Egan Resources – August 2002
By Daniel J. Wakin
Cardinal Edward M. Egan yesterday defended his handling of priest sexual abuse cases while he was bishop of Bridgeport and said his leadership of the New York archdiocese during the past seven months of crisis was not getting the credit it deserved.
"I think we handled the matters properly," Cardinal Egan said. "I think we're handling them properly now."
In his first extensive interview since the sexual abuse scandal began enveloping the Roman Catholic Church nationwide, the cardinal described the past year as the most difficult of his life. He said Sept. 11, the scandal and other crises, including a school strike, forced him to delay his major initiatives for the archdiocese of 2.4 million Catholics. They include plans to reach out to immigrant groups and possibly to close parishes.
He disclosed, however, that he has reached one major goal: erasing a more than $20 million operating deficit, which he inherited two years ago. And he promised eventually to eliminate the archdiocese's long-term debt.
In a 90-minute interview in his high-rise office at the New York Catholic Center, with the Chrysler Building gleaming in the distance, the cardinal made it clear that he was keenly aware of criticism among both the clergy and lay Catholics that he has failed to serve his flock as a pastor. He obliquely faulted the news media and blamed people disgruntled by his budget and personnel cuts. He portrayed himself several times as relying heavily on advisers in making legal and financial decisions. Excerpts, Page B4.
Cardinal Egan, who is 70, also rejected any notion that as the leader of the Archdiocese of New York -- to many the most prominent Roman Catholic pulpit in the nation -- he served as a national church leader. "I see myself as a servant of the people of God of the Archdiocese of New York," he said, with one overriding concern: its 414 parishes.
He also displayed his deep knowledge of classical music, his fluency in Latin and Italian and his love for and intimacy with Rome, a city where he lived for many years. He spoke with ease on those subjects, but grew serious, almost guarded, in discussing the affairs of the archdiocese. He said he could not speak freely regarding the sex abuse scandal because court cases were pending in Bridgeport and New York.
Some advocates for victims of sex abuse have portrayed the cardinal as being too slow to remove priests accused of molesting minors while he served as bishop of Bridgeport, a position he held from 1988 to 2000.
Cardinal Egan yesterday repeated his past assertions that he relied on the expert advice of psychiatrists in allowing some accused priests to keep working in Bridgeport -- a practice that was common across the country. But that measure, he said, has changed. "Right now, I have less and less confidence in depending upon the medical and psychiatric community," he said. "It's too dangerous, it seems to me, to do anything now but to play always on the side of safety," he said, and suspend priests more promptly.
In April, the cardinal said he was sorry "if in hindsight we also discover that mistakes may have been made" regarding the removal of priests and assisting victims. Yesterday, when asked if he had made any mistakes, he answered, "I think that we did this properly, as it was understood at that time, and I'm happy with what we did."
As archbishop of New York since 2000, the cardinal has faced a different set of challenges. Some priests have felt angry about what they see as harsh treatment of accused fellow clerics, while victims and their advocates are angry at him for not acting decisively enough.
At the same time, some Catholics portray him as an absentee shepherd during the church's most deeply troubled time in generations. To these faithful, he is an aloof archbishop who has failed to bring a sense of healing and trust.
"In two years, he has not been much of an archbishop for New York, that is, for the life of the city," said the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, editor of First Things, a conservative journal, and one of more than a dozen people interviewed who expressed similar feelings. "He's a good, faithful man. I think he's just missed opportunity after opportunity to be what a bishop should be. That is, a teacher."
John M. Conroy, a retired school principal active in his parish of Church of the Holy Family in New Rochelle, said the bishop was well-suited to solving financial problems. "But right now those are not the important problems," he said. "This guy is so distant, and not the kind of person who is going to be helpful in these troubled times."
Except for two homilies around Easter week, the cardinal has mainly communicated to the archdiocese at large through letters read in churches, statements issued to the press and a column in Catholic New York, the diocesan newspaper. He has spoken to some degree about the scandal during Sunday parish visits. He has rarely spoken to reporters.
Bishops elsewhere have taken a different approach, meeting with victims and establishing a special ministry for them, holding outdoor healing ceremonies or engaging in media campaigns. Yesterday, the cardinal distanced himself from such bishops. "I don't think that's the way to do it," he said. "I think we've handled it in a very serious way," adding, "Everybody has a different way of dealing with things."
