Egan Resources – March 17, 2002
By Elizabeth Hamilton and Eric Rich email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Secret court documents reveal that New York Cardinal Edward M. Egan, while serving as bishop of the Bridgeport Roman Catholic Diocese, allowed several priests facing multiple accusations of sexual abuse to continue working for years - including one who admitted biting a teenager during oral sex.
Egan failed to investigate aggressively some abuse allegations, did not refer complaints to criminal authorities and, during closed testimony in 1999, suggested that a dozen people who made complaints of rape, molestation and beatings against the same priest may have all been lying, the documents show.
In comments that seem starkly out of synch with the current climate of zero tolerance for sex-abuse accusations against priests, Egan said he wasn't interested in allegations - only "realities." He added that "very few have even come close to having anyone prove anything" against a priest.
"Allegations are allegations," he said.
In addition, former Bridgeport Bishop Walter Curtis, Egan's predecessor, testified in 1995 that the diocese deliberately shuffled pedophile priests among parishes to give them a "fresh start," and he admitted destroying records of complaints against some priests, the documents show. Curtis, who is now deceased, also said he didn't believe pedophilia was a permanent condition.
The revelations about Egan's role in Connecticut's largest clergy sex-abuse scandal are taken from thousands of documents in lawsuits that Egan and the Bridgeport diocese fought, successfully, to keep sealed from public view. While the files remain sealed following a settlement of the suits last year, The Courant recently obtained copies of much of them, including transcripts of pretrial testimony of Egan and Curtis, internal diocesan memoranda and personnel files.
The documents reveal that, in addition to the eight priests who were originally sued, at least nine others faced molestation accusations but were never publicly identified. The documents - which do not include details of the claims or their outcomes - name seven of the priests, one of whom continues to serve as pastor at a Fairfield County parish.
While glimpses of the allegations against a few of the priests emerged during eight years of legal battle, details of what the bishops and other church officials had to say about the cases, and how they handled them, have never been reported until now.
The Bridgeport diocese settled complaints against six priests for $12 million to $15 million last March, shortly after Egan was promoted to cardinal in New York. Egan, who was bishop in Bridgeport from 1988 to 2000, was a defendant in some of the lawsuits and fought them aggressively from 1993 until the settlement, which ended all of the litigation.
He inherited a budding scandal in the Bridgeport diocese that took root during the 27-year reign of Curtis, who, in pretrial interviews with plaintiffs' lawyers, exhibited a blunt lack of interest in dealing with sexually abusive priests. Asked if he ever transferred a priest "because of pedophilic conduct," Curtis replied, "yes."
"When he was assigned to a different parish, would anyone be advised of the problem which he had previously had?" the attorney asked.
"No," Curtis said.
Under Curtis, the documents show, church officials and other priests often ignored obvious signs of sexual involvement with children - such as Rev. Gavin O'Connor's practice of having boys spend the weekend with him in his bed in the rectory. Typically, when a complaint was made, it was only considered substantiated if the priest confessed.
Curtis also testified that records of complaints against priests would usually be put into the diocese's "secret archive," a canonically required cache of historical documents accessed only with keys kept by the bishop and the vicar. He said he would occasionally go into the archive and remove what he called "antiquated" abuse complaints, and destroy them.
Curtis seemed less interested in pedophilia - which he viewed as "an occasional thing" and not a serious psychological problem - than in weeding out potential gays among clergy applicants:
"We had a policy in this sense, that before a candidate was accepted for study for the priesthood, [they] would have psychological testing, and if there appeared signs of homosexuality, he wouldn't be accepted," Curtis said.
By the time Egan took over in December 1988, complaints were trickling in against several priests, made by adults who said they had been victimized in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. The documents show that he defrocked at least one priest for sexual offenses, and put in place the first written policy on sexual abuse complaints.
But he was slow to suspend or remove priestly powers of some others, even those with multiple complaints against them.
Despite a May 1990 memo by a diocese official worrying about "a developing pattern of accusations" that Rev. Charles Carr of Norwalk had fondled young boys, Egan kept Carr working as a priest until 1995, when he suspended him only after a lawsuit was filed. Egan's aide, Vicar Laurence R. Bronkiewicz, wrote a sympathetic note to Carr.
"Trusting that you understand the reasons for these actions, I join Bishop Egan in praying that the Lord will bless you with the graces you need at this time in your life," Bronkiewicz said.
Egan actually reinstated Carr in 1999 as a part-time chaplain at a church-run nursing home in Danbury. But after yet another accusation against Carr surfaced earlier this year, about an incident from long ago, newly installed Bishop William Lori finally defrocked Carr last month and referred him to state child protection authorities.
The expressions of concern for, and willingness to believe, accused priests stand in contrast to the absence of sympathy displayed for the accusers. For instance, regarding a dozen people who made complaints of sexual abuse and violence against the Rev. Raymond Pcolka of Greenwich, Egan said, "the 12 have never been proved to be telling the truth."
Yet, nowhere in the documents is there evidence that attempts were made to seriously investigate the truth of such allegations - accusers were not interviewed, witnesses were not sought, and no attempt was made to learn of other possible victims. Egan allowed Pcolka to continue working as a priest until 1993, when he suspended him after Pcolka refused to participate in psychiatric treatment.
Egan also doesn't believe accusers have a right to know of other, similar accusations against the same priest: "We're dealing with them as a specific case, and I would have no reason to go into other people's concerns with them."
And he disagreed that a 1964 memo, instructing church officials that "hepatitis was to be feigned" as a cover for the sudden absence of a priest, was an attempt to hide the fact that the priest, the Rev. Laurence Brett, had left because he admitted biting a teenager's penis during oral sex.
"I wouldn't read it that way," Egan said of the memo, written long before he got there. "I would read it that this man is going away, and if anyone asks, say he's not well, he has hepatitis. That's quite a bit different than saying you are going to hide it."
Egan added that he wouldn't have made up an excuse about a priest's absence, preferring instead to simply tell anyone who inquired that it was none of their business.
Egan allowed Brett to continue working as a priest outside of the diocese until February 1993, three months after receiving additional allegations of sexual misconduct against Brett from the 1960s. When the allegations came in, Egan's aide, Bronkiewicz, wrote a letter alerting the archdiocese in Baltimore, where Brett had been assigned.
"At the present time, we have no reason to believe the accuser of Father Brett intends to take legal action of any kind, and there has been no publicity concerning the accusation," he wrote.
There is no evidence from any of the documents that the diocese under both Egan and Curtis alerted the police or state child protection authorities when parents or victims came forward with accusations of abuse. In all of the cases during Egan's tenure, the statute of limitations to bring criminal charges had expired.
But the failure to report those cases meant that police and state child protection authorities were never able to investigate the possibility of other victims or possession of child pornography, a federal crime. Under public pressure, Boston and several other dioceses recently began turning over names of all accused priests, no matter how old the incidents.
