[Carr Documents

From Egan Protected Abusive Priests, by Elizabeth Hamilton and Eric Rich, Hartford Courant, March 17, 2002]

New York Post
March 17, 2002

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.



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