The Advocate July/Aug 2022
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Gay-Supportive Priest Accused of Sexual Misconduct, Suspended

Father John Duffell

An LGBTQ-supportive Roman Catholic priest in New York City has been suspended from his ministry due to an allegation of sexual misconduct.

The Rev. John Duffell “has been directed not to publicly exercise his priestly ministry due to an allegation from the past that he abused his position of authority in a violation of his promise of celibacy,” Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, wrote in a July 1 letter to Duffell’s parishioners at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament, the Catholic News Agency reports.

“The allegation was made first to the [Manhattan] District Attorney, and then brought to our attention,” Dolan continued. “This allegation involves an adult; it does not involve a minor. It is important that the archdiocese take such allegations seriously.” Church investigators found Duffell guilty of “serial sexual misconduct,” according to the agency. Duffell said he did not engage in the conduct alleged.

“Many years ago there was an allegation of sexual impropriety with an adult which I categorically denied because it was not true,” Duffell wrote in a letter to family and friends, the New York Daily News reports. “Those files were subpoenaed from the Archdiocese by the Manhattan District Attorney.” In an interview with the Daily News, he said he was accused of “nothing more” than breaking his vow of celibacy, but declined to comment further. The DA’s office also declined comment.

Duffell, 75, was planning to retire soon, but when the archdiocese informed him he was being suspended indefinitely, that sped up the process. He announced his retirement to parishioners last week.

A longtime supporter of the LGBTQ community, Duffell established a gay fellowship at Blessed Sacrament, which hosted a fundraising party for Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation at the church’s hall in 2017. He also once told a gay aspirant to the priesthood to lie about his sexuality.

The man was in the audience at a conference at Fordham University in 2011, and he told Duffell he felt “broken” when he was told he could not become a priest because he was gay, the Daily News reports. Duffell responded, “You’re not broken, the system is broken. Therefore you deal with it as a broken system — you lie.”

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