He suggested that criticism of him as being aloof was exaggerated. "We're getting through more than some people might have suspected," he said. He has been dogged by such criticism since succeeding Cardinal John J. O'Connor, whom some regard as more charismatic. But Cardinal Egan said it was common for a bishop who was dealing with administrative problems to be faulted for lacking the pastoral touch.
For instance, in disclosing yesterday that he was considering taking steps to reduce the archdiocese's long-term debt, he said: "As soon as you publish this, somebody's going to say, 'See, he's not a pastor of souls at all, he's only interested in other things.' But we have to put our house in order, and we're putting our house in order."
It was by cutting jobs and archdiocesan offices, tightening up spending and slowing down hiring that he was able to erase the deficit, he said. He also noted that the archdiocese exceeded this year's $15 million goal in the annual capital fund-raising appeal by more than $2 million.
He suggested that journalists relied too heavily on his antagonists. In the course of 150 parish visits, he said, the welcome has been extraordinary. "You know and I know it all depends on who you're talking to, who's on your Rolodex -- and who's on your Rolodex is pretty much someone who's going to be provocative in these statements," he said.
The cardinal acknowledged being caught between Catholics who feel he has not dealt strongly enough with abusive priests and parishioners who say their pastors have been treated too harshly by being dismissed for long-ago transgressions.
The archdiocese on April 2 gave the Manhattan district attorney's office a list of all priests accused of abusing a minor in the past 40 years. Within days, Cardinal Egan suspended six serving priests, and later, his vicar of development, over accusations regarding long-ago incidents.
In June, he joined with the nation's bishops in approving guidelines that require the permanent removal from ministry of a priest once an act of sexual abuse is admitted or "established." Since then, the archdiocese said that one priest had been suspended because of a 20-year-old allegation. The future of the suspended priests remains uncertain. Nearly 24 other cases have been turned over to prosecutors, most of those priests retired or already defrocked. Cardinal Egan said that once prosecutors review the cases, the archdiocese's lay review board will help him decide each priest's fate.
When asked whether the bishops' actions would restore the badly eroded trust of American Catholics, he said: "Time will have to tell. I'm not a prophet. I think what we are doing and have done is correct."
The cardinal said he was ready to face more criticism once he turns his attention to parishes and schools. Declining to say whether he would close any, he said, "I have plans to readjust them," which could include establishing new parishes.
The Rev. Joseph A. O'Hare, the president of Fordham University, sympathized with the cardinal for having to make difficult decisions on reducing costs, and said criticism of his actions regarding accused priests in Bridgeport was unfair.
However, he said, "A good archbishop is someone who has to communicate a message that inspires confidence and trust in people." Cardinal Egan has not had time to demonstrate those characteristics, Father O'Hare said, because of the need to deal with finances and respond to the sex abuse scandal.
Outside the concerns of the church, Cardinal Egan was expansive in reminiscing about his days in Rome, where he studied and served as a judge on a Vatican court, the Sacred Roman Rota, for 14 years until 1985, when he was consecrated a bishop. He recalled how, before a piano trio concert at the Santa Cecilia auditorium, he induced the trio to substitute Schubert's Piano Trio in B flat major for the E flat because he loved the B flat's slow movement so much.
As the interview ended, Cardinal Egan slapped the arms of his chair, jumped up, and, signaling that he had spoken enough, said, "Basta!"
'We Have to Put Our House in Order'
New York Times
Following are excerpts from an interview yesterday with Cardinal Edward M. Egan, as recorded by The New York Times. More excerpts are online at nytimes.com/nyregion.
I've had to come here and do a lot of difficult things. I've had to let a lot of people go and make some rather strong changes, because we've had to put our house in order. I think if you go to the diocese I came from, come from, once you have a place in reasonable order, you can find you have much less criticism for those kinds of attitudes. But I've had to do a lot of things that have inconvenienced and upset a lot of people and they had to be done. And I think that a lot of people would not use the word imperious. But time will tell. . . .
