NYC Priest, LGBTQ Advocate Retires Amid Claim of Sexual Misconduct

Father John Duffell, parish pastor, talks to reporters outside the Ascension School in New York Tuesday, April 28, 2009. The Archdiocese of New York says there have been no confirmed cases of swine flu at a school in Manhattan despite reports of sick students. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
Craig Ruttle/AP Photo

A New York City priest and longtime advocate of the LGBTQ community announced his retirement Sunday following a claim of sexual misconduct.

Rev. John Duffell, 75, who was pastor of the Church of the Blessed Sacrament on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, was suspended from exercising his priestly duties following a letter written by Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

“The allegation was made first to the [Manhattan] District Attorney, and then brought to our attention. This allegation involves an adult; it does not involve a minor. It is important that the archdiocese take such allegations seriously,” Dolan wrote in the letter, which was sent to parishioners on July 1.

“Father 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,” he concluded.

Before announcing his decision to retire, Duffell wrote a letter to friends and family last week following a meeting at the Archdiocesan Chancery Office on Monday where he was suspended.

“Many years ago there was an allegation of sexual impropriety with an adult which I categorically denied because it was not true. Those files were subpoenaed from the Archdiocese by the Manhattan District Attorney,” he wrote.

At a conference held at Fordham University in 2011, a man revealed to Duffell that he felt “broken” after being told by Church leaders that he was not allowed to be a priest because he was gay. Duffell allegedly advised him to lie to Church leaders about his same-sex attraction so that he would be accepted into seminary.

“You’re not broken, the system is broken. Therefore you deal with it as a broken system — you lie,” Duffel reportedly said.

The priest has faced criticism for his support of the LGBTQ community for many years, most recently for his “gay fellowship,” partnered with singer Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation to hold a fundraising dance at the church hall in 2017.

Duffell became an ordained minister in 1969 and has, until now, served parishes located in Yonkers and Manhattan.


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