Bishop Accountability

Egan Resources – Pre-2002

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Egan's Old Diocese Settles Child-Molest Suits

By Dan Mangan
New York Post
March 10, 2001

Edward Cardinal Egan will be spared taking the witness stand for a public grilling about priests who molested children in his former Connecticut diocese.

The Diocese of Bridgeport, which admitted sex abuse by six priests, agreed Thursday to settle civil cases by paying undisclosed sums to 26 people who said they were molested.

[Photo Caption - Cardinal Egan won't have to testify.]

The longstanding suits against the diocese included one that named Egan as a defendant.

The late Bishop Walter Curtis was head of the diocese between 1961 and 1988, when most of the abuse occurred. Egan was bishop when the suits were filed.

Egan, the newly named cardinal who heads the New York archdiocese, was named as a witness in all the suits, which also accused him and the Bridgeport diocese of covering up for the pedophile priests in Fairfield County.

Egan specifically was accused of allowing one priest to have contact with children a decade after the priest was accused of molesting a child, a lawyer for the plaintiffs said.

"I don't think it's mere coincidence that the settlement came about the same time Bishop Egan was elevated to the position of cardinal," said the lawyer, Cindy Robinson, who also noted that Egan had faced a third deposition by the plaintiffs if the settlement talks failed.

"I'm not aware of any other cardinal testifying in a priest molestation case," Robinson said. If the cases had gone to trial, "I think it would be a pretty big deal" to see Egan testifying, she said.

"Cardinal Egan has successfully ducked a bullet," said Phil Saviano, New England spokesman for the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.

In a statement, Egan said "any incidence of sexual abuse is painful for all persons involved, particularly those who are victims of such abuse."

"It is my hope and my prayer that this resolution will enable true and deep healing to begin."

Church Must Police Priests

By Rod Dreher
New York Post
June 14, 2001

The new sexual-misconduct policy of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York declares that care will be taken "not to interfere with any criminal investigation" involving alleged sexual abuse.

You know, it will be a great day when a Catholic bishop issues a policy dictating his personnel to vigorously assist legal authorities in their criminal investigations of suspected child-molesting priests.

It will be a great day, indeed, when the U.S. Catholic bishops go on the offense against sexual malefactors in the ranks of the clergy, instead of defensively deploying an army of lawyers to buy the silence of victims, and keep the ugly truth out of the press.

It will be a great day, above all, when faithful Catholics believe the bishops are our side in this extremely grave matter, instead of the side of the institutional church.

Stephen Rubino, a New Jersey lawyer who has made a career of representing victims of clergy sexual abuse, says the bishops will never get rid of the problem as long as they are afraid of scandal.

"What injures the faithful is not scandal, but lies," Rubino said. "What heals the faithful is truth. What overcomes disappointment is leadership in truth."

Sixteen years after the Gilbert Gauthe case in Louisiana broke open the priest sexual-abuse story nationally, the American bishops still don't have the backbone to lead the church out of this crisis, Rubino said.

It won't go away until bishops dedicate themselves to weeding out abusive clergy and defrocking them - and by asking the laity to help by coming forward with their stories.

"They'll say this is a witch hunt," the lawyer said. "Well, guess what? They set up these problems for themselves. Until there's a purging of offending priests within the Catholic clergy, folks cannot have confidence."

Father Tom Doyle, a canon lawyer, co-authored a confidential, 1985 report given to the American bishops in 1985, predicting with prophetic accuracy the rash of clergy sex-abuse cases that would soon arise.

"They didn't listen, and they dismissed those of us who said this is a gross problem, and it's going to get worse," Doyle told me yesterday. "But they were wrong."

Since then, the priest has become one of the leading clerical authorities on the problem, and has personally ministered to thousands of victims of clergy sex abuse.

He said chanceries don't try to ignore the problem as they did before, because they know victims aren't afraid to file lawsuits and go to the media. But that doesn't mean things are kosher.

"The major issue now is the fact that the institution persists in dealing with it as a corporation, and not as the Body of Christ," he said.

"There are certainly exceptions, but the major worry still seems to be liability, loss of reputation of the institution, and serious threats to political power and prestige."

Doyle says he's seen countless situations where victims have been treated by diocesan officials as enemies.

"Bishops or religious leaders will issue generally sympathetic public statements, but in private, in individual cases, their lawyers will pursue a scorched-earth policy," the priest said.

What a moral and spiritual disgrace. This is a savage injustice not only to the laity, but to the tens of thousands of good and decent priests, whose reputations and ministries suffer because of this way of doing business.

It's good that the archdiocese here has a tougher new sexual-misconduct policy. But it would be infinitely better if, when a priest stands before the cardinal credibly accused of sexually molesting a child, we could trust that before he called the lawyers, the cardinal would call the cops.

Losing Faith in the Clergy
Bronx Priest's Hollow Words Gloss Over Sex Scandal

By Rod Dreher
New York Post
June 25, 2001

The pastor at St. Simon Stock Church in The Bronx told Mass-goers yesterday that allegations of sex abuse by their former priests was taken "very seriously" from the start.

Father Michael Kissane told me he also let parishioners know that his "door is always open" to talk about the matter, which was revealed in The Post on Saturday.

Fine. But if anyone in that parish has information about the alleged abuse - which has been denied by the four priests named in the suit - they'd be better off going to the media or the plaintiff's lawyer rather than the church.