"I think any good archbishop is going to be liked and the next one
is going to come along and say that he did a fine job, and they'll say
'Well, why didn't you do as good a job?' I think the same thing probably
happened with Cardinal Cooke and Cardinal O'Connor or maybe Cardinal Spellman
and Cardinal Cooke, I don't know. I think that's standard. Remember, I
was secretary to Cardinal Meyer in Chicago, and Cardinal Stritch had to
be one of the most beloved southern gentleman and everything. I was with
Cardinal Meyer right from the beginning and people would make the comparison,
but I think when Cardinal Meyer died, he was the challenge for the next
one coming along.
Another big challenge is our schools. I'm very much committed to our
schools. We're going to make tough decisions about our schools, just as
we're going to have to make tough decisions about parishes. We have sections
of the upper counties which have huge Catholic populations and parishes
and schools that aren't able to serve them. We have here in the boroughs
certain sections where nobody's living any more. Those are going to be
also the source of criticisms.
We have a certain amount of indebtedness around here. And the way that
I handle indebtedness is that I've put a line item in the budget which
is called debt reduction. As soon as you publish this, somebody's going
to say, 'He's not a pastor of souls at all, he's only interested in other
things.' But we have to put our house in order, and we're putting our
house in order."
I feel I'm handling these things right and, I think, correctly, and I
believe I have handled them correctly. This is a major, major issue. You'd
never hear me indicate that it wasn't a major issue.
Time will have to tell. I'm not a prophet. I think what we are doing
and have done is correct. I believe that the Dallas decisions pretty much
reflect what we did and are doing. They don't go as far as we do, because
my approach has always been to ask for laicization leaving the priesthood
. If I didn't get it, all right.
If you take it out of the context of the times, right now I have less
and less confidence in depending upon the medical and the psychiatric
community to tell me if the person can control this sort of thing, or
has controlled it. My experience is that sometimes they're right, and
sometimes they're wrong. They're probably right more than they're wrong,
but it's too dangerous, it seems to me, to do anything now but to play
always on the side of safety. My first consideration has to be protection,
to see there is no harm done. While I will be sending these people to
these institutions or whatever, maybe not the same ones, my trust in their
ability to analyze and figure it out and forecast is significantly diminished.
By Eric Rich and Elizabeth Hamilton
The Rev. Laurence F.X. Brett vanished abruptly almost a decade ago, leaving clothes still hanging in his closet and a trail of accusers stretching across four states and back 30 years.
Now, a Hartford Courant investigation has found the onetime fugitive - whose flight took him beyond the reach of police and plaintiffs' attorneys investigating accusations that Brett sexually abused teenage boys - living a secretive but comfortable life on the tropical island of St. Maarten in the Caribbean.
In hiding, and with the support of friends from his days as a priest, Brett has concealed his past as a clergyman and avoided any public connection to the church. He has identified himself to acquaintances on the island as a writer, a businessman or, at times, a CIA agent.
The Courant found the disgraced Bridgeport priest living in a walled complex of villas at the end of a cul-de-sac by the edge of a lagoon. There, late one afternoon last week, he walked his dog, Joy, and tugged on a cigarette.
"I don't think I remember you," he replied to a reporter who called out his name.
Realizing he had been found out, the 65-year-old priest slumped and stared at the ground. He did not respond to questions about allegations that he had abused more than two dozen altar boys and other children in Connecticut, New Mexico, California and Maryland. When asked whether he continues to molest children today, he looked up, shook his head and said: "No."
Since shortly after his disappearance late in 1993, the official position of the Roman Catholic Church has been that it wants Brett found and brought to justice. Church officials in Bridgeport and Baltimore have called Brett a criminal and an "evil man." The FBI and a private detective have tried, unsuccessfully, to find him.
But interviews and documents make clear that, during the past decade, a handful of priests and laypersons loyal to Brett have known where to find him - and, in one case, were financially supporting his life on the lam.
The Courant found evidence that Brett has been in contact for years with at least one and perhaps two priests in the Bridgeport diocese, a prominent businessman who is an associate of Baltimore Cardinal William Keeler, a psychologist from Johns Hopkins University, and an order of Catholic priests in Washington.
An evangelical branch of the order, the Paulist Fathers, for whom Brett worked for many years, supported him financially for years on St. Maarten by sending checks to a Miami mailbox, where they were forwarded to an offshore company in Brett's name, a source familiar with the arrangement said.