Revelations of Egan's actions and attitudes toward sex abuse accusations against clergy are likely to further roil the Catholic Church, which has been rocked in recent months by news of the Boston Archdiocese's decades-long mishandling of abuse complaints against pedophile priest John Geoghan. In the wake of that scandal, Boston and other dioceses - including Bridgeport, under the new bishop, Lori - have taken steps to become more forthcoming with the public and civil authorities.
However, Egan, who as cardinal in New York is the highest profile Catholic in the United States, has come under growing criticism for not speaking out. On Friday, in a New York Daily News cover story headlined "Speak Up, Egan Told," Egan's spokesman said the cardinal planned no public statements on the issue.
Egan did not respond to requests for comments about his actions in the Bridgeport cases, including a list of questions e-mailed to his office at the request of his spokesman, Joseph Zwilling. In an e-mail Saturday, Zwilling referred all questions "concerning the Diocese of Bridgeport and/or any actions that may have occured in that diocese" to Bridgeport.
Joseph McAleer, a spokesman for the Bridgeport Diocese, said in a statement that "this was litigated for 8 years and was in the newspapers practically every day," and that the diocese would have no further comment.
"The diocese of Bridgeport has always acted according to the law and remains proactive on the prevention of sexual misconduct by its clergy and its employees," McAleer said.
Cindy Robinson, whose law firm, Tremont & Sheldon, represented 26 people who settled lawsuits with the Bridgeport Diocese last year, would not comment on any of the information contained in the sealed documents, saying she is prevented by the protective order issued by the judge.
"We have always said we were confident we would prevail at trial proving our claim that both Bishop Egan and Bishop Curtis participated in the ongoing cover-up of these priests," said Robinson.
What follows is the first inside look, derived from the court documents, of how Egan and other church officials handled the cases of three priests accused of sexual abuse:
Rev. Charles Carr
Though the diocese kept giving Carr new assignments, allegations of sexual improprieties followed him around.
The Rev. Michael Palmer, the parish priest at Our Lady of Fatima Church in Wilton in the early 1980s, knew as early as 1982 that his assistant, Father Charles Carr, might be attracted to children. That was when the mother of an 11-year-old boy came to Palmer to complain about Carr.
Her son, a student at Our Lady of Fatima School, had gone with Carr and a couple of other boys to Long Island for a school holiday trip a few days earlier and came back drenched with sweat and shaking.
When his mother asked what was wrong, her son told her that after the other boys had been dropped off at their houses, Carr had driven him to the church parking lot and parked. Her son didn't like that, the mother told her priest, because it was already dark and the church was out of the way from their home.
Then Carr started tickling the boy, even though he was asking the priest to stop. When Carr tried to put his hands down the boy's pants, she said, her son pushed the priest away and called him a "pervert."
Palmer told the distraught mother he'd "look into it." When he asked Carr about it a few days later, Carr admitted he'd been tickling the boy and that his hand might have accidentally "slipped," but he denied any sexual intent.
Palmer told Carr to stay away from the boy, but never reported it to anyone else because, he testified in a 1997 deposition, he didn't believe it was a "clear cut" sexual complaint. Attorneys questioned why Palmer would not consider the complaint sexual in nature:
Q: What's not clear cut?
A. That it's a direct intended sexual advance.
Q: Let me ask you, as a priest, as a man, you are an athlete as well, you said you enjoy sports, how many times have you stuck your hand accidentally down the front of an individual, a boy or a man's trousers?
A: I can't remember any.
Carr left the Wilton church in 1984 for what would be a short-lived stint on the faculty of Immaculate High School in Danbury and the parish of St. Mary's in Bethel, where he stayed only three months.
Peter DeMarco, who was the parish priest at St. Mary's in 1984, was asked about Carr's quick transfer during a 1999 deposition, and said he knew only that a group of parents complained to the diocese that Carr had inappropriately touched one of their eighth-grade sons at the movies.
"Monsignor [Andrew] Cusack called me up after the meeting and told me he had met with the parents," DeMarco said. "That they were not - this is what I seem to remember. That the parents were not after any criminal or legal repercussions - I'm not sure what the words were - but they just wanted him to be transferred. And Monsignor Cusack said, `He will be leaving you as soon as possible.' "
Cusack, the Episcopal Vicar of Religious and Clergy for the Bridgeport Diocese, sent Carr for counseling with William Larkin, a Ridgefield therapist with a degree in theology. Bishop Curtis then transferred him to St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Norwalk, where he met 13-year-old Jon Fleetwood and his family in September 1984.
Fleetwood, who sued Carr in 1993 and has spoken publicly about the sexual abuse he suffered, worked in the rectory answering phones and ran into Carr often. The priest quickly became friendly with the Fleetwood family and was a frequent dinner guest.
One evening, Carr invited Fleetwood to his room in the rectory, which he shared with three other priests, to watch a movie. The fondling began the same way it did with the other boy, Fleetwood testified in 1995.
"He was poking and tickling and soon it just moved down lower toward my penis and he started playing with the inside of my thigh," he said. "And then it turned into rubbing instead of tickling."
That first time, Fleetwood said, Carr did not unzip his pants and fondle his penis. But he did the second time, as well as on three other occasions, Fleetwood said.
Fleetwood eventually stopped accepting Carr's invitations, which got him in a little bit of trouble with his parents - who thought he was being rude to the priest - but he said he felt too ashamed and upset about the sexual encounters to tell anyone why he didn't want to go.
Then, in July 1986, Curtis granted Carr's request to be appointed to the faculty of the Notre Dame Catholic High School in Fairfield. When asked during his 1996 deposition why the diocese would transfer Carr to a boy's school when he was suspected of making sexual advances on boys, Cusack said he was simply acting on Larkin's advice.
"Isn't that like sending Dracula to guard the blood bank?" asked Attorney Paul Tremont, who was representing the plaintiffs suing Carr and the diocese. "Why didn't you put him some other place?"
"That was not the advice of Dr. Larkin," Cusack responded.
The diocese did not at any time, however, request or obtain any written report from Larkin about Carr's mental health or even his diagnosis, which Cusack characterized as primarily a "self-esteem problem." Carr stayed at Notre Dame High School until 1989, when Egan transferred him to a new job - spiritual director for the boys at Central Catholic High School in Norwalk.
Word of Carr's appointment to the Norwalk school got back to the mother of the 11-year-old boy Carr was accused of fondling in 1982, and she was, her son testified in 1996, "outraged."
The woman, who was getting her master's degree in theology at the time, asked one of her professors to write to Egan on her behalf - to vouch for her, in effect - so she could sit down with him and discuss Carr's appointment, her son told attorneys. But Egan refused to meet with her.
Instead, the woman met with Cusack's replacement, Laurence Bronkiewicz, on Oct. 19, 1989, and told him what Carr did to her son seven years earlier. Bronkiewicz then called Cusack, who was now working at Seton Hall University, and asked him whether there were any other complaints against Carr he needed to know about.
