The New York Times
February 13, 2012
Ten years ago, Cardinal Edward Egan, then the leader of the New York archdiocese, famously apologized to his parishioners for the church's failure to deal with priests who abused children. Now, three years after his retirement, he suddenly feels moved to renounce that courageous move.
"I never should have said that," Cardinal Egan said in a combative interview with Connecticut magazine in which he offered a heartless and bewildering defense of his time as bishop in Bridgeport, Conn. Court records and the church's lay investigation showed him at fault in covering up the scandal and protecting rogue priests accused of abusing children.
"I don't think we did anything wrong," Cardinal Egan declared. He accused the news media of exaggerating the scandal, despite the American church's admission of culpability in having to dismiss 700 suspect priests across a three-year period. "The fact that sex abuse becomes overpowering in people's eyes, that's a part of life," said the cardinal. He maintained there was no obligation to report abusive priests, although the American hierarchy promised to do so and Connecticut law has long required it.
Court records that the church fought to keep secret revealed cases in which then-Bishop Egan did not alert secular authorities in Bridgeport, failed to aggressively investigate allegations, moved offending priests to other parishes and authorized hush-money payments.
In one case, Bishop Egan kept an accused abuser working for five years after receiving a warning and did not suspend him until after a lawsuit was filed. In another, the diocese did not report potential allegations of statutory rape of a teenager impregnated by a priest.
This month, the Vatican held a summit meeting on the global sexual abuse scandal. Officials vowed that bishops must be held accountable — a recommendation of the American review board that has gone unheeded. Cardinal Egan's feckless ruminations are Exhibit A on the problem of shepherds hiding from their responsibilities.