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May 25, 2002 | New York Post A prominent Bronx priest was suspended yesterday because of allegations of an improper relationship with a child two decades ago, church officials said yesterday.

Monsignor Charles Kavanagh allegedly carried on the taboo relationship while he was assigned to the Cathedral Preparatory Seminary, according to Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York.

Kavanagh has been ordered “to leave his current positions as pastor of St. Raymond’s Parish in The Bronx and . . . not to present himself as a priest or publicly exercise his priestly ministry,” Zwilling said.

The archdiocese apparently learned of the lurid allegations at the end of last week when Kavanagh’s accuser came forward.

Sources said the alleged victim - whose age and sex were not revealed - had previously approached the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

A spokesman for the DA’s office would not comment, but it appears unlikely Kavanagh will face criminal prosecution. Under state law, pedophiles can be prosecuted only up to five years after a crime is committed or, if the crime is not reported immediately, up to five years after the victim’s 18th birthday.

As the insidious sex scandals that have shaken the church’s foundations have spread, the New York Archdiocese recently agreed to forward information on sex-abuse claims involving priests directly to district attorneys instead of conducting its own review first.

In addition, the archdiocese turned over to prosecutors 35 years worth of priestly sexual-misconduct files.

Kavanagh has been a prominent figure in the Parkchester area, where he has been active in plans to build the neighborhood’s first community center.

He made headlines several years ago for helping create the Bronx Clergy Task Force that worked closely with the NYPD to relieve tensions after the police shooting of Amadou Diallo. As part of the program, rabbis, priests and ministers attended police roll calls to give cops a better sense of community concerns.

And in October, he comforted 9/11 rescue workers gathered for a service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, telling them they should treat life as a gift from God.

“We can see life as a rip-off or life as a gift . . . to be cherished with the ones we love,” Kavanagh told the exhausted workers. “We have to believe it is all a gift. Only God gives us life.”

St. Raymond’s parishioners refused to believe the allegations.

“Everyone loves him,” said Melissa Torres, a teacher at - and graduate of - St. Raymond’s Academy. “He could not have done something like this. It’s a shame that someone is trying to knock him down.”

Another parishioner suggested that Kavanagh’s accuser was just looking for money or notoriety.

“I’ve been here 20 years and he’s the best,” said Michael Negron. “He’s always been there for the community, no matter what.”

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