Yes, Cusack said, one - and told him for the first time about the 1984 allegations against Carr at St. Mary's.
Egan sent Carr off to the Institute of Living, a Hartford psychiatric hospital, in January 1990 for an evaluation, but doctors there were unable to determine whether Carr's denial of the accusations was truthful, documents show. So, Egan allowed Carr to return to his job at Central Catholic High School that winter.
But a few months later, another parent came forward with a complaint that Carr had fondled his then 11-year-old son in the early 1980s. Carr was returned in April to the Institute of Living, where a doctor suggested the diocese take some sort of "administrative action to protect both Father Carr and the public" from future "lapses" by Carr.
Carr consistently denied the accusations against him, but said he agreed to treatment because it was church policy.
Egan decided that Carr could return to work, and in June Carr was appointed parochial vicar of Saint Philip Parish in Norwalk, with the restriction that he not minister to children and that he continue in therapy.
One year later, in June 1991, those restrictions were lifted when Egan appointed Carr parochial vicar of Saint Andrew Parish in Bridgeport. In a memo written a few days before the appointment, Bronkiewicz wrote "we are satisfied that Fr. Carr is able to be assigned to Saint Andrew Parish without risk."
The whole thing might have ended there if the diocese hadn't tried to collect back tuition for Immaculate High School in Danbury from one of the families that had accused Carr of fondling their son in 1984 - even after the father in that family lost his job.
One of the alleged victims from 1984, who by 1993 was 23 years old, came to see Bronkiewicz to complain about the diocese's actions. In an internal memo, Bronkiewicz quotes the young man as saying "he finds it difficult to believe that the diocese is trying to collect this unpaid tuition when his parents could have sued the diocese in 1984 for the actions of Father Carr."
The first lawsuit against the diocese in connection to Carr was served on March 30, 1995. Later that day, Egan suspended Carr and placed him on an indefinite leave of absence.
Rev. Raymond Pcolka
Allegations of abuse against Pcolka stretched back decades and involved more than a dozen accusers.
In 1983, an 18-year-old woman and her counselor came to Cusack, and told him she had been molested by her parish priest, Father Pcolka, 11 years earlier.
Cusack, in pretrial testimony in 1995 and 1996, said the woman told him she'd been "fondled" by Pcolka when she was a young girl attending St. John's in Bridgeport, but that he didn't fully believe her story because it appeared she was being "coached" by her counselor.
Attorneys for the woman, however, say Cusack had been told something far more disturbing: On the girl's seventh birthday, Pcolka told her he was going to give her a "birthday spanking," then he forced her to perform oral sex on him and "beat her while she was naked."
Pcolka denied it. Cusak, who had been placed in charge of handling misconduct complaints for the diocese, sent Pcolka to a psychiatric hospital for an "overnight evaluation," and talked to some of Pcolka's former supervisors and colleagues.
He did not notify the authorities. Nor did he check Pcolka's file for past complaints or specifically ask his former supervisors whether there had been previous sexual abuse charges.
His denials believed, Pcolka was allowed to return to his post at the Holy Name Church in Stratford without restrictions.
In fact, this was not the first time Pcolka had been accused of molesting a child. According to the documents, church officials had been receiving complaints about him since his first assignment, in 1966, at St. Benedict's Parish in Stamford.
In 1976, a parishioner at the Holy Name Church in Stratford wrote to Bishop Curtis complaining that Pcolka was involved in an inappropriate relationship with her daughter-in-law. Curtis wrote to Pcolka's supervisor asking for a response, but no further action was taken.
Pcolka continued on in his ministry, transferring to St. Mary's Church in Bethel and then again, in 1989, to Sacred Heart Church in Greenwich at the behest of newly appointed Bishop Egan. Shortly after Pcolka's reassignment, Egan had Pcolka over to his house for a private dinner, at which, according to Pcolka, the two discussed his transfer to Greenwich.
Asked by plaintiffs' lawyers if the two also talked about any sexual abuse allegations against him, Pcolka denied that they had. On the heels of that dinner came another complaint against Pcolka, this time from a mother claiming her son, James Krug, was molested almost two decades earlier. Egan sent the priest to the Institute of Living for a two-day evaluation.
"It was extensive. It was whatever was required at the Institute of Living and it was enough for an expert of some renown to indicate to us that there was no reason for us to hesitate to allow this person to continue in his duty," Egan testified in 1999.
The 1983 letter written to Cusack by the young woman accusing Pcolka of molestation was missing from Pcolka's file, Egan said, so he was unaware of that earlier allegation when weighing what action to take with Pcolka. He said he relied on the recommendation from a psychologist and the advice of his vicar general, Monsignor William Scheyd.
"He told me that if you were to give him a list of all the priests in the diocese, the last he would ever suspect of any misconduct of this sort would be Father Pcolka," Egan testified, adding that he didn't consider the complaints against Pcolka a "proved reality."
Pcolka was then allowed to resume his duties at Sacred Heart Church without any restrictions.
In 1992, Krug himself came forward, adding weight to the claims his mother made three years earlier. Egan granted Pcolka a leave of absence and returned him to the Institute of Living, where he stayed for approximately 10 days before leaving, against Egan's orders that he stay, Egan testified.
Egan suspended Pcolka at that point, but continued to pay his salary, provide his health benefits and cover the cost of his attorney's fees for several years, documents show.
Egan also did not make any effort to expel Pcolka from the priesthood, as he had done with at least one other priest accused of sexual misconduct. When asked why he had not done this, Egan said he didn't have sufficient evidence that Pcolka had abused anyone.
"If I had proof of his having been out of order, I certainly would have," Egan said.
Later, when asked if he was aware that at least 12 people accused Pcolka of sexual abuse that included oral and anal sex, beatings, violence and sadistic language, Egan responded:
"I am not aware of any of those things. I am aware of the claims of those things, the allegations of those things. .... I am aware that there are a number of people who know one another, some are related to one another, have the same lawyers and so forth, I am aware of the circumstances, yes."
Two years later, the diocese settled lawsuits against Pcolka, who exercised his Fifth Amendment privilege more than 100 times when questioned in 1994 about abuse allegations stretching back three decades and involving more than a dozen victims.
Rev. Laurence Brett
Brett was sent out of state - with the admonition that, should anyone ask, "hepatitis was to be feigned" as a cover for his absence.
In December 1964, a teenage student at Sacred Heart University in Bridgeport came forward with an extraordinary complaint: Father Laurence Brett, a spiritual director at the university, had performed oral sex on the student - against his wishes - and had bitten his penis to prevent him from ejaculating.
Brett was confronted that very day. He admitted the claim was true, according to court documents. He said he had a "problem" and confessed to involvement with at least one other university boy.
Church memoranda show that Bishop Curtis discussed the situation with the Apostolic Delegate, the Vatican representative in Washington, D.C. Curtis ended up deciding not to suspend Brett, but to send him out of state - with the admonition to diocese officials that, should anyone ask, "hepatitis was to be feigned" as a cover for Brett's absence.
