Defrocked Catholic priest accused of molesting a boy still runs charity for kids

NBC News [New York NY]

March 25, 2023

By Kate Martin and Corky Siemaszko

A defrocked New York priest “credibly accused” of sexually abusing a minor runs a charity that provides scholarships to Catholic schools for underprivileged children, according to public records.

John J. Voglio, 65, is president of Mary F. Clancy Charities, which was founded in 2000 by another former priest, John Harrington, who was also accused of sexually abusing a minor, according to the Archdiocese of New York.

Voglio frequently mingles with children and teenagers who attend charity events, a member of the organization’s board of directors told NBC News.

“He’s very good with the kids,” Madelaine Cavegn said. “They like him very much.”

Voglio does not mention on the charity’s website that he is a former priest, and he did not return several phone calls seeking comment about his activities.

Voglio has never been charged with a crime so was never required to register as a sex offender in Massachusetts, New York or New Hampshire, all places where he once worked as a priest or brother.

Cavegn, however, acknowledged that she and some of the other board members are aware Voglio used to be a priest.

“I can’t divulge any of that,” Cavegn, 88, responded when asked whether she knew why Voglio had been laicized. “But do you know that he never had a chance to defend himself?”

Cavegn described Voglio as a devoted leader of the charity.

“He’s like a missionary,” Cavegn said. “He is very involved. Before we give out any grants, he conducts all the interviews with the schools.”

Another director on the board, John Crapanzano, said “the charity is very active” and Voglio “is very much involved in the day-to-day operations.”

“We’ve diversified our activities in recent years to include a food pantry in the Bronx to help needy families,” Crapanzano, 77, said. “We also helped build a playground for the kids at a Bronx school.”

David Clohessy, a sex abuse victims advocate at the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said someone like Voglio should not be running this kind of charity.

“Credibly accused child molesting clerics, especially if they’ve been defrocked, belong in no position of power or leadership, especially one that is connected in any way with children,” Clohessy said. 

Mitchell Garabedian, a lawyer whose pursuit of pedophile priests was dramatized in the Oscar-winning movie “Spotlight,” said it does not surprise him that Voglio continues to be involved in activities that could allow him to remain close to children.

“Experience has taught me that it is common for credibly accused priests and religious brothers to continue to work at organizations, for instance, schools, camps, churches, hospitals, boy scouts and clubs,” Garabedian said in an email. 

The Archdiocese of New York provided no explanation for his removal from the priesthood in its “List of Archdiocesan Clergy Credibly Accused of Sexual Abuse,” which was first published in 2019 and updated at least once in recent years. He had been ordained in 1987.

In 2002, a Massachusetts man told New Hampshire investigators that Voglio had seduced him 20 years earlier at a Salesian Brothers summer camp in that state, according to a report prepared by Paul Brodeur, a former investigator with the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office. The accuser said he was 12 when the abuse occurred in 1982. 

Voglio was a Salesian Brother at the time and working as a camp counselor, the report states.

“The fondling and oral sex went on beginning within a few days of arriving and continued to the end of two weeks,” the accuser, whose name was blacked out, said in the report.

The accuser “advised that he had not seen VOGLIO again but did received a Xmas card from him the Xmas of 1982 postmarked Ohio,” the report states. “VOGLIO spoke about going on to to become a priest with the Selesian’s (sic).”

NBC News has reached out for comment to the Salesians of Don Bosco, an international Roman Catholic religious congregation of men based locally in New Rochelle, New York. No one from the group responded.

Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, said it does not keep track of laicized priests or closely monitor donations from charitable organizations to its individual schools.