Egan Resources – March 1–16, 2002
By Austin Fenner
As the Catholic Church tries to deal with an explosion of sexual abuse allegations against priests, the leaders of the three local dioceses are divided on whether to notify cops of such accusations.
Bishop William Murphy, the head of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, which covers Long Island, said that if the allegations are serious, a priest will be removed from his pastoral and administrative duties.
"If there is any evidence of a criminal act, those with knowledge of the act are urged to report the incident to the authorities," Murphy wrote yesterday on the diocese's Web site, licatholic.org.
Diocese spokeswoman Joanne Novarro said Murphy was indicating that the victim should call police but that the diocese would not.
Last week, the Rev. Michael Hands, who worked in East Meadow and Northport, L.I., pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy.
Edward Cardinal Egan of the Archdiocese of New York has taken a somewhat different position to that of Murphy.
"When there is reasonable cause that abuse has taken place, and the victim or victims do not oppose the reporting, the archdiocese will make the appropriate reports to the authorities," said Egan's spokesman Joe Zwilling.
He said there are no allegations of sexual abuse against any priest in the archdiocese.
This week, the Archdiocese of Boston agreed to settle a multimillion-dollar civil suit with scores of people who had been molested as youths by former priest John Geoghan. Geoghan was convicted of sexual abuse.
Bishop Thomas Daily of the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens - which does not report allegations of sexual abuse to authorities - has not decided whether he will adopt the same position as Egan.
"Brooklyn and Queens is taking that [Egan's] position into consideration," said Frank DeRosa, Daily's spokesman.
Murphy and Daily, who served as church officials in Boston, were named as defendants in a civil suit regarding the sexual abuse allegations against Geoghan.
A victims' group said the newly revealed policies don't go far enough.
"You have to judge the church like any other institution on behavior, not on promises," said David Clohessy, a spokesman for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, based in Chicago. "It's naive to think there is [going to be] any real change."
By Douglas Montero and Dan Mangan
All but one of the city's district attorneys yesterday demanded that local Catholic dioceses turn over the names of priests accused of molesting kids, saying prosecutors - not the church - should decide which cases are worth pursuing.
And efforts are being launched in the state Legislature to force religious groups to report child molestation to police.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) is "committed to requiring all cases of child sexual abuse be reported to the appropriate law-enforcement agencies," said his spokeswoman, Eileen Larrabee
The unprecedented demand by the district attorneys - except for Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau - came a day after the New York Archdiocese said that from now on, it will turn over the names of priests to law-enforcement authorities.
But the archdiocese will do so only if there is "reasonable cause" to believe a priest molested a child, and if the victim did not object to the reporting.
Archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling said church officials will decide if there is cause to believe an allegation. And the new policy applies only to cases that have come to light since Edward Cardinal Egan became archbishop in June 2000 - not to prior cases.
Brooklyn Diocese spokesman Frank DeRosa said that while that diocese is considering mirroring the New York Archdiocese's policy, "we do not [currently] report" alleged child molestation by priests to police.
But neither diocese's policy satisfied the DAs.
"We would like to know about present and past allegations. We feel that if someone is aware of a violation of the law, the police and the District Attorney's Office should also be aware of it," said Bronx DA Robert Johnson's spokesman, Steven Reed.
"It's up to the police and the District Attorney's Office to make a determination with respect to whether a crime has been committed."
Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes, through a spokesman, said "any allegation of criminal activity should be reported to my office."
A spokesman for Staten Island DA William Murphy said any molestation cases should be referred to prosecutors.
Queens DA Richard Brown said, "I would expect that if the diocese had evidence of possible criminality that it would share that information with me."
A spokesman for Morgenthau said his office would prosecute cases brought to its attention, but he would not comment on whether Morgenthau wants the church to report cases.
The Diocese of Rockville Centre - which includes the rest of Long Island - is issuing confusing signals about its policy, which it refused to clarify.
