Priest resigns as head of Pontifical Missions USA, admits he broke vow of celibacy

Kieran Harrington Diocese of Brooklyn priest Monsignor Kieran Harrington resigned from his position as the national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States after an allegation against him of “inappropriate conduct with an adult” was substantiated, the Diocese of Brooklyn announced. | Credit: EWTN News Nightly YouTube

Monsignor Kieran Harrington has resigned his position as the national director of The Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States (TPMS US) after the Diocese of Brooklyn found “sufficient proof” of “inappropriate behavior with an adult,” which he has since admitted to.

The Diocese of Brooklyn’s Adult Allegation Committee (AAC) investigated Harrington after it received an allegation of “inappropriate conduct” on March 6, 2023. The committee found “sufficient proof” to support the allegation but did not disclose any specifics about the conduct.

In a statement provided to CNA, Harrington admitted that he had an “inappropriate” encounter with a woman in which he had “broken [his] promise of celibacy.” However, he claimed that the incident was consensual and occurred long before he assumed his leadership role with TPMS US.

“Regrettably, more than a decade ago and prior to my appointment to this position, I had a single, inappropriate, consensual encounter with an adult woman for whom I cared deeply,” Harrington said in a statement provided to CNA. “I was wrong to have done so.”

Harrington added that he is “not the subject of any complaint or civil proceeding” and that “the fact came to light during an ecclesiastical proceeding unrelated to me.” He said he “cooperated and was forthcoming about the events” with the diocese during the investigation.

Harrington claimed that the report “concluded that the encounter was consensual,” but the Diocese of Brooklyn disputed that characterization, telling CNA that “the board did not make a finding on the issue of consent.”

“The board concluded that his behavior violated the Code of Conduct and he should have known better,” the diocesan statement read.

Harrington since April 2021 served as the national director of TPMS US, which is a pontifical organization that supports the missionary work of the pope. He had also served as the vicar for communications for the Brooklyn Diocese since 2006 but was placed on a leave of absence from his priestly ministry pending a diocesan evaluation to determine whether he is suitable to serve the Church in the future.

“I have cherished my 22 years in the priesthood, both in Brooklyn and in service to the Holy Father and the Church,” Harrington said. “It has been my greatest privilege to serve in my parish and in the missions, accompanying the Church in places where it is still young, often poor, and frequently persecuted.”

Harrington apologized to “my colleagues, friends, and parishioners” and requested their prayers. He added that he hopes this incident does not distract from the work of TPMS, which he said is “more vital than ever before.”

“I am proud of the team we’ve assembled at The Pontifical Mission Societies and our shared accomplishments,” Harrington said. “We’ve taken specific steps to increase levels of transparency, accountability, and oversight, including reforms in our governance, systems, and processes. I am so grateful for their dedication.”

A spokesperson for TPMS US accepted Harrington’s resignation but thanked him for his service with the organization.

“Monsignor Harrington’s resignation is related to a matter which occurred over a decade ago, prior to joining TPMS, when he was serving under the Diocese of Brooklyn,” the statement read. “We thank Monsignor Harrington for his service and dedication to the Church’s mission. Under his tenure, TPMS has taken specific steps to increase levels of transparency, accountability, and oversight.”

The board of directors for TPMS appointed Father Anthony Andreassi, CO, to serve as interim national director.

“TPMS is devoted to bringing the Gospel to all nations while strengthening the Church in the USA and mission territories,” the statement added. “We are committed to continuing our important work and serving God through our global network of Catholics united in prayer and alms.”

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