Bridgeport Diocese Reacts to Egan: Abuse Apology Still Stands

By Susan Shultz
Darien Times
February 9, 2012

Cardinal Edward Egan, the former bishop of Bridgeport.

The Diocese of Bridgeport, which includes Darien's two Roman Catholic parishes, is distancing itself from comments made by its former leader, Cardinal Edward Egan, to Connecticut Magazine.

In the magazine's February edition, Cardinal Egan, who left the Diocese of Bridgeport in 2002 to become Archbishop of New York, said he retracted his apology for sexual abuse that reportedly occurred in the diocese.

"I never should have said that. I did say if we did anything wrong, I'm sorry, but I don't think we did anything wrong," Egan said.

Brian Wallace, spokesman for the Diocese of Bridgeport and its current leader, Bishop William E. Lori, told The Darien Times that "our apology stands. There's no denial it happened, and it was a tragedy."

Reports of sexual abuse hit a crisis level nationally in 2002, as per Connecticut Magazine, "involving hundreds of Roman Catholic priests and thousands of young victims."

There were 23 lawsuits involving sexual abuse in the Diocese of Bridgeport.

Wallace said that while Bishop Lori would not comment directly on Cardinal Egan's statements, the diocese stands on the bishop's record.

"He came into the diocese at a very difficult time and obviously dealt with a number of historical abuse issues and the way he's addressed the problem has become a model for the nation," Wallace said.

In particular, Wallace said Thursday he wants people to know the diocese's stance because Cardinal Egan's words may puzzle, disappoint and anger Catholics saying he hadn't heard anything directly, but anecdotally.

"We want to keep a positive accent on the incredible work that has been done in the diocese to address the problem," he said.

In 1999, the magazine reported that sexual abuse had gone on for years before that, and that Cardinal Egan had let accused priests continue to work in local parishes and paid off victims for their silence.

Egan also denied that any of the sex abuse cases had happened during his tenure beginning in 1988, and said that none of the priests in the cases "did anything wrong."

When questioned in this month's issue about sex abuse accusations being hidden, Cardinal Egan denied it, saying: "I don't think even now you're obligated to report (the abuse cases) in Connecticut."

Cardinal Egan also denied he'd ever made a mistake in the handling of the cases.

"I handled every case exactly the right, I never hesitated to have the very finest of treatment, the very finest of everything. And not any of them did anything out of line," he said.

Wallace said he thought the diocese has not heard any complaints directly is because "they know what we've done. They've all participated in it."

He said that anyone who works with parishes in the diocese gets training whether it be working in the parish, or volunteering to sell hot dogs at a church fair.

"We do criminal background checks. We are dead serious about the issue. Our record is what it is, we've acknowledged abuse, and we've paid for it in terms of the victims and as well as the affects on our entire church," Wallace said.

"Through Bishop Lori's leadership we have moved on and created a system that has done extremely well in prevention and training, and we've remained vigilant," he said.

Wallace said that despite Cardinal Egan's retraction of his apology, the bishop has apologized and continues to meet with victims and done everything he can.

"We have responded tremendously, most urgently to prevent it from happening again," he said.

Cardinal Egan, who was elevated to that level after leaving Bridgeport, retired in 2009 and lives in New York City. His interview, published in Connecticut Magazine's February edition, has received some backlash from the media and public.

"There's no denying it happened. It was a tragedy. It took a total institution response, and that's what the bishop saw, and that's what he did," Wallace said.








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