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Accused Priests Continued to Work, Paper Says

March 17, 2002|From Associated Press

HARTFORD, Conn. — New York Cardinal Edward M. Egan allowed several priests accused of sexual abuse to continue their duties for years while he led a Connecticut diocese, a newspaper reported, citing court documents.

The documents show that Egan did not refer complaints to criminal authorities and suggested during closed testimony in 1999 that a dozen people who accused the same priest of rape, molestation and beatings may have all been lying, the Hartford Courant said in a story for today's editions.

"Allegations are allegations," Egan testified, according to the paper's story.

The court documents were sealed last year when the Roman Catholic Bridgeport diocese settled sex abuse lawsuits, the Courant said. Included were transcripts of pretrial testimony by Egan and previous Bishop Walter Curtis, internal diocesan memorandums and personnel files. The paper did not say how it got the documents.

The records show that, in addition to the eight priests who were originally sued, at least nine others were accused of molestation but were not publicly identified. The documents name seven of the priests, one of whom leads a Connecticut parish.

The newspaper said the documents show that Curtis, who is deceased, testified in 1995 that the diocese deliberately moved priests accused of pedophilia among parishes to give them a "fresh start."

In interviews with plaintiffs' lawyers, Curtis was asked if he had ever transferred a priest "because of pedophilic conduct" and replied, "Yes," the paper said. Curtis said the new parish was not notified of the allegations against the priest.

The newspaper said Egan did not respond to requests for comment, and his spokesman, Joseph Zwilling, referred questions Saturday to the Bridgeport diocese.

Joseph McAleer, a spokesman for the Bridgeport Diocese, told the newspaper that "this was litigated for eight years and was in the newspapers practically every day."

Current Bridgeport Bishop William E. Lori said last week that the diocese was examining the records of all clergy for signs of sexual misconduct and was creating an advisory board to address the issue.

The diocese settled complaints against six priests for an undisclosed amount in March 2001, shortly after Egan was appointed to the New York archdiocese. Egan served in Bridgeport from 1988 to 2000.

The documents show that Egan defrocked at least one priest for sexual offenses.

The Courant said that when a dozen complaints were made against Father Raymond Pcolka of Greenwich, Egan allowed Pcolka to work as a priest until 1993. He suspended him after Pcolka refused to get psychiatric treatment.

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