We Catholics are people of great faith, but it is asking too much for us to believe that the church has taken this matter "very seriously."

If that were true, why did the Carmelites and the archdiocese send three of the accused priests to work in other parishes, where they would have access to children and teenagers?

"It's absolutely reprehensible in this day and age that these men who have serious allegations against them are put out in pastoral care," says psychiatrist Richard Sipe, a nationally known authority on priest sexual abuse.

If church authorities take the matter "very seriously," why are they not putting out a call asking those with information that could clear these priests - or help the victim get the justice he deserves - to come forward?

Could it be that they take it "very seriously" not for pastoral reasons, but for legal ones?

If so, they had better worry. Father Ruben Rodriguez, the church's former pastor, has now undermined the defense's claim that he and the other three priests are innocent.

Father Rodriguez, who was reached in Puerto Rico by phone by The Post's Douglas Montero, portrayed himself as an innocent framed by his erstwhile Carmelite colleague, Father James Tamburrino.

He claimed Father Tamburrino is smearing him as punishment for trying to break up the unusual relationship Father Tamburrino had with the boy.

Father Rodriguez is the only one of the four we know to have been sent for psychiatric evaluation - something required by archdiocesan guidelines when the church believes sexual-misconduct allegations have some substance. This bears on his credibility.

Still, Father Rodriguez told The Post he learned that Father Tamburrino had been disciplined in Peru for sexual misconduct with an underage parishioner - an allegation also made in the plaintiff's lawsuit.

If Father Rodriguez is telling the truth, it would appear that the Carmelites knew they had a priest with a sex problem on their hands, yet assigned him anyway to the Bronx parish.

Did they?

Furthermore, if Father Rodriguez had reason to suspect something improper going on, did he not have a moral, and possibly legal, obligation to inform his superiors?

Now that the case has hit the public square, it is expected that church lawyers will move to have a gag order issued.

The public may never find out what really happened at St. Simon Stock parish, what the Carmelites knew, when they knew it, and whom they told. The church is not just the clergy; it's lay people, too. And we deserve better.

"Silence remains a tremendously important goal of the church on every level," says Sipe. "The important thing is not paying out the money. The important thing is keeping it under wraps."

But these questions cannot and must not go away. The people of St. Simon Stock parish deserve answers, as do all New York Catholics.

Edward Cardinal Egan cannot credibly ask the laity for more money to help the financially strapped archdiocese with this sort of thing hanging over his head.

The faithful must have confidence that the church is taking strong action to stop the problem. Million-dollar payouts buying the silence of victims without public accounting for dark deeds only perpetuates the crisis.

"Keep after them," a New York priest told me after The Post first broke this story. "These people only care about their careers. They're destroying the priesthood. They're destroying the church."

Church Played Role in Changes to Sex-Abuse Bill in Conn.

By Douglas Montero
New York Post
August 1, 2001

It’s not the first time the Catholic Church allegedly flexed its muscles to influence sex-abuse law.

A similar debacle occurred north of the Long Island Sound just a few years ago.

Before his appointment here in June 2000, Archbishop Edward Egan - who headed the Bridgeport, Conn., diocese - was accused of sitting on a string of sexual-abuse lawsuits involving six priests and 26 adults, who charged they were abused as kids.

Egan was not only a defendant in the suits filed in 1993, but was also a material witness. The lawsuits, in which the Church eventually acknowledged some guilt, were settled last March for an undisclosed amount.

"[Egan's] the guy who everyone is more or less convinced sat on the cases," Connecticut State Rep. Michael P. Lawlor said. "Everyone knows the cases were settled because they didn't want it hanging over Egan."

The case inspired Connecticut lawmakers to push for a proposed bill to strengthen sex-abuse laws and allow for the prosecution of molesters years after the crime.

But the Church "killed" it, Lawlor said.

Needless to say Connecticut officials weren't the least bit surprised the Archdiocese of New York - now headed by Egan - is accused of trying to quash a City Council bill that would make it a crime if educators in public and private schools fail to report sex attacks to police.

Egan had allegedly "delayed and obstructed the process of getting these [the Connecticut] cases heard in court," said Cindy Robinson, a lawyer for Tremont & Sheldon, which represented 24 of the victims. She accused Egan of transferring some of the accused priests instead of suspending them.

"It is our belief that Bishop Egan allowed known sex abusers to continue as active priests enabling these offenders to have contact with children," she said.

Joe Zwilling, a spokesman for the New York Archdiocese, denied the allegations.

He said Egan, issued a "comprehensive policy" regarding sexual abuse by the clergy when he arrived in Bridgeport and likewise in New York.

Lawlor learned about the church's muscle when, after the March 2001 settlement, he began pushing a little-known bill to extend the statute of limitations on prosecuting child molesters.

The church learned the proposed law would be "retroactive" - meaning the six priests could be prosecuted.

"It was at that juncture that the church, very visibly, geared up to defeat this bill," Lawlor said.

The church, through the Connecticut Catholic Conference, the lobbying arm for bishops, hired the state's most powerful lobbyist firm, Updike, Kelly & Spellacy, which tried to influence Lawlor, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

The bill, which made it through committee, was passed on the House floor on May 8 after much debate - minus the retroactive provision. The bill then went to the Senate, which reattached the retroactive provision, unanimously approved it, and sent it back to the House, Lawlor said.

And since Lawlor didn't have the House votes to approve it with the retroactive provision, "It was dead for the year."


Bishop Accountability © 2003