A once-prominent defrocked 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.
Donohue had accused Kavanaugh of jumping into his bed in the D.C.-area hotel room and rubbing against him. Donohue also said that when Kavanaugh held his hands during prayer, it made him uncomfortable.
Donohue said in court earlier this year that the D.C. trip actually took place when he was a college sophomore and not a minor, according to the New York Times.
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 defrocked.
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 onetime accuser Donohue did not return calls for comment, but his wife called the court filing "outrageous" in the Daily News.
"What a crazy fellow," D.C. Donohue told the News.
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.