Cardinal Egan Under Fire
By Elizabeth Hamilton and Eric Rich
THE HARTFORD COURANT
March 17, 2002
HARTFORD -- -- Secret court documents reveal that New York Cardinal
Edward Egan, while serving as bishop of the Bridgeport Roman Catholic
Diocese, allowed several priests facing multiple accusations of
sexual abuse to continue working for years.
Egan failed to investigate aggressively some abuse allegations,
did not refer complaints to criminal authorities and, during closed
testimony in 1999, suggested that a dozen people who made complaints
of rape, molestation and beatings against the same priest may all
have been lying, the documents show.
In comments that seem starkly out of synch with the current climate
of zero tolerance for sex-abuse accusations against priests, Egan
said he wasn't interested in allegations -- only "realities.
He added that "very few have even come close to having anyone
prove anything against a priest.
"Allegations are allegations, he said in the 1999 testimony.
Egan did not respond to requests for comments. In an e-mail yesterday,
his spokesman, Joseph Zwilling, referred all questions "concerning
the Diocese of Bridgeport and/or any actions that may have occurred
in that diocese to Bridgeport.
In addition to Egan, former Bridgeport Bishop Walter Curtis, Egan's
predecessor, testified in 1995 that the diocese deliberately shuffled
pedophile priests among parishes to give them a "fresh start,
and he admitted destroying records of complaints against some priests,
the documents show. Curtis, who is now deceased, also said he didn't
believe pedophilia was a permanent condition.
The revelations about Egan's role in Connecticut's largest clergy
sex-abuse scandal are taken from thousands of documents in lawsuits
that Egan and the Bridgeport Diocese fought, successfully, to keep
sealed from public view. While the files remain sealed following
a settlement of the suits last year, The Courant recently obtained
copies of much of them, including transcripts of pretrial testimony
of Egan and Curtis, internal diocesan memoranda and personnel files.
The documents reveal that, in addition to the eight priests who
were originally sued, at least nine others faced molestation accusations
but were never publicly identified. The documents do not include
details of the claims or their outcomes.
While glimpses of the allegations against a few of the priests
emerged during eight years of legal battle, details of what the
bishops and other church officials had to say about the cases, and
how they handled them, have never been reported until now.
The diocese settled complaints against six priests for $12 million
to $15 million last March, shortly after Egan was promoted to cardinal.
Egan, who was bishop in Bridgeport from 1988 to 2000, was a defendant
in some of the lawsuits and fought them aggressively from 1993 until
the settlement, which ended all of the litigation.
He inherited a budding scandal in the Bridgeport Diocese that took
root during the 27-year reign of Curtis, who in pretrial interviews
with plaintiffs' lawyers exhibited a blunt lack of interest in dealing
with sexually abusive priests. Under Curtis, the documents show,
church officials and other priests often ignored obvious signs of
sexual involvement with children -- such as one priest's practice
of having boys spend the weekend with him in his bed in the rectory.
Typically, when a complaint was made, it was only considered substantiated
if the priest confessed.
Curtis also testified that records of complaints against priests
would usually be put into the diocese's "secret archive,
a canonically required cache of historical documents accessed only
with keys kept by the bishop and the vicar. He said he would occasionally
go into the archive and remove what he called "antiquated
abuse complaints and destroy them.
By the time Egan took over in December 1988, complaints were trickling
in against several priests, made by adults who said they had been
victimized in the 1960s, '70s and '80s. The documents show that
he defrocked at least one priest for sexual offenses, and put in
place the first written policy on sex abuse complaints.
But he was slow to suspend or remove priestly powers of some others,
even those with multiple complaints against them.
Despite a May 1990 memo by a diocese official worrying about "a
developing pattern of accusations that the Rev. Charles Carr
of Norwalk had fondled young boys, Egan kept Carr working as a priest
until 1995, when he suspended him only after a lawsuit was filed.
Egan reinstated Carr in 1999 as a part-time chaplain at a church-run
nursing home in Danbury. But after yet another accusation against
Carr surfaced earlier this year, about an incident from long ago,
newly installed Bishop William Lori defrocked Carr.
The expressions of concern for, and willingness to believe, accused
priests stand in contrast to the absence of sympathy displayed for
the accusers. For instance, regarding a dozen people who made complaints
of sexual abuse and violence against the Rev. Raymond Pcolka of
Greenwich, Egan said, "the 12 have never been proved to be
telling the truth.
Yet, nowhere in the documents is there evidence that attempts were
made to seriously investigate the allegations: The accusers were
not interviewed. Egan allowed Pcolka to continue working as a priest
until 1993, when he suspended him after Pcolka refused to participate
in psychiatric treatment.
There is no evidence from any of the documents that the diocese
under either Egan or Curtis alerted law enforcement authorities
when parents or victims came forward. In all of the cases during
Egan's tenure, the statute of limitations to bring criminal charges
But the failure to report those cases meant that police and state
child protection authorities were never able to investigate the
possibility of other victims or possession of child pornography,
a federal crime.
Joseph McAleer, a Bridgeport Diocese spokesman, said "this
was litigated for eight years and was in the newspapers practically
every day, and that the diocese would have no further comment.