New Egan Bombshell : Paid off Perv Priest and Ignored Victim: Lawyer

New York Post
May 19, 2002

Edward Cardinal Egan resisted compensating an alleged victim of a pedophile priest while giving the clergyman as much as $17,000 to settle bank debts and pay for a defense lawyer when the cardinal was bishop of Bridgeport, a new report says.

Court documents reveal that the payment - made in 1989 after the Rev. Gavin O'Connor had been accused of molesting several boys between 1977 and 1985 - was later condemned by the plaintiff's lawyer as "a payoff" intended to buy O'Connor's silence in the case pending against him and the diocese, the Hartford Courant reported yesterday.

At a March 1998 pretrial hearing, a Hartford Superior Court judge found the hush-money allegation believable enough to allow testimony about it during the trial, but the diocese avoided that possibility when it abruptly settled the case for an undisclosed amount.

Critics said the disputed payment is the latest example of complaisant treatment Egan showed toward several priests accused of sexual misconduct during his tenure in Bridgeport.

"What I find grossly lacking is any sense of equitable compassion for the victims," said the Rev. Thomas Doyle, an expert in canon law who has testified in numerous clergy-misconduct cases.

"Egan did nothing - nothing - for victims in Bridgeport except infuriate them and further victimize them. I've never seen anybody in my 17 years of dealing with this issue as heartless as Egan, and as callous in his treatment of the victims."

A transcript of the hearing reveals that the diocese argued that church law required Egan to pay O'Connor's personal debts because he was "removing the man's ability to practice his professional calling."

Egan gave O'Connor as much as $17,000, even though the then-bishop testified he found the allegations against O'Connor so substantial that he had him defrocked.

O'Connor was accused in two lawsuits of molesting three boys from the same family from 1977 to 1985. One of the boys attempted suicide in 1985, prompting the disclosure of the abuse to the diocese by his family.

Two brothers sued the diocese. One settled in 1989 for an undisclosed sum, and the other settled four years ago for $200,000.

"All bishops are required by canon law to provide for the support of their priests," Joe Zwilling, spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, said Friday in a statement.

"Accordingly, during the period following O'Connor's suspension by Bishop Egan and prior to his [unfrocking], the diocese did provide for his living expenses."

Zwilling also called Egan's handling of the matter a "textbook example of how to treat a case of sexual abuse of minors by a priest." With Post Wire Services


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