Its bishop, William F. Murphy, yesterday announced that his diocese's policy had been updated, but the diocese would not detail how it had changed. Murphy indicated it is up to the victim or others "with knowledge of the act" to report molestation by a priest to civil authorities.
But Nassau County District Attorney Denis Dillon has spoken to Murphy, and believes the bishop will give the names of priests accused of molestation to the DA, said Dillon's spokesman, Rick Hinshaw.
Bishop Murphy suggested that to "protect children" he may work with legislators to change the law that exempts clergy from being mandated to report abuse allegations to authorities.
A spokesman for Suffolk County DA Thomas Spota didn't respond to The Post's call for comment.
By Heidi Evans and Richard T. Pienciak, with David Saltonstall and Joe
With church officials across the country confronting the issue of sexually abusive priests, one of New York's most powerful Catholic politicians urged Edward Cardinal Egan yesterday to tackle the crisis head on.
"I think that he, as the leader here of the church, certainly has to be more vocal and upfront," state Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (R-Rensselaer) said of Egan, the influential leader of the Archdiocese of New York.
[Photo Caption - Hot Seat: Edward Cardinal Egan has been put on the spot by politicians urging him to be upfront about priest sex abuse. Joe Bruno. Photo by Rebecca McAlpin.]
"Many of the bishops have, some of the other cardinals have," Bruno told the Daily News in an exclusive interview.
Of the burgeoning disclosures nationwide, he said: "The more you hear, the more disturbing it becomes."
Bruno's comments came as other political leaders - from Mayor Bloomberg to state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer - called on Egan to end the archdiocese's silence regarding sexual misconduct by priests against children. 'Turn them over' "I don't see why anybody should withhold the names of anybody that is accused of committing a crime," Bloomberg said in response to a question. "They should turn them over, it seems to me. And the normal judicial process should protect their privacy."
The mayor added that he saw "no reason, based on occupation, why any group should not have to obey the law. Period."
The archdiocese announced last week that it would report allegations of sexual misconduct to authorities in cases where there is "credible evidence."
But church officials - not law enforcement - will decide what is credible, and the church will forward allegations only if the victim does not object.
Egan's spokesman, Joseph Zwilling, said the policy change shows a new level of vigilance. "We are treating this with the utmost seriousness and concern," he said.
However, the archdiocese refused to disclose how many New York priests have been investigated for sexual abuse over the years or how many children have been victimized.
"We will not be discussing numbers," Zwilling said in response to written questions submitted by The News.
He also was asked how much money the archdiocese had paid out to victims in recent years.
Again, he replied: "We will not be discussing numbers."
Zwilling said Egan had no plans to address the matter publicly.
Breaking decades of silence, church officials from California to Maine have detailed scores of sexual-abuse incidents and settlement payments in the tens of millions of dollars.
In Boston, the Rev. John Geoghan is believed to have molested as many as 130 boys; 80 priests are suspected of sexual abuse. From now on, clergy are required to report incidents to law enforcement authorities.
Officials in Long Island's Rockville Centre diocese said all suspected cases there will be reported to local prosecutors.
And in Bridgeport, Conn., where Egan served before coming to New York, officials announced that they will examine records of all clergy for any signs of sexual misconduct and create an advisory board to deal with the issue.
"I am studying all of our 285 files of priests in the county, as well as that of 86 deacons, just to make sure there is nothing in these files that would cause me to lose confidence in the person and would show they pose a threat to young people," said Bishop William Lori. Talks planned Bruno, appearing before The News' Editorial Board, said Egan acknowledged "it's a problem" during a meeting in Albany this week. "We are going to be talking some more," he said, adding that legislative remedies may be necessary.
Teachers, police, doctors and other licensed professionals are registered with the secretary of state and must report allegations of sexual misconduct. A Bruno aide said there were no plans to make priests register.
Assemblyman Jack McEneny (D-Albany) is drafting legislation that would require members of the clergy to report any credible allegation of child sexual abuse to authorities.
