The report was the first time the archdiocese had learned of the allegation, he said. The archdiocese took action against the monsignor after receiving more information from the complainant, he said.
Mr. Zwilling declined to provide further details of the allegation. He would not disclose the monsignor's whereabouts or say whether the monsignor denied the charge. The district attorney's office would not discuss the case.
In a policy announced on May 15, the archdiocese said that once it had reason to suspect abuse had occurred, it would consult with the appropriate district attorney and take action against the priest "as warranted, including removing the priest from his assignment."
The archdiocese said last month that at least six other of its priests had been suspended, without identifying them, after the archdiocese began handing over files of past allegations to prosecutors. On Thursday, a visiting priest from India working at a Harlem church was suspended after his arrest in a 1999 sexual abuse case in Brooklyn.
None of the other accused priests have held as much influence as Monsignor Kavanagh. In addition to the Alfred E. Smith dinner, he handled such things as the logistics for prominent figures attending Cardinal John J. O'Connor's funeral in 2000.
Mr. Zwilling declined to comment on what effect the suspension might have on the Cardinal's Appeal, whose goal is $15 million, at a time when Cardinal Egan is struggling to bring archdiocese finances under control. As of mid-May, the appeal had raised $8.2 million. When the cardinal came into the job, the deficit in the archdiocese's budget was $20 million; Monsignor Kavanagh said last month in an interview with The New York Times that it had been halved.
"I would imagine this is a tremendous blow" to the archdiocese's fund-raising efforts, said the Rev. Walter Modrys, pastor at St. Ignatius Loyola on the Upper East Side and a skilled fund-raiser himself. "Gee whiz, your top fund-raiser is in trouble."
Fellow pastors expressed dismay about the latest development in the priest sexual abuse scandal, which has been roiling the Catholic Church nationwide for the past four months.
"It gets worse and worse -- I don't understand it -- every day," said the Rev. John Grange, pastor of St. Jerome's Church in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx.
"He had a position of great influence and importance and trust," Father Grange said, referring to Monsignor Kavanagh. "With the money situation being as it is, I don't know of anybody who had more of a burden on his shoulders."
Mr. Zwilling said no decision had been made on what steps the archdiocese might take regarding the monsignor. He said the monsignor would continue to receive his priest's stipend for the time being.
The Rev. John Duffell, of the Church of the Ascension on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, wondered about the suspension's fairness. "You almost hope the punishment could be leveled after the facts were determined," he said. "According to the cardinal, this is the policy that has to be in effect because this is what the people want. I wonder if that's really true. Isn't somebody innocent until proven guilty?"
Monsignor Kavanagh, who was born in Manhattan, was an outstanding basketball player at Cathedral College, said Father Grange, who attended the college with him. He studied for the priesthood in Rome and was ordained in 1963.
The monsignor was one of only a handful of top officials kept on by Cardinal Egan when he succeeded Cardinal O'Connor as archbishop in 2000, and he frequently accompanied the cardinal to fund-raising events.
In the interview last month with The Times, Monsignor Kavanagh described his pitch to potential donors: "This is our work. We are healing and ministering to their city. But it costs money. Your contribution will be used to do good."
Monsignor Kavanagh expressed sympathy for the young victims of sexual abuse by priests, but also concern that innocent priests would be falsely accused, or at the least tarred by association with the guilty.
He is a prominent figure in his own right in the Bronx. He is a founding member of the Bronx Clergy Task Force, which was formed after the Amadou Diallo police shooting case to improve relations between residents and the police. The monsignor also led the drive for a $12 million, 60,000-square-foot community center in Parkchester, helping secure a tax-free city bond of $7 million to $8 million.
Ex-Seminarian Details Account of Contact with Monsignor
By Daniel J. Wakin
A 37-year-old former seminarian yesterday detailed the allegations he had made that led to the suspension of an influential monsignor in the New York Archdiocese -- describing an intense spiritual tie that he said grew sexually charged and emotionally abusive.
In an interview, the man, Daniel Donohue, outlined a six-year relationship with Msgr. Charles M. Kavanagh that began when Mr. Donohue was a 14-year-old freshman at Cathedral Preparatory Seminary in 1978 and continued to the end of his second year at Cathedral College in Douglaston, N.Y., an undergraduate seminary. He said he dropped out of the seminary then, at 19, emotionally shattered by the experience.
On Friday, the archdiocese said Monsignor Kavanagh was ordered to step down as its vicar for development, or chief fund-raiser, and as pastor of the large parish of St. Raymond's in the Bronx. It said it acted because of a report that Monsignor Kavanagh, while rector of Cathedral Prep, had an "improper relationship" with a minor.
Monsignor Kavanagh, who remains in seclusion, has not responded to interview requests relayed in telephone messages and through friends. Last night, however, a close friend of the monsignor, who said he was speaking on his behalf, said, "He adamantly denies any improper relationship with this individual."