Thus began a nearly 30-year odyssey for Brett, who bounced around the country, working as a priest in different dioceses, all the while remaining answerable to - and the responsibility of - the Bridgeport diocese.
His first stop after the 1964 incident was New Mexico for psychiatric treatment. From New Mexico and elsewhere, Brett wrote letters pleading with the bishop to allow him to return. Others asked on his behalf.
"He is not welcome," Curtis once told Monsignor Cusak.
In seeming exile, Brett was supported financially by the Bridgeport diocese and was permitted to perform priestly functions under the auspices of the diocese. Almost immediately, an indication came that Brett's misconduct may have been broader than was first suspected.
While he was in New Mexico in 1966, a high school-aged boy from a parish back in Stamford claimed that Brett had made an unwanted advance on him. When the incident occurred, Brett was an assistant pastor at the parish, where he also acted as a mentor and spiritual advisor to a small group of boys who were interested in liturgical reforms in the Catholic Church. The boy who accused him was part of this group, informally known as "Brett's Mavericks."
In a letter that April, Curtis told the Apostolic Delegate that the boy probably was not aware of the actual reason behind Brett's abrupt departure.
"The departure of Father Brett was accomplished very quietly," Curtis wrote.
The boy's parents said their son was traumatized. They were seeking financial support. The Apostolic Delegate suggested meeting with the parents because "such an expression of pastoral concern may relieve them while an official attitude may leave them bitter."
Curtis took the advice and arranged a meeting. He reported back that the parents felt someone in the church had advised the boy not to report the incident to them. In a memorandum, Curtis recounted his portion of the discussion:
"The boy himself ... said he could not bring himself to tell [his parents] and I tried to indicate that this might have been the reason why the advice was given not to tell them, mainly that the boy did not feel up to it and it was judged there was no obligation under the circumstances to do so."
In the years that followed, Brett held a variety of ecclesiastical positions in New Mexico, California and Maryland, to which he finally relocated. There, he held a summer position at a parish and served as chaplain at a school in Baltimore. He became a writer, inspirational speaker and television minister.
Bishop Egan and Brett first met in June 1990. Around the same time, as was his custom when he met a priest for the first time, Egan familiarized himself with Brett's background, Egan testified later.
Egan wrote a memorandum after the meeting: "All things considered, he made a good impression. In the course of our conversation, the particulars of his case came out in detail and with grace."
In February 1991, Egan, after an "investigation" of the priest's history, decided Brett could continue as a priest under the auspices of the diocese. The following exchange comes from Egan's deposition.
A: I had sufficient information for myself and for others to decide that he would continue, but I certainly wouldn't say I stopped keeping an eye on the thing.
Q: But you didn't do anything, you didn't - for example, you didn't...
A: No, I made a decision... on the basis of the information that was given to me professionally, I allowed him to remain in the ministry.
In November 1992, an adult claimed that Brett had molested him, when he was 10 or 12 years old, at a parish in New Mexico in 1966. Two weeks later, Brett admitted past sexual misconduct with at least three other high school-age boys - one in New Mexico and two in Maryland.
In late 1992 or early 1993, another one of "Brett's Mavericks" - Frank Martinelli, then an adult living in Milwaukee - told the diocese that Brett molested him in the 1960s, when he was between 13 and 15 years old.
The allegations were severe and familiar: Brett had performed fellatio on him in a walkway behind the grade school of the church after confession, had induced the boy to perform fellatio on him by telling the child that the act was a way to receive Holy Communion, and he had fondled the boy in a bathroom during a field trip with other boys to Washington D.C.
A short time later, in February 1993, a man claimed that Brett abused him in Sacramento in the 1960s. The new accuser said he expected restitution and compensation.
Nine days later, Egan suspended Brett's priestly faculties.
The Situation Today
The Bridgeport diocese has set up a special committee to review all complaints on a case-by-case basis.
Four days ago, Lori, the new bishop of Bridgeport, released a strongly worded statement to the 370,000 Catholics in his diocese about the recent sex abuse scandals that have rocked his church. The statement - part apology and part manifesto -spells out the bishop's zero-tolerance attitude toward the sexual abuse of minors.
First, Lori says, he's beefed up the 1991 diocesan policy to ensure that any complaints, even suspicions of sexual abuse, are immediately reported and investigated. These investigations will now be done by a special committee, made up of psychologists and other experts, who will review complaints on a case-by-case basis.
Second, the diocese is conducting a detailed review of all 285 active priests and 86 deacons under its auspices and, at this point, has determined there are none "who pose any threat of committing sexual misconduct with a minor."
One action Lori also took, but didn't mention, was his removal last month of the Rev. Charles Carr from his job as part-time chaplain of the Pope John Paul II Center for Health Care in Danbury.
In the March issue of Fairfield County Catholic, Bronkiewicz notes at the bottom of a list of staffing announcements that Carr has recently had "his priestly faculties removed" and is "no longer available for priestly ministry in the Diocese of Bridgeport."
How is it that Carr, who was suspended by Egan in 1995 for a string of sexual abuse complaints with minors, was still working as a priest?
"This would have been a decision made by Bishop Egan," said Joseph McAleer, the diocese spokesman.
Carr began his job at the nursing home in 1999, McAleer said, after it was decided that it was safe to return him to a "limited ministry where he would have no contact with children or adolescents." When a new claim of sexual abuse - alleged to have occurred years ago - came in at the beginning of this year, Lori decided enough was enough.
"The bishop was not comfortable with the past allegations," McAleer said, adding that the new complaint was reported to the state Department of Children and Families.
Carr still receives a stipend from the diocese, as does Raymond Pcolka, who is living in Southbury and is also suspended from the ministry. McAleer said the diocese is required by Canon Law to pay a modest living allowance to priests even if they are not technically working.
As for Laurence Brett, his whereabouts remain a mystery. He receives no stipend from the diocese.
"We hope he is found and we hope he is brought to justice," McAleer said.
A Defensive, Dismissive Tone
By Eric Rich and Elizabeth Hamilton
Hours into a closed-door interrogation, a plaintiff's attorney presses Bishop Edward M. Egan on his view of claim after claim of sexual abuse made against the same priest from the Diocese of Bridgeport.
Egan knows that the allegations follow a pattern. He knows that the Rev. Raymond Pcolka exercised his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination more than 100 times under questioning about allegations of sodomy, rape and brutality.
But now, under oath in 1999, Egan gives the priest the benefit of the doubt, and casts an unbelieving eye at the claims of a dozen former altar boys and parishioners.
"Let us please remember," Egan says, "that the 12 have never been proved to be telling the truth."
Egan's confidential deposition, a transcript of which was obtained by The Courant, offers a rare glimpse into the style, personality and beliefs of the nation's most visible ecclesiastical figure as he faces questions over his handling of the most difficult issue before the church today.
