Court Orders Keep Charge Quiet
google group site March 23, 2002
He was dubbed the Pied Piper of the Lower East Side, a well-known, popular
priest who taught catechism classes to 50 children at Most Holy Redeemer
Church, ran a drug-prevention program for the New York Archdiocese and
organized immigrants to start their own credit union.
Yet, for years, allegations that the Rev. Jack Kennington molested children
festered in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn, where a gag order prevented
anyone from publicizing the claims.
In November, the case against Kennington, the Archdiocese of New York and
the Redemptorist Fathers was quietly settled, but the gag order remains in
place. A spokesman for the archdiocese, Joseph Zwilling, cited the
confidentiality agreement yesterday, saying he could not comment.
Such orders are common in sexual abuse cases involving the church, according
to David Clohessy of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, who
asserts that they serve a church agenda.
"The church lawyers and the bishops know that these folks never just molest
just one kid," said Clohessy, director of the Chicago-based organization.
"So they know if they can keep the first two or three or 10 victims quiet,
then, they may avoid ... massive multimillion-dollar settlements and a major
The provincial superior for the Redemptorist Fathers, the Rev. Kevin Moley,
did not return a call seeking comment.
Kennington, now a scholar on the Shroud of Turin who lives at an Ulster
County retreat house, did not return a call from Newsday. In a deposition,
he denied many allegations against him but admitted playing strip poker to
nakedness with Brendan Lyons and his sister at their Manhattan apartment on
a number of occasions, while he was baby-sitting for their mother, Christine
Lyons and her late husband, John, met Kennington during one of several dozen
marriage encounters Kennington ran in Rockville Centre for Catholic couples.
Later, the Lyons visited Kennington in Brazil, where he was a seminarian,
religious supervisor and pastor for a rural parish.
When Kennington returned to New York in 1982 and assigned to the Most Holy
Redeemer Church on East Third Street, Kennington and Christine Lyons renewed
At the same time, Kennington was becoming known as an activist priest on
Manhattan's Lower East Side, and he was quoted prominently by several
In addition to performing Mass for the Lyons family, hearing confessions and
celebrating Brendan's First Communion, Kennington would accompany the family
to East End vacation homes and to visits with Christine's parents in Amelia
Island, Fla., and baby-sit for Brendan and his sister, Bridget, according to
Christine Lyons, a journalist who worked for several publications, even left
her children with Kennington when she left town on weeklong assignments, the
In a deposition filed in court, Brendan Lyons, now 25, said he was sexually
abused by Kennington from 1984 to 1987, when he was between 8 and 11. His
first recollection of the encounters occurred at a summer house the family
rented in the Hamptons.
Brendan Lyons said that Kennington was masturbating in the bathroom and
asked him and his sister to watch. "He asked my sister to touch him," Lyons
said. On at least eight other occasions, at the family's East 14th Street
apartment, Kennington had the children play strip poker with him, according
to the suit.
"He touched my penis," Lyons said. Once, this game went on when a friend was
over for a play date, Lyons said.
At times, Kennington would fondle him in front of his sister, then fondle
his sister while he watched. Another time when they were in the Hamptons,
Lyons said, Kennington brought a pornographic magazine to the beach at Fresh
Pond, then masturbated in the car in his presence.
When the family invited Kennington to visit Lyons' parents at Amelia Island,
the priest took him to play strip poker in a secluded area of the beach,
There, they wrote stories of "sexual adventure," Lyons recalled.
"It was really absurd, because it was being written by a 10-year-old boy
talking about sexual incidents that would happen to an adult," Lyons
testified. "I think we would read them to each other."
Kennington also heard Lyons' confession.
When he asked whether Lyons had any sins to confess, Lyons said, he would
giggle and say, "You know." "He then instructed me to say a number of Our
Fathers and Hail Marys and gave me absolution for the sexual conduct in
which we had engaged."
In the suit, Christine Lyons said she did not learn of the sexual abuse
until 1989, five years after it started, when her daughter refused to invite
the family priest to her high school graduation party.