The monsignor's supporters have rallied around him, saying such a charge is inconceivable. "The man has done nothing but, in a million small ways, good deeds for people," said John Dearie, a former state assemblyman whose district included St. Raymond's and who grew up in the parish. "He's a remarkable human being."
Msgr. Thomas B. Derivan, pastor of neighboring St. Helena's parish, spoke about Monsignor Kavanagh at Masses on Sunday, declaring him innocent and saying the allegation of an improper relationship was "utterly foolish and hurtful."
William F. Balduino, who said he served as an altar boy for Monsignor Kavanagh at Sacred Heart parish in the 1960's, sought out a reporter to say that he had spent innumerable hours with the priest, both alone and in a group, without a hint of trouble, and that the monsignor had ministered to his family for years even after they moved to New Jersey. "If you needed 5 minutes, he'd give you 10, and drive two hours to do it," Mr. Balduino said.
Mr. Donohue, speaking on the condition that his place of residence be identified only as in the Northwest and his occupation as the proprietor of a business that develops Web sites, painted a different picture.
"This hurts, this hurts really, really bad," he said, his voice choked with tears. "I lost my vocation. I lost my education. I've had to walk with this for a long, long time." Mr. Donohue, who is married with four children, said the experience had left him with sleep problems and deep anxiety, and had contributed to an estrangement from his family.
"For the people who say he's a good priest, I have no argument," he said of Monsignor Kavanagh. "But I tell them they lost another good priest, and I don't know if I can stand there and say they even have one good priest."
Mr. Donohue said he had pushed aside the memory of his relationship with the priest, even declining in 1988 to report the case when, he said, priests who knew about it approached his parents and suggested a report to the archdiocese. The archdiocese has said it first heard of the allegations two weeks ago, and Joseph Zwilling, its spokesman, said yesterday that he had no indications that any priests had complained on their own.
Mr. Donohue, who was living in Westchester County at the time, said he was in the eighth grade when he felt a religious calling, and was recruited to Cathedral Prep by Monsignor Kavanagh. "I loved the seminary," he said, "and I loved the idea of becoming a priest, and it was my dream."
Monsignor Kavanagh became his spiritual director, confessor and best friend, a complex situation with disastrous results, he said. "There were too many lines being crossed."
Toward the end of his sophomore year, Mr. Donohue said, the normal physicality between a mentor and a student became twisted. Hugs went on longer than they should have, he said.
During prayer, the priest would hold his hand in his own lap or in Mr. Donohue's. "I feel sick to my stomach right now," he said in describing the activity. Meanwhile, the priest often invited him to professional sporting events.
At the time, Mr. Donohue was living at the Bishop Ford Residence of the school, which was then on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where the monsignor also had quarters. At one point during his sophomore or junior year, as Mr. Donohue lay on a couch in Monsignor Kavanagh's quarters, where he often studied, he said the priest "lay his body on top of me full force, just right on top of me, rubbing his body and rubbing his face on me."
He said there was no genital contact. "It's not as graphic as you think, but it's very, very far from innocent," he said.
During his senior year, he said, Father Kavanagh took him to Washington for an anti-abortion rally. They shared a hotel room. In the middle of the night, the priest, wearing nothing but his underwear, climbed into bed with him and committed a similar act, Mr. Donohue said. He said he did not respond.
By the end of that year, Mr. Donohue said, he told the priest that the physical contact had to end. The priest responded, Mr. Donohue said, by saying he had misinterpreted the situation.
During his sophomore year, Mr. Donohue said, he would stay at the Ford residence on Friday nights when he taught a confirmation class at a Hell's Kitchen church.
On those nights, he said, Monsignor Kavanagh would watch him in his bedroom through a bathroom keyhole. Mr. Donohue would stamp his foot to scare him off.
Mr. Donohue said that in April 1984 he confronted the priest with a five-page letter, describing his anger. "I told him he came between me and everything I valued, me and my faith, me and my friends. He came between me and my very self," he said.
In the summer after his sophomore year in college, Mr. Donohue said, he dropped out and told his father in broad terms about the relationship. In the fall of 1985, however, he decided he needed to seek out Monsignor Kavanagh to express forgiveness.
"He kept saying, 'I'm a good priest,' and dissolved into a state of emotional collapse." He said he then embraced the priest and rocked him back and forth. "He went from this emotional disgusting blob in my arms to sitting up and picking up his cigar and saying, 'O.K., let me tell you how this really is,' and I told him, 'No. You're never going to tell me how it is ever again.' "
Years later, as Mr. Donohue began reading about the priest sex abuse scandal, he said, he began wondering what had happened to Monsignor Kavanagh. He said he contacted the Manhattan district attorney, and wrote to Cardinal Edward M. Egan. He said that the cardinal had not responded, but that he received a call from a lawyer for the archdiocese, who listened to his account.
He is retaining his own lawyer and is considering a lawsuit.
Bishop Accountability © 2003