Egan, now a cardinal and archbishop of the Archdiocese of New York, appears at times combative and legalistic, defensive of diocesan practices dating back years and dismissive of the claims of sexual misconduct brought against priests. He emerges as a figure out of step with today's prevailing views - arguing, for example, that victims have no right to know whether other accusations have been leveled against their abusers.
In one exchange, attorney Cindy Robinson asks Egan if he is aware that the cases against Pcolka involve oral sex, sodomy and beatings.
A: I am not aware of any of those things. I am aware of the claims of those things, the allegations of those things.
Q: And you are clearly aware of the number of people that are making these similar claims during the same period of time, over a long period of time, involving Father Pcolka, correct?
A: I am aware that there are a number of people who know one another, some are related to one another, have the same lawyers and so forth, I am aware of the circumstances, yes.
Eighteen months later, the diocese admitted that "there were incidents of sexual abuse" and paid out about $12 million to settle 26 claims against five priests. Egan's depositions were taken in connection with those cases, which remain sealed by a judge.
Egan largely eschews interviews with the media and thus remains something of a mystery to the general public. Last week, despite pressure to follow the lead of lesser Catholic figures across the country, a spokesman for Egan said the cardinal would have no comment on the sexual abuse crisis rippling out from Boston.
Detractors in New York have called Egan clinical and distant, even imperious. It is an assessment that resonates with the criticism that attached to him in 1997 after he testified publicly at the civil trial of the Rev. Laurence Brett, a Bridgeport priest.
Former altar boy Frank Martinelli sued the diocese, claiming he had been sexually abused as a teenager in the 1960s by Brett, then an assistant pastor at a parish in Stamford. Brett had admitted assaulting children and teenagers across the country; the diocese did not deny that he was a child molester.
But Egan testified that the diocese could not be held responsible because priests are "self-employed." The claim struck some as insensitive to the victim and was blamed, in part, for the jury's verdict against the diocese.
The deposition he later gave at a law office in Bridgeport, during two sessions in 1997 and 1999, reveals a similar affinity for legalistic evasion and semantic parsing.
Under questioning, Egan is reluctant to describe allegations of sexual misconduct as true - even in one case in which he had already taken the extraordinary step of asking the accused priest to sever his ties to the church, a process known as laicization.
A: I felt that they were substantial.
Q: So that you felt that Father [Gavin] O'Connor indeed had - was guilty of sexual misconduct with children?
A: I felt there were substantial allegations, felt the circumstances were such as to make them substantial, and it was my judgment that he would be best reduced to the lay state.
Although the settlement is less than 18 months away, Egan says during his deposition that the actual instances of sexual misconduct by priests are extremely limited - and he appears to imply that false allegations may be more common. During a terse exchange with Robinson he claims there were not more than "two or three" cases of clergy sexual abuse in the diocese before the 1980s.
Q: And are you saying that over time, the instances of clergy sexual abuse have increased?
A: Over time the allegations have increased.
Q: OK. Well, I'd like to -
A: Did you hear that? Not instances - your word was instances.
Q: Bishop, I can hear quite well ...
Again and again, Egan extends the benefit of the doubt to the accused while showing little sympathy for the accusers, and appears to minimize the conduct in question. Consider this exchange about Brett's confessed sexual misconduct in 1964.
Q: He admits apparently that he had oral sex with this young boy and that he actually bit his penis and advised the boy to go to confession elsewhere?
A: Well, I think you're not exactly right. ... It seemed to me that the gentleman in question was an 18-year-old student at Sacred Heart University.
Q: Are you aware of the fact that in December of 1964 that an individual under 21 years of age was a minor in the state of Connecticut?
A: My problem, my clarification, had to do with the expression "a young boy" about an 18-year-old.
Q: A young - all right, a minor, is that better then?
Brett was sent to New Mexico for treatment after admitting that he bit the young man's penis to prevent him from ejaculating. He was allowed to continue working as a priest elsewhere in the country under the auspices of the Bridgeport diocese.
Egan defends the diocese's handling of the Brett case even though much of it occurred years before his arrival in 1988. In so doing, he spars with the attorneys over the meaning of plain language.
Consider his defense of a 1964 directive to mislead anyone who might inquire about Brett's sudden absence. The memo reads: "A recurrence of hepatitis was to be feigned should anyone ask."
Q: So they would hide the complaint of sexual abuse and tell persons that he had hepatitis and that is why he was not around?
A: I wouldn't read it that way.
Q: You wouldn't?
A: No, I would read it that this man is going away, and if anyone asks, say he's not well, he has hepatitis. That's quite a bit different than saying you are going to hide it.
Brett continued to work, out of state but under the auspices of the Bridgeport diocese, for decades afterward. He did so first with the approval of Bishop Walter Curtis and then, when Egan was appointed, with his consent.
Egan shows a similar unwillingness to concede the apparent intent of letters Brett sent back to the diocese while he was out of state. Attorney Paul Tremont maintains that the letters amount to requests - not granted - to come back, apparently implying that Brett was permitted to serve as a priest as long as he was out of the diocese.
Egan resists the interpretation.
In one early letter, Brett writes: "I still hope to return to Connecticut. In fact, I long for the time when I come back. It has been my understanding that I would be able to do so but I will wait until I hear from you upon this matter."
Q: You indicated that the letter of April 21, 1967 is not a request to come back?
A: I don't read it as a request. ... I would think the text is what the text is.
Brett did eventually return, to meet with Egan, in July 1990. At the time, Brett was working in Baltimore even though his authority as a priest came through the Bridgeport diocese.
Egan, who had testified that he familiarizes himself with priests before he meets them, recorded his thoughts in a church memorandum: "All things considered, he made a good impression. In the course of our conversation, the particulars of his case came out in detail and grace."
Egan is pressed on whether the memorandum indicates that he knew of Brett's sexual history when he found Brett so impressive. In response, Egan claims, essentially, that he can't remember what he meant.
Q: Now what did you mean by that [second sentence]?
A: Well, I think someone could take that case to mean some kind of court case or something of the sort.
Q: No, I am asking what you meant.
A: All I mean is that his story came out in some detail ...
Q: Doesn't that relate to sexual misconduct?
A: I cannot be sure it does ...
Q: So you think that [the memo] had nothing to do with the prior sexual complaints against him?
A: Sir, I - that is my current feeling on this thing.
Timeline: The Carr File
Compiled by The Courant from sealed court documents
May 10, 1980: Charles Carr ordained, assigned to Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Wilton.
Spring 1982: Mother of 11-year-old boy says Carr molested her son in Our Lady of Fatima parking lot (she details the incident in a letter seven years later).
June 21, 1984: Carr appointed to faculty of Immaculate High School in Danbury, living at St. Mary's rectory in Bethel.
August 1984: Father of 14-year-old altar boy at St. Mary's says Carr rubbed his son's leg in movie theater; Carr referred for therapy.
