Cardinal Egan Spurns Members of Review Board
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN, NY Times - January 15, 2003
Cardinal Edward M. Egan has given a cold reception to the
national review board of prominent Roman Catholics who were
appointed by the bishops to study the priest sexual abuse
scandal and who are to meet in New York on Friday, according
to board members and people with the church.
Unlike other bishops in cities where the board has met, the
cardinal and his auxiliary bishops have said they will be
unavailable to celebrate Mass for the board members. The cardinal
also prohibited the group as a whole from attending a dinner
for the Knights of Malta, a Catholic fraternal organization,
at the Waldorf-Astoria on Friday night.
Cardinal Egan also interfered with a speaking event for Kathleen
L. McChesney, the executive director of the bishops' new Office
for Child and Youth Protection, at a parish on Park Avenue
this month. Ms. McChesney had accepted a speaking invitation
from churchgoers at St. Ignatius Loyola, then she postponed
it after learning of the cardinal's disapproval, several board
In interviews, many members of the 13-member board said that
they had been surprised and stung by the cardinal's decision.
"We certainly mean no disrespect to him," said
Robert S. Bennett, a board member, "but we have a job
to do and we're going to do it, and we want and expect his
full cooperation. There's just no reason why he should not
be working in a cooperative spirit with the board."
At their meeting in Dallas last June, the American bishops
voted overwhelmingly to establish a National Review Board
of laypeople to help investigate and look for solutions to
the scandal. Former Gov. Frank Keating of Oklahoma was appointed
chairman, and he quickly antagonized many bishops and Vatican
officials by emphasizing the board's watchdog role. The bishops
also set up an Office of Child and Youth Protection to help
monitor their compliance with a new national policy on abuse
Both the board and Ms. McChesney are in the awkward position
of acting as independent investigators to keep the bishops
accountable, while serving at their pleasure.
Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the New York Archdiocese,
said that Cardinal Egan did not have an adversarial relationship
with the board. He said the cardinal had agreed to meet with
the board later this month in Washington to discuss how his
archdiocese is handling accusations of child sexual abuse.
The board is now interviewing many bishops, and Cardinal Egan
is among the first.
Mr. Zwilling said that scheduling conflicts prohibited the
cardinal or any of his auxiliary bishops from saying Mass
for the board members in New York. But Mr. Zwilling confirmed
that the cardinal had refused to allow the board as a group
to attend the dinner for the Knights of Malta, because the
board's presence might bring unwanted publicity to the event.
However, four members of the board ? two men and two women
? are Knights or Dames of Malta, and the cardinal said he
had no concerns about their attendance at the dinner.
"Cardinal Egan did feel that the Knights and Dames of
Malta have not in any way been tied into the whole issue of
the sexual abuse scandal, and he felt it was an outside distraction
for the Knights of Malta, and that the dinner was not an appropriate
place for the distraction," Mr. Zwilling said.
At the board's previous meetings in Santa Barbara, Calif.,
Covington, Ky., and Washington, local bishops have welcomed
and said Mass for the board members. Cardinal Theodore E.
McCarrick of Washington celebrated Mass for them, and Bishop
Thomas J. Curry, auxiliary of Los Angeles, joined them for
dinner in Santa Barbara. Among the board members are prominent
Catholic lawyers, business people, psychologists and a judge,
Yesterday, after two reporters made inquiries about the dust-up
to the New York Archdiocese, Ms. McChesney rescheduled her
speech at St. Ignatius Loyola. All she would say about the
dispute was, "The important thing is getting out there
and talking about the issue of sexual abuse to make sure there
aren't more victims."
St. Ignatius is a Jesuit parish that is also offering a platform
next month to James Post, one of the founders of Voice of
the Faithful, a new Catholic lay group formed in response
to the scandal. Last year, Cardinal Egan prohibited St. Ignatius
from remodeling its historic sanctuary to allow more room
for parishioners to participate in services.
On Friday at 7 a.m., members of the National Review Board
plan to gather for Mass at a parish that welcomed them, which
happens to be St. Ignatius.