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N.Y. Cardinal Expresses Regrets in Letter

Clergy: Edward M. Egan wrote parishioners, saying mistakes were made in responses to sexual abuse claims.

April 21, 2002|From Associated Press

NEW YORK — Roman Catholic Cardinal Edward M. Egan wrote in a letter to parishioners Saturday that he apologizes "if, in hindsight," he made any mistakes in handling sex abuse allegations against priests.

Egan, who has been criticized for his handling of sexual abuse allegations against priests when he was bishop of Bridgeport, Conn., stopped short of saying directly that he had made mistakes.

"It is clear that today we have a much better understanding of this problem. If, in hindsight, we also discover that mistakes may have been made as regards prompt removal of priests and assistance to victims, I am deeply sorry," he wrote.

Egan has consistently defended his actions and those of the Bridgeport diocese in handling those cases. The letter is the furthest he has gone in acknowledging that mistakes may have been made.

"I consistently sought and acted upon the best independent advice available to me from medical experts and behavioral scientists," Egan wrote in the letter, which was to be read at weekend Masses in the New York Archdiocese.

Sealed court records obtained by The Hartford Courant indicate that while Egan was in Bridgeport, he didn't notify authorities of abuse allegations against priests.

The Courant and the Connecticut Post have reported that documents show Egan allowed several priests facing such allegations to continue working.

In the letter, Egan added: "I will do everything in my power to ensure, as much as is humanly possible, that such abuse by clergy will never happen again. You should expect nothing less of me, and the leaders of our church."

Egan is scheduled to leave for Rome today to attend a meeting of U.S. cardinals that was called by Pope John Paul II to address the sex abuse scandal that has surrounded the church in America this year.

Earlier this month, the New York Archdiocese gave the Manhattan district attorney's office information on sex abuse allegations against priests over the last 35 years. It also has suspended six priests accused of sexual misconduct with minors.

The archdiocese serves 2.4 million Catholics in parts of New York City and its northern suburbs.

In developments elsewhere:

* Bishop Donald Wuerl of the Diocese of Pittsburgh said American bishops did not realize the full nature of the priest sex scandal over the past decades and viewed pedophilia as a moral failure.

"Bishops did not understand the gravity of what we were dealing with," Wuerl said during a taping of a local television program. Wuerl has removed several priests from active ministry because of allegations of sexual misconduct; none has been charged with any crime.

* The First Presbyterian Church of Ann Arbor, Mich., sent a letter to its members explaining that it forced a choir director to retire in 1994 following sexual abuse allegations by a former church member.

The former choir director, Donald T. Bryant, 83, has not been charged and denies the allegations. He worked at the church from 1970 to 1994 and was director of the University of Michigan Musical Society's Choral Union.

* A former altar boy sued the Archdiocese of Louisville, Ky., alleging that a recently retired priest had sexually abused him in the 1970s. The priest, the Rev. Louis E. Miller, retired in March after allegations he abused minors in the 1960s and 1970s. Miller, not named as a defendant in the lawsuit, denied abusing children.

* The eight U.S. cardinals meeting with the pope this week to discuss the church's sex abuse scandal are to gather in Philadelphia Friday for the annual American Cardinals Dinner, a $1,000-per-person benefit for Catholic University scholarships.

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