Sept. 20, 1984: Carr transferred from St. Mary's to St. Thomas the Apostle in Norwalk; appointed parochial vicar.
July 1986: Carr appointed to faculty of Notre Dame Catholic High School in Fairfield.
June 1989: Bishop Edward M. Egan transfers Carr to Central Catholic High School in Norwalk; Carr named spiritual director for boys.
Oct. 19, 1989: Mother writes letter to Diocese of Bridgeport, detailing 1982 complaint that her son was molested by Carr at Our Lady of Fatima.
Nov. 17, 1989: Egan briefed by aide about counseling program for Carr.
December 1989: Egan meets with Carr, then writes that Carr denied all charges but was “most cordial and understanding” about staying in therapy.
Jan. 10, 1990: Carr sent to Institute of Living in Hartford for evaluation, then returns to Central Catholic High School.
April 3, 1990: A different parent complains that Carr rubbed his son's leg in a movie theater while Carr was serving at Our Lady of Fatima in 1981; Egan aide notified of complaint.
April 9, 1990: Institute of Living advises diocese to take action “to protect both Father Carr and the public from the possibility of lapses in his judgement [sic] and behavior in the future.”
April 16, 1990: Diocese puts Carr on indefinite leave from job as spiritual director of Central Catholic High School in Norwalk.
April 23, 1990: Carr returns to Institute of Living for in-patient evaluation.
May 3, 1990: Egan aide writes of “developing pattern of allegations” against Carr.
June 29, 1990: Egan appoints Carr parochial vicar of St. Philip in Norwalk; restricts Carr from working with children.
June 20, 1991: Egan appoints Carr parochial vicar of St. Andrew Parish in Bridgeport; restrictions lifted.
Jan. 8, 1993: Former altar boy, now 23, repeats claim Carr molested him at St. Mary's in 1984 and questions why Carr is still an active priest; diocese responds that it is “reasonably satisfied” Carr is no longer a threat.
March 30, 1995: Civil lawsuit filed by another person accusing Carr of sex abuse; Egan puts Carr on indefinite leave and removes him from St. Andrew.
March 2001: Diocese settles civil suits, acknowledging unspecified incidents and apologizing for them.
The Egan File
On Oct. 7, 1997, and again on Sept. 23, 1999, Bishop Edward M. Egan was questioned by lawyers for people alleging sexual abuse by priests in the Bridgeport diocese. Following are excerpts from Egan's depositions, which were sealed by the court as part of about $12 million settlement last year:
On scope of abuse:
Egan: These things happen in such small numbers. It's marvelous when you think of the hundreds and hundreds of priests, how very few have even been accused, and how very few have even come close to having anyone prove anything. Claims are not of interest to me. Realities are. Claims are claims. Allegations are allegations.
Q: And are you saying that over time, the instances of clergy sexual abuse have increased?
Egan: Over time the allegations have increased.
Q: OK. Well, I'd like to -
Egan: Did you hear that? Not instances - your word was instances.
Q: Bishop, I can hear quite well ...
On Pcolka case:
Q: Are you aware of the fact that it involves instances of oral sex, anal sex, beatings, violence, sadistic verbiage - are you aware of the extent of the claims in this case?
Egan: I am not aware of any of those things. I am aware of the claims of those things, the allegations of those things.
Q: And you clearly are aware of the number of people that are making these similar claims during the same period of time, involving Father Pcolka, correct?
Egan: I am aware that there are a number of people who know one another, some are related to one another, have the same lawyers and so forth, I am aware of the circumstances, yes.
Q: So you understand that there is a significant part of the Catholic faithful that have claimed to be affected by Father Pcolka's sexual abuses, correct?
Egan: I am not aware that a significant part of the Catholic faithful claim to have been affected by father's abuses, no. ... The Catholic faithful of Fairfield County, of which this diocese is comprised, is 360,911 signed up in our parishes. I believe we can safely say there's probably another 150,000 or more not signed up in our parishes. Is 12 a significant portion? And then let us please remember that the 12 have never been proved to be telling the truth.
Q: And Father Pcolka, let us remember, won't tell us the truth because he continues to take the Fifth Amendment ...
On Brett case:
Q: OK. And from that memo you became aware of the fact, did you not, Bishop Egan, that under your predecessor's administration of the Diocese, it was decided that they would feign hepatitis and that is why he was not around?
Egan: That's what the final sentence says on the second page.
Q: So they would hide the complaint of sexual abuse and tell persons that he had hepatitis and that is why he was not around?
Egan: I wouldn't read it that way.
Q: You wouldn't?
Egan: No, I would read it that this man is going away, and if anyone asks, say he's not well, he has hepatitis. That's quite a bit different than saying you are going to hide it. If someone were going to ask - I don't perceive it that way, that's not my style, but I think that it's altogether understandable to anybody reading it. This person has been accused of doing such and such, we're going to be sending him away for attention. I wouldn't have done this, but I don't think it's a serious matter. Someone would say, well, if anybody asks, make it that he's not well, that he has hepatitis. The word "feign," of course, makes it somewhat dramatic, but my reading of it is not - my reading is the one I have just given you.
Q: You say that - he is not only accused but he confesses, does he not?
Egan: Yes, but he is accused and he confesses.
Q: He says, look it, he admits apparently that he had oral sex with this young boy and that he actually bit his penis and advised the boy to go to confession elsewhere?
Egan: Well, I think you're not exactly right. I don't think it was a young boy. Now, I can't remember every detail, but it seemed to me that the gentleman in question was an 18-year-old student at Sacred Heart University.
Q: Are you aware of the fact that in December of 1964 that an individual under 21 years of age was a minor in the state of Connecticut?
Egan: My problem, my clarification, had to do with the expression "a young boy" about an 18-year-old.
Q: A young - all right, a minor, is that better then?
On allowing Brett to remain a priest:
Q: Well, isn't it a fact that by not asking him to remove himself or by not suspending him, in effect you concluded that you would allow him to remain as a priest?
Egan: We had indications from psychiatrists that he was comporting himself appropriately, and our decision was to continue until we came to further conclusions because of the other indications.
Q: The fact that you - at that point you allowed him to remain a priest, that was your conclusion?
Egan: Yes, on the basis of analysis and by a professional.
The Curtis File
Before Bishop Edward M. Egan took over the Bridgeport diocese in 1988, Bishop Walter Curtis ran it for 27 years. Excerpts from Curtis' depositions, which were sealed by the court:
On transferring priests:
Q: What was the purpose, Bishop, of the reassigning to a different parish?
Curtis: Well, I presume it was to allow him to have a fresh start.
Q: All right, when he was assigned to a different parish, would anyone be advised of the problem which he had previously had?
Q: Were there any priests during the time that you were bishop that were transferred to a different diocese because they were found to be guilty, if you will, of pedophilic conduct in the Diocese of Bridgeport?
