Cardinal Egan Criticized for Retracting Apology on Sexual Abuse Crisis
By Andy Newman
New York Times
February 7, 2012
|Cardinal Edward M. Egan last September.|
In 2002, at the height of the outcry over the sexual abuse of minors by Roman Catholic priests, the Archbishop of New York, Edward M. Egan, issued a letter to be read at Mass. In it, he offered an apology about the church’s handling of sex-abuse cases in New York and in Bridgeport, Conn., where he was previously posted.
“It is clear that today we have a much better understanding of this problem,” he wrote. “If in hindsight we also discover that mistakes may have been made as regards prompt removal of priests and assistance to victims, I am deeply sorry.”
Now, 10 years later and in retirement, Cardinal Egan has taken back his apology.
In an interview in the February issue of Connecticut magazine, a surprisingly frank Cardinal Egan said of the apology, “I never should have said that,” and added, “I don’t think we did anything wrong.”
He said many more things in the interview, some of them seemingly at odds with the facts. He repeatedly denied that any sex abuse had occurred on his watch in Bridgeport. He said that even now, the church in Connecticut had no obligation to report sexual abuse accusations to the authorities. (A law on the books since the 1970s says otherwise.) And he described the Bridgeport diocese’s handling of sex-abuse cases as “incredibly good.”
All of which has Cardinal Egan, now 79 and living in Manhattan, drawing fire from advocates who say he has reopened old wounds.
“To many victims,” said Paul Mones, a lawyer who represented several victims of sexual abuse in New York, “an apology was critical to their being made whole, to feeling that, yes, the church knows that I was wronged and that this was a problem that was going on for decades. So if the statements are true, for him to come out and say he was wrong for the apology is more than tragic.”
During then-Bishop Egan’s reign in Bridgeport, from 1988 to 2000, dozens of people came forward with claims of sex abuse by priests, some of it having occurred recently. One priest checked himself out of a psychiatric center and continued to receive a stipend from the diocese after he had been accused by a dozen parishioners of abuses involving anal sex and beatings.
In the magazine, Cardinal Egan said, “I never had one of these sex abuse cases.” He added, “If you have another bishop in the United States who has the record I have, I’d be happy to know who he is.”
On Tuesday, as criticism mounted, Cardinal Egan, who retired in 2009, released a statement, reiterating that there had never been “even one known case” of sexual abuse of a minor by a priest in his tenure in Bridgeport or New York. “The suffering and the damage to innocent children and their loved ones that the sexual abuse of minors causes are horrendous beyond all expression,” he wrote.
Cindy L. Robinson, a lawyer whose firm represented more than 90 Bridgeport abuse victims, including ones who said they were abused as minors by priests during Cardinal Egan’s tenure, said she read the cardinal’s comments “with utter disbelief.”
David Clohessy of SNAP, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, urged Cardinal Egan’s successors in New York and Bridgeport, Timothy M. Dolan and William E. Lori, to denounce the cardinal’s “extraordinarily hurtful” statements in the magazine.
Archbishop Dolan declined to comment on Cardinal Egan’s comments, but said the cardinal had always “responded appropriately and with rigor” to sex-abuse cases. The Diocese of Bridgeport did not return a call seeking comment.