Reading the cardinal’s letter

Not surprisingly, there is a lot of interest today in Cardinal Egan’s letter to the priests of New York.

The letter is Egan’s reponse to the recent anonymous letter attacking him that has been the talk of the archdiocese for the past couple of weeks.

Egan seems to blame the criticisms of him — both in the anonymous letter and from priests quoted in the media — on untruths spread by priests found guilty of sexually abusing minors. “At the core of the letter,” he wrote, “are stories that are being told by priests who have been found guilty of sexually abusing minors after thorough treatment of their cases according to well-established Archdiocesan procedures.”

I had trouble understanding the connection between priests found guilty of sexual abuse and the anonymous letter attacking Egan’s leadership until Joe Zwilling, Egan’s spokesman, explained it to me last night.

He told me that the priests who have criticized Egan in recent weeks (or have supported the contents of the anonymous letter) have also been critical of Egan’s treatment of priests accused of abuse.

So there’s the link.

Egan’s letter does not deal with other, more general criticisms of his leadership. He says only that the anonymous letter “has done immense harm largely because it has been so shamelessly exploited by the media.”

I’ve heard from several priests today who are insisting that Egan’s handling of sex-abuse cases, while important to priests, is not as central as the cardinal may think.

They also think that Egan’s letter is referring in several spots to deposed Monsignor Charles Kavanagh, the former head of fundraising for the archdiocese. Kavanagh was removed from ministry in 2002 after a former seminarian accused Kavanagh of having an inappropriately close relationship with him more than 20 years ago.

Kavanagh openly challenged Egan’s handling of the case, wearing his clerical collar in public after being told not to. This past January, the Vatican granted him a church trial. But it has not yet been scheduled.

Gary Stern

Gary Stern covered education in the Lower Hudson Valley for several years during the early 1990s. Now's he back on the beat. He believes that schools are one of the main reasons that people live around here and that educational issues -- from curriculum to financing -- are among the most challenging things that journalists can write about. He continues to be amazed by the complexity of educational jargon. Gary got his B.A. at SUNY Buffalo and his M.A. from the University of Missouri Journalism School (where his master's thesis was about the best ways to cover education). He lives in White Plains with his wife and two sons, who attend public schools.