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Vatican grants pastor a church trial over sex abuse charges

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Monsignor Charles Kavanagh, a former pastor of St. Raymond Church and the most prominent Roman Catholic priest in the archdiocese to be accused in the sexual abuse scandals, was granted a church trial on Friday, January 6 by the Vatican.

Kavanagh, 68, is the first Catholic cleric in New York to be granted a trial since the widespread sexual abuse scandals emerged in 2002. The Vatican, which denied twelve others trials, said the tribunal would determine whether Kavanagh should receive the ultimate punishment of removal from the priesthood.

Kavanagh, a former head fund-raiser for the archdiocese, has fought Cardinal Edward Egan since 2002, when the cardinal suspended him and called for the Vatican to bar him from returning to the ministry.

Kavanagh was suspended after a former student at Cathedral Preparatory in Manhattan, a high school for boys considering the priesthood that Kavanagh ran, told the archdiocese that during a six-year friendship over 20 years ago, the monsignor touched him in a sexual manner and twice lay atop him and rubbed against him.

The trial will be conducted behind closed doors by a tribunal of three to five canon law judges in Erie, Pennsylvania. No date has been set.

When Kavanagh was initially suspended after the charges, parishioners from St. Raymond held several rallies in support of him and posted signs around the perimeter of the church and school on East Tremont and Castle Hill avenues defending the monsignor. Kavanagh maintains that his relationship with Daniel Donohue, then a 14-year-old freshman and rising star on the basketball team and in the classroom at Cathedral Prep, was affectionate, but not sexual. In 2004, Kavanagh publicly attacked the cardinal, accusing Egan of threatening to keep him from fighting his suspension.

Kavanagh this week said he welcomed the tribunal.

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