Corporation records show that Brett created the company - called Wordshares, a variation on the name of the Paulist magazine, Share the Word, for which Brett once wrote - in 1996 on the island of Anguilla, a short boat ride from St. Maarten.
The Paulists did not return calls for comment Wednesday. They have previously said Brett worked as "a contract employee" but have refused to discuss his whereabouts.
Told of the Courant's findings, Bridgeport Bishop William Lori issued a statement late Wednesday saying he was satisfied Brett had been located. Lori said that he was now investigating the actions of the two priests who allegedly have been in contact with him.
"I would be personally disappointed if any of my priests knew of Brett's whereabouts and did not inform me, especially as I have made it very clear that the diocese was anxious to locate Brett and bring him to justice," Lori said.
A diocese spokesman, Joseph McAleer, added that the bishop felt compelled to alert law enforcement authorities in Connecticut and Maryland after being told that The Courant had located Brett.
"We frankly didn't know if he was dead or alive," McAleer said.
On the Run
Brett lived until three months ago on the Dutch side of St. Maarten, not far from the casino and beach at opulent Cupecoy. Speaking on condition of anonymity, neighbors at his condominium complex said that, over the years, teenagers and young men were frequent visitors.
Early in June, they said, Brett left suddenly, cutting ties and spreading word that he was returning to the United States.
"He moved like he wanted to disappear," one former neighbor at the Cote d'Azur condominiums said.
In fact, as his case became national news - CNN in May aired a videotape of then-Bridgeport Bishop Edward Egan testifying during a 1997 trial over Brett's abuse of a Connecticut altar boy, and Time magazine featured Brett in an April cover story on the church scandal - the missing priest was going deeper into hiding.
Instead of leaving St. Maarten, Brett moved across the lagoon known as Simpson Bay, to a ground-floor apartment in a cluster of white stucco buildings called Koolbaai Villas. The development is unwelcoming on the outside, with signs warning of dogs and private property. His villa is in the back, by a dirt parking area down a rutted road, near a desolate grassland littered with old wooden pallets and discarded trash. Six months ago, a body was found there, one resident said.
Brett, always diminutive, once charismatic and considered brilliant even by his victims, appears frail and in ill health today. He is a heavy smoker and a drinker.
His neighbors at Cote d'Azur described Brett as friendly, at times, but mercurial and moody. One called him "a spoiled brat" who tended to make much of small complaints and who reveled in the small power that came with being president of the condominium owners' association.
St. Maarten, less than an hour's flight east of Puerto Rico, sits almost at the top of the string of tropical islands known as the Lesser Antilles. The Atlantic spreads out to the east, dotted with other islands, and the Caribbean stretches emptily to the west.
The island, half Dutch and half French, is known for its luxury resorts, glitzy casinos and isolated white sand beaches. It is also a place where, because there is no border between the two sides, and because boats can shuttle easily among the islands, "it is possible for a man to hide out," as one high-ranking police official on the French side of the island said.
St. Maarten became Brett's home only after an extraordinary odyssey that began in 1964, when he admitted biting the penis of a student at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield during nonconsensual oral sex. Brett was confronted and subsequently ordered to leave the diocese. He traveled the country in seeming exile, but was permitted to continue as a priest under the auspices of the Bridgeport diocese, first under Bishop Walter Curtis and later under Egan.
He was dispatched to an isolated monastic retreat in New Mexico before traveling briefly to California, and then settling in Baltimore. Allegations of sexual abuse followed him everywhere.
Beginning late in 1992, the Bridgeport diocese learned of three old allegations against Brett in the space of several months. Egan called him back to Bridgeport, suspended him and asked that he voluntarily leave the priesthood. Brett at first agreed, but later changed his mind.
He left his home in Baltimore late that year or early the next, staying briefly at the home of a friend in Florida in 1994 before dropping out of sight.
Publicly, that is where Brett's trail ended.
Meanwhile, complaints about his past behavior continued to pour in. Baltimore Archdiocese officials said they have received 15 complaints against Brett since 1972 and turned over all their information to prosecutors in the hope that Brett would be found and prosecuted.