Q: Did you understand that to be a temporary condition or a disease, or what was your understanding of it when you were bishop of Bridgeport?
Curtis: I don't think I saw this is as a permanent condition. It was a - more incidental.
Q: More incidental. And what do you mean by incidental, if I may ask? Incidental to what?
Curtis: Well, it would happen on occasion. It wasn't a sort of a, it wasn't - I'm not sure how to state it.
Q: In other words, it wasn't a continual thing. It was an occasional thing?
Curtis: Yes. Yes.
Q: You had mentioned before that there were times that you would take a complaint in regard to a priest and take it out of the file. I think you said because it was old, or -
Curtis: Out of the secret file.
Q: Out of the secret file, OK, and where would you put that when you took it out?
Curtis: I would destroy it.
Q: You'd destroy it.
Q: And what was - give me an example of what would be the reason you would do that.
Curtis: Well, it would be - it would be an antiquated issue, happened
so long before, there was no point in preserving it any longer.
By Daniel Tepfer email@example.com
Bridgeport - While priest sex scandals make headlines nationwide, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport is quietly working to rebuild its credibility under Bishop William Lori's supervision.
Lori -- who became bishop of the Bridgeport diocese a year ago Tuesday -- said he plans to step up enforcement of the diocese's sexual-misconduct policy.
This involves reviewing all files of the diocese's 285 priests and 86 deacons to see if any pose a danger to children. Lori also vowed that priests who have been suspended because of sexual misconduct allegations will never hold a clergy post again.
"At this point, I can say that, to the best of my knowledge, there are no priests or deacons of the diocese of Bridgeport in active ministry who pose any threat of committing sexual misconduct with a minor," Lori said in a wide-ranging interview last week. Just before Lori's installation last year, the diocese, after seven contentious years of litigation, agreed to settle lawsuits filed by 26 people who claimed they were abused by diocesan priests in the 1970s and 1980s.
While the exact settlement was not officially disclosed, sources say it totaled $15 million. While the diocese contends that figure is too high, it nonetheless is believed to be the largest amount ever paid out by a state diocese to settle such claims.
But it is far from the largest in the nation, as the Boston archdiocese expects to pay out $100 million to settle lawsuits against priests accused of sexually abusing children there.
The Bridgeport settlement also marked the first time diocesan officials publicly admitted that some of its priests had molested children.
Lawyers for the victims claimed that the main stumbling block to settlements had been former Bishop Edward Egan, now cardinal of New York's Archdiocese.
Court documents obtained by the Connecticut Post show that soon after becoming Bridgeport's bishop in 1988, Egan was informed of sexual-abuse complaints made against particular priests.
But instead of reporting these complaints to authorities, Egan essentially played a shell game by re-assigning the priests involved to churches around the diocese, the documents show.
In June 1989, Egan moved the Rev. Charles T. Carr -- who previously received psychiatric treatment for allegedly molesting children at churches in Bethel and Norwalk -- to Central Catholic High School as spiritual director. And in 1990, after receiving more complaints about Carr, he moved him again to St. Philip Parish in Norwalk, according to court records.
The Rev. Martin Federici, accused of abuse in several complaints and who was diagnosed by a psychologist as having "poor contact with reality," was assigned by Egan in 1989 to Cathedral High School.
Court records show numerous other transfers of priests accused of abuse.
Four of the six priests listed in the 2001 settlement -- Raymond Pcolka, W. Phillip Coleman, Federici and Carr -- were suspended by the diocese only after lawsuits naming them as abusers were filed.
Sources close to the settlement negotiations said it was no coincidence the deal was reached only after Egan had officially left the diocese for New York.
"Bishop Egan and the diocese of Bridgeport handled the sexual-abuse claims like the head of a tobacco company or a high-level Enron executive," said Jason Tremont, whose Bridgeport law firm represented the 24 of the 26 victims in the settlement. "They attempted to wage a public relations campaign of denial and, at the same time, obtained a court order preventing the public from hearing the truth."
But in a reversal of previous policy in New York, Egan last week said that archdiocese will now report suspected pedophile priests to authorities for criminal investigation.
Lori, who took over 10 days after the Bridgeport settlement was finalized, immediately set about reforming Egan's policies in Bridgeport.
"Priests are no longer moved around willy-nilly because of allegations of abuse," Lori said. "Those days are long over. When a lot of that was done, people did not understand the high rate of recidivism, the nature of the disease and the bad effect it had on the victims.
"Today we do. For that reason, the church, as well as the rest of society, has taken a new approach" to matters of sexual abuse.
Lori explained that now, when a credible abuse allegation is received by the diocese, the person involved is confronted, relieved of his or her duties and sent for evaluation or treatment. Also, the diocese will try to cooperate with victims and their families and, if warranted, refer cases to state authorities.
"It is very important for us to reach out to anyone affected by this and I want to apologize to anyone who has been hurt. It is utterly against all we stand for. The only way we can really prevent this is to be as vigilant as we can," Lori said.
A bishop apologizing in the Bridgeport diocese was unheard of previously, but Lori appears to take the issue very seriously.
Last May, when the Rev. John Castaldo, Trinity Catholic High School's chaplain, was charged with soliciting sex over the Internet from an undercover investigator he thought was a 14-year-old boy, Lori went to the school and apologized to graduating seniors and their parents.
After meeting with Castaldo, Lori suspended the priest from his duties. A lawsuit pending against the diocese claims Castaldo in 1991 molested a 13-year-old boy at St. Teresa's Church in Trumbull. The bishop would not comment on that lawsuit.
Egan had adamantly refused to give interviews about sexual allegations against priests, going so far as to run from a reporter who sought to question him at the Holiday Inn in Bridgeport. So Lori readily agreeing to an interview can seem surprising.
The interview was held in the bishop's office in the Catholic Center, a mammoth room with yellow walls. Lori sat at a large carved wood desk that came with him from Washington, D.C., where he had served as auxiliary bishop.
"They insisted I take it with me," he joked.
Physically, Lori is a sharp contrast to his predecessor. While Egan was a large man with a booming voice, Lori is slight and speaks softly.
The bishop said he is aware of the extreme financial burdens other dioceses are facing because of sex-abuse complaints and damage awards. Bridgeport, however, is not one of them, he said.
"The diocese is in good financial condition. The funds donors gave us for charities are being used for those purposes, the money given for the annual bishop's appeal is not going to these settlements," Lori said. "Most of the money for the settlements is from insurance money and reserves set aside for such eventualities."
Lori's review of priests' files -- which he says shows no instances of sexual abuse -- includes the "mysterious seven" priests who lawyers claimed allegedly were involved in abuse incidents, but were not named in lawsuits and referred to only as colors, "Father Purple, etc." in court hearings.
The review also includes the file on the Rev. Joseph J. Malloy, former chaplain of the Bridgeport Fire Department and former pastor of St. Ann's Church in Bridgeport, who was accused of molesting a boy in a complaint included in the settlement. Malloy, now in Stamford, has not been suspended.
