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A one-time leading Bronx priest is suing the Archdiocese of New York for libel, claiming the sex abuse allegations he once faced are false, and that church officials knew it when they repeated them in a public news release.
In his court filing, Charles Kavanaugh says his chief accuser recanted allegations he made in 2002 that Kavanaugh molested him when he was a teen during a church trip to Washington, D.C. "The statement was not true, and I apologize for it," one-time accuser Daniel Donohue wrote in a sworn statement submitted in federal court.
Donohue had claimed Kavanaugh jumped into his bed in the D.C.-area hotel room and rubbed against him. Donohue also said that when Kavanaugh held his hands during prayer, it made him uncomfortable.
"The pointed finger has come back. He has withdrawn the only allegation against Monsignor Kavanaugh," said Kavanaugh’s attorney John Dearie.
For 10 years, Kavanaugh fought to clear his name. He originally filed a lawsuit against Donohue but dropped it after Donohue admitted his story about what happened 30 years ago was false. Kavanaugh was convicted at a church trial.
In May, Catholic Church spokesman Joseph Zwilling said in a news release that Kavanaugh deserved to be kicked out of the church because there were "multiple counts" of sexual abuse.
"That is a flat-out lie. There are not multiple counts of sexual abuse of a minor," said Kavanaugh’s sister and attorney Ann Mandt. "And that’s why we sued them. Because it is a lie." Zwilling said Wednesday that church attorneys are now reviewing the defamation lawsuit.
"I stand by the truthfulness and accuracy of my May 1, 2012, statement," he said. Kavanaugh had been vicar of development for the Catholic Church in New York and served for more than 40 years as a priest. His last post was head of St. Raymond’s Church in the Bronx before he was kicked out and convicted in a secret church trial.
For the last decade, Kavanaugh has called allegations against him "false" and repeatedly has demanded a "full and fair hearing" in public. His attorneys say they in part blame former Cardinal Egan, who they said was under scrutiny for allegations he mishandled abuse charges by other priests when he led the church in Connecticut.
Kavanaugh lost his job, his home and his pension and now counts on friends' help and support in Florida where he now lives. His one-time accuser Donohue did not return calls for comment.
Kavanaugh’s lawsuit seeks damages against the archdiocese and Zwilling, as well as the "Catholic New York" publication and its editor, which published Zwilling’s comments.
"We have evidence that this man is innocent. The accuser admitted it," said Mandt. "We’re not asking for the benefit of the doubt. … We’re asking for justice. Give an innocent man justice." Kavanaugh’s attorneys claim after a decade of being falsely scorned, he still wants his old job back.
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