"Larry Brett is a criminal," said Stephen Kearney, spokesman for the diocese. "He's an evil guy."
It was information from these complaints that resulted in two warrants for Brett's arrest being issued in February 1999. In those warrants, two former students from Calvert Hall, a Catholic high school in the Baltimore area, detailed how Brett allegedly ordered them to report to his office, where he performed oral sex on them under the pretense of inspecting their penis size or confirming they weren't homosexual.
Brett was charged with custodial child abuse and second-degree sexual offense in both cases and the FBI's fugitive task force began searching for the missing priest, but the charges were withdrawn before Brett could be located.
Prosecutor John Cox, who heads the Baltimore County state's attorney's sexual assault unit, said the charges were withdrawn because the specific statutes didn't exist in the early 1970s when Brett was alleged to have committed the crimes. The only charge that did exist then that fit the crimes, Cox said, was one called "perverted practice" and there is disagreement in the state's appellate court about whether that charge, a misdemeanor, carries a one-year statute of limitations.
Cox said in an interview last month that his office could have chosen to make Brett a test case, but said that "doesn't get us past the fact that he's missing." The FBI's fugitive task force does not have jurisdiction to take people into custody on misdemeanor charges.
"It's a matter of finding him," Cox said.
What few people knew is that Brett, faced with mounting accusations against him, had decided in 1993 to disappear. He turned to an old friend in Baltimore for help.
He asked Wayne Ruth, an associate of the cardinal, to help him dispose of his home on North Paca Street. Ruth, a prominent local businessman who is now chairman of the board in charge of renovating the First Basilica, the oldest cathedral in the nation, had been a student at Calvert Hall in Baltimore years earlier, when Brett served as chaplain there.
Brett signed over power-of-attorney to Ruth, and in the summer of 1994, records show, Ruth closed the deal. Brett evidently left in a hurry.
"Everything was still in the house," said Virgil Gross, the man who bought the property, "like he said he was going to the store and just never came back."
In interviews earlier this month, Ruth said he has seen Brett on St. Maarten only once since then, at a restaurant, and it was his impression Brett was merely passing through. The subject of where Brett was living never came up, Ruth said.
"We mostly talked about old times," he said.
Ruth said he didn't know his old friend was living on the island, less than a half mile from where he himself had a condominium. He admitted that he had been to the Cote d'Azur, but said he was unaware the man who baptized his oldest son was living there.
He could offer no explanation for why other Cote d'Azur residents recall that he had visited Brett. He did offer an explanation of how they could have known Ruth's name, and known that he had two sons: "Everybody in St. Maarten knows about me."
Brett's former neighbors on St. Maarten also said a man named David Howell was an occasional visitor. Although the neighbors had no way of knowing it, Howell is the pastor of St. Joseph's Church in South Norwalk. One neighbor said Howell had been to the island in January of this year.
In an interview this week, Howell - who said he overlapped for one year with Brett in the seminary - explained that he has a timeshare on the island and acknowledged that he was there in January. But he denied seeing Brett or knowing that he was there.
He could not explain why he appeared to be the intended recipient of a faxed memorandum found on the floor of Brett's condominium after Brett departed in such haste in June. Howell's name and parish fax number appear on the memo.
The cryptic document, obtained by The Courant, concerns a "long-standing project" that "has always been a troublesome undertaking." It says a forthcoming letter will describe "the entire situation, together with resolution" and, mysteriously, notes the valuable support of "the Good Doctor, who is truly the godfather of Joy."
The Good Doctor appears to be a reference to Gregory Lehne, Brett's therapist, who delivered a dog named Joy to Brett after his old dog, Shakespeare, was struck by a car and killed two years ago. Lehne, a professor of psychology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore who specializes in treatment of sexual disorders, said it was Howell who alerted him two years ago that Brett had plunged into depression after Shakespeare died.
"That was how I heard he was so depressed," said Lehne.
In response to the news, Lehne rushed to the island with the new dog. It was his second visit. Lehne said Wednesday that he saw no problem in socializing with his former patient, even staying at Brett's condo, and that he didn't realize his former patient and friend was being sought by the FBI and at least one private investigator.
The mysterious memo from Brett's abandoned condo does not have Brett's name on it, but instead bears the name Wordshares Inc., the Anguilla company Brett created to accept payments from the Paulist National Catholic Evangelization Association.