"As to Father Malloy, we did not find the allegation credible. We publicly stated that," Lori said. "We have confidence in Father Malloy, the description of the allegation did not make sense."
The Bridgeport man told the Connecticut Post he was 10 years old and an altar boy at St. Catherine of Siena Church in Trumbull when the assault took place.
Malloy has denied the allegation.
Lori admitted he never interviewed the alleged victim, but relied on what other diocesan officials told him of the incident.
Boston's Cardinal Bernard Law, whose diocese has been wracked with sexual-abuse cases over the last several months, recently turned over to state prosecutors the names of at least 80 priests accused of abuse. But Lori said he is not planning to do the same.
"We have always cooperated with civil authorities in the past and we will have to see what happens with future legislation. What the law would ask of us we would do," he said. "The vast bulk of what we have is already out there and has been made public.
"The files of the priests involved in the cases were reviewed by the judge and anything relevant to the situation is known. I want to get this on the table, but I want to make sure that good priests are not victimized by allegations."
Lori said he has learned that Carr was ministering in a nursing home in Danbury and had him removed. This came just after Tremont notified diocesan officials of a new complaint against Carr by a man who says the priest abused him in a Wilton church in 1982.
"We keep abreast of where these priests are and if we ever discover they are doing any kind of ministry we will make contact with the appropriate authorities and put an end to it," Lori said. "We are very vigilant lest any of these people seek a ministry."
One priest who has managed to avoid the diocese's scrutiny is the Rev. Lawrence Brett, one of the country's most notorious child abusers.
Brett, who is being sought by the FBI, is accused of sexually abusing children in Fairfield and Stamford in the 1960s and later in California and Baltimore. Sources estimate he cost the diocese nearly $1 million in settlements.
Court document show that in 1990, Egan apparently knew where Brett was and even invited him to return to Bridgeport.
"We have no information where Brett is and we would be happy if he were found and brought to justice," Lori said.
At one point, records show that Brett appeared ready to voluntarily be defrocked -- called "laicized" in church terminology -- but never signed the papers necessary.
Lori was asked why the diocese now does not forcibly laicize Brett and the other priests who are currently suspended.
"I simply can't laicize them at will. I can recommend that they voluntarily receive laicization," the bishop said. "I can't do it without going through a difficult process.
Many of the suspended priests still live in the area. Pcolka, accused of molesting 16 children, left a psychiatric treatment center without permission. He is living in Southbury.
Lori said the diocese is continuing to pay the suspended priests, but he said they are paid only enough to sustain them and keep them off the welfare rolls. He said the diocese will stop payments once they get non-religious jobs.
Daniel Tepfer, who covers state courts and law enforcement issues, can be reached at 330-6308.
BY Greg Wilson
New York's Edward Cardinal Egan allowed several priests accused of sexual abuse to continue working when he was bishop of Bridgeport, Conn., a newspaper said today.
Citing sealed court documents, the Hartford Courant reported Egan failed to investigate some abuse allegations aggressively and did not refer complaints to law enforcement authorities.
New York Archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling said last night Egan would have no comment on the matter.
"If you have a question about what happened in the diocese in Bridgeport, you should contact the diocese in Bridgeport," Zwilling said.
Joseph McAleer, a spokesman for the Bridgeport Diocese, told the Courant "this was litigated for eight years and was in the newspapers practically every day," and the diocese would have no further comment. Settled complaints Last March, shortly after Egan was appointed cardinal in New York, the Bridgeport diocese settled complaints against six priests for an undisclosed amount. Most of the alleged abuse occurred during the 27-year tenure of Egan's predecessor, Bishop Walter Curtis.
The documents reveal that, in addition to the eight priests who were originally sued, at least nine others faced molestation accusations but were never publicly identified, the paper said. The documents do not include details of the claims or their outcomes.
The documents show Egan, who was Bridgeport bishop from 1988 to 2000, defrocked at least one priest for sexual offenses and implemented the first written policy on sex abuse complaints. But he was slow to discipline other priests, even some who had been accused repeatedly, the Courant said. Records eyed William Lori, current bishop of Bridgeport, said last week the diocese was examining the records of all clergy for signs of sexual misconduct and was creating an advisory board to deal with the issue.
Egan suspended the Rev. Raymond Pcolka of Greenwich in 1993, but only after a dozen complaints had been made against him and after the priest refused psychiatric treatment, according to the report. But no accusers were interviewed, and police were not notified, the paper said.
Egan allowed the Rev. Charles Carr of Norwalk, accused in 1990 of fondling boys, to continue working until 1995, when he was named in a lawsuit, according to the story. Egan reinstated Carr in 1999 as a part-time chaplain at a church-run nursing home in Danbury. But Lori defrocked Carr after another allegation about a long-ago incident surfaced earlier this year.
Egan took over the Archdiocese of New York in 2000 after the death of John Cardinal O'Connor.
Cleaning Out the Cloisters
Edward Cardinal Egan announced last week that the New York archdiocese would turn over to the police any "credible" information on priests involved in child molestation - provided the victim approves.
That's commendable. But not enough.
It's also easy to see that increased scrutiny on the issue left Egan with no choice.
The scandal in Boston - where the church for decades failed to act against a repeat molester who's now been convicted, and is under siege over other similar failings - has concentrated attention on what is clearly a national problem.
A Florida bishop resigned after admitting molesting at least one boy two decades ago. Los Angeles has removed a dozen priests involved in abuse cases. And the Philadelphia archdiocese has followed Boston in turning over information to law enforcement.
Closer to home, four of the city's five district attorneys are demanding that the local dioceses hand over information on a priest accused of molesting a minor.
And Albany is looking to get involved: One of the state's most prominent Catholic politicians, Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, is talking about legislation.
The last is particularly troubling.
Sexual abuse of children is horrific; it cannot be tolerated. But the separation of church and state is one of this nation's fundamental principles. Politicians should not dictate policies to religious organizations.
But that constraint won't hold up if the Church isn't seen to be policing itself.
Last week, the cardinal invoked church-state separation as he again requested a "conscience clause" - an exemption on moral grounds for religion-linked organizations - in any state legislation to make contraception coverage mandatory in employer health plans have.
Fair enough. But there won't be much political support for a conscience clause if the church seems to have lost its conscience - that is, if it appears willing to tolerate serial pedophiles in its midst.
Egan sees the writing on the wall
So far, the cardinal is offering only to turn over information on cases since he became archbishop in June 2000 and wants to avoid talk of "numbers" - how many priests have been investigated.
That may not be enough.
At the very least, he should be ready to come forward with names of any priests whose actions would fall under the statute of limitations - which is generally five years for felonies.
Yes, the privacy of many priests and embarrassment to the archdiocese are put at risk under full disclosure.
But, absent candor, the integrity of the church itself is endangered.
Bishop Accountability © 2003
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