On Long Island, Nassau County Legislator Lisanne Altman (D-Great Neck) pushed yesterday for a similar local law.
Spitzer said he believes that whenever credible evidence of wrongdoing exists, "that evidence should always be shared with prosecutors."
He said all religious organizations should "reexamine their policies . . . Disclosure is the key to combating the crime, and the more disclosure, the better."
A nationwide string of incidents
Disclosures about sexual abuse of children by priests have been surfacing across the nation. Some examples:
Palm Beach, Fla.
Bishop Anthony O'Connell resigned after admitting that he sexually abused a teenage seminary student 27 years ago. O'Connell is the highest-ranking clergyman to resign in the latest wave of scandals. He was assigned to lead the Palm Beach Diocese in 1999 after the resignation of Bishop Joseph Keith Symons, who admitted he had sexually molested five boys in his career.
Diocesan officials are examining the records of all clergy for any signs of sexual misconduct. The diocese ended years of legal wrangling last year by paying $15 million to 26 people who claimed to have been sexually abused by six priests as far back as the 1970s. Because of the settlements, Edward Cardinal Egan, who was bishop of Bridgeport before coming to New York, did not have to testify about his knowledge of the allegations. Egan had been named as a defendant in one of the suits.
Archdiocese officials have acknowledged that they have credible evidence that 35 priests sexually abused some 50 children over five decades. Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua has apologized to the victims.
Lawyers for the Boston archdiocese agreed this week to pay between $15 million and $30 million to 86 sex abuse victims of defrocked priest John Geoghan. Court documents showed that Bernard Cardinal Law and other church officials - including Thomas Daily, now the bishop of the Diocese of Brooklyn - transferred Geoghan from parish to parish between the 1960s and the 1990s, even though they knew he was abusing children.
A judge in San Francisco yesterday threw out all 224 child-molestation charges against a defrocked priest in a dispute over whether the statute of limitations had run out. Prosecutors had charged that former Msgr. Patrick O'Shea, 67, had molested nine boys in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1996, the San Francisco archdiocese paid $2.5 million to 15 men who said they had been molested by O'Shea and two other priests. That case was not affected by yesterday's ruling.
By Douglas Montero and Dan Mangan
The city's district attorneys should subpoena Catholic Church records of priests sexually preying on kids - or step aside and let less politically conflicted prosecutors do the job, a former top U.S. attorney says.
"The local prosecutors are not doing their jobs . . . These elected prosecutors are afraid of these churches," said Joseph DiGenova, former federal prosecutor for Washington, D.C. "The lack of public action by law-enforcement authorities in these cases is disgraceful."
"The inaction is stunning," raged DiGenova, who is furious about what he says are Catholic dioceses covering up for employee conduct not tolerated in any other organization. Prosecutors' "reticence is simply inexcusable in light of the pattern of criminal activity," he said.
The Catholic dioceses in the New York area refuse to detail how many priests they know have been accused of molesting children, or how many lawsuits it has settled with victims.
DiGenova said district attorneys should impanel grand juries in all of New York's boroughs to compel church officials to turn over documents and testify about the accused priests and legal settlements to discover if there was criminal conduct that can be prosecuted.
Earlier this week, all but one of New York City's district attorneys said the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Brooklyn should turn over evidence about priests accused of molesting children.
Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau dipped his toe into the water a few days later by saying he would welcome victims telling him their stories.
And Morgenthau and other DAs also say state law should be changed to mandate that clergy report allegations of sex abuse of kids to authorities.
But DiGenova said that doesn't go far enough, and that the dioceses must be ordered to surrender the evidence under threat of a contempt of court citation.
"Under no circumstance should voluntary compliance be expected," he said.
He said special prosecutors should be appointed if elected district attorneys fail to investigate aggressively the politically influential dioceses.
Phil Saviano of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said, "If the bishops have nothing to hide there is no reason why they should be against" full disclosure.
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and e-mails can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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