Neither the Rev. Kenneth Boyack, director of the association, nor Denny Marcotte, general manager of Share the Word, would comment about Brett's past employment there. Boyack did not return a call Wednesday and Marcotte would not come out of his office in Washington last month when visited by a reporter.
Paula Diehl, managing editor of Share the Word magazine during Brett's tenure, said Wednesday she does not know when Brett stopped working there or how he was paid after he disappeared from Baltimore in 1993. A "Mr. Laurence F.X. Brett" is listed on the magazine masthead as the author and general editor up to 1997, four years after his disappearance.
His name does not appear in a 1998 edition, but no one appears to have replaced him as the sole writer of Share the Word, either. There is no listing for a writer.
Bishop Looking into Claims Priests Protected Abuser
By Anthony DePalma
The Roman Catholic bishop of Bridgeport, Conn., is investigating claims that two of his priests kept secret that a priest accused of sexually abusing children was hiding on a Caribbean island.
[Photo Caption: The Rev. Laurence Brett, formerly a priest in the Bridgeport Diocese in Connecticut, was photographed on St. Maarten last week. Photo by Alan Chaniewski.]
The priest accused of the abuse, the Rev. Laurence Brett, was found by reporters of The Hartford Courant living in a resort on St. Maarten, a small Dutch territory. He had been in hiding since about 1993, when he was suspended from the priesthood after allegations that he had sexually abused minors.
He refused to answer the reporters' questions about the allegations or say anything about any priests who might have kept his whereabouts from authorities.
The Courant reported that for several years, Father Brett had been in contact with at least one priest in the Bridgeport Diocese, and possibly others. And, the paper reported, he continued to receive payments from the order of Catholic priests he had worked for.
The bishop of the Bridgeport Diocese, William E. Lori, said in a statement released yesterday that he hoped Father Brett would be brought to justice to account for his actions. He also expressed disappointment that two priests in the diocese may have known where Father Brett was during the last nine years but did not notify church or civil authorities.
"I expect every priest, deacon and lay employee to cooperate with church authorities and civil authorities in the investigation of sexual abuse," Bishop Lori said.
Currently, however, no criminal charges are pending against Father Brett.
The discovery of Father Brett's whereabouts is likely to reopen debate about the way his case was handled by church officials, including Cardinal Edward M. Egan, who now leads the Archdiocese of New York. As bishop of Bridgeport in 1990, he allowed Father Brett to continue with his priestly duties after the priest admitted he had sexually abused minors in the 1960's.
A statement released yesterday by Cardinal Egan's office indicated that church officials knew about Father Brett's sexual abuse of minors as early as 1964. The bishop of Bridgeport at that time, Walter Curtis, ordered Father Brett to undergo psychiatric evaluation. Then, on the recommendation of a psychiatrist, Bishop Curtis allowed Father Brett to work with the Paulist Fathers' publishing house, while still formally connected to the Bridgeport Diocese.
In 1990, Cardinal Egan, as the Bridgeport bishop, met Father Brett for the first time. Cardinal Egan said that at the time he knew only of the original allegations against Father Brett. With the cooperation of lay advisers, Bishop Egan decided to allow Father Brett to remain an active priest.
In November 1992, new allegations against Father Brett were brought to the attention of Bishop Egan. He ordered an investigation and three months later suspended Father Brett, prohibiting him from performing priestly duties. Father Brett also agreed to leave the priesthood, but on the advice of his lawyers he later changed that decision. Technically, he remains a priest.
Shortly after his suspension in 1993, Father Brett went into hiding and even changed the spelling of his name. His ordination papers list his first name as Lawrence, but he has since used Laurence. He identified himself to various neighbors in St. Maarten as a writer or a businessman, according to The Courant.
In 1999, the state's attorney's office in Baltimore County, Md., issued two warrants for Father Brett's arrest on charges of abusing two Catholic high school students while he was living in Baltimore in the 1970's.
John P. Cox, an assistant state's attorney in charge of the child abuse and sex offense division, said the charges had to be dropped because the appropriate statutes did not exist in the early 1970's.
Mr. Cox said he was considering whether to bring charges against the
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