All through Cardinal Egan’s tenure in New York, court battles were going on in Connecticut over whether hundreds of pages of depositions from Bridgeport sex-abuse cases should be released.
Today — only weeks after Egan’s retirement — Connecticut’s Supreme Court ruled that documents from 23 lawsuits against pedophile priests from the Bridgeport Archdiocese should be unsealed and made public.
The documents relate to cases settled in March 2001 involving 23 victims. Egan was the bishop of Bridgeport when most of the lawsuits were filed.
The AP notes: “Connecticut justices considered the Bridgeport case for more than two years, then issued the ruling just a month after the 77-year-old Egan retired.”
The AP also quotes Terence McKiernan, president of Bishop Accountability.org, who says: “I think what you’re seeing is Egan is a prince of the church, and he’s extremely vulnerable here because of how he did his job in Bridgeport…I think the church has gone to great lengths to prevent these documents from seeing the light of day.”
UPDATE: Here is a statement from Joe Zwilling of the Archdiocese of NY:
Today, May 22, 2009, the Supreme Court of Connecticut ordered that documentation concerning the sexual abuse of minors by clergy of the Diocese of Bridgeport in Connecticut during the tenure of The Most Reverend Walter W. Curtis (1961-1988) be made public. The decision involves documents regarding five priests accused of sexual misconduct prior to the December 1988 appointment of The Most Reverend Edward M. Egan as Bishop of Bridgeport.
There were no allegations of misconduct by these five priests occurring during Bishop Egan’s tenure apart from an accusation that one of them made an improper gesture in the presence of a minor. The priest is not alleged to have had any physical contact with the minor in question, and two religious women who were present at the time have indicated that they were not aware of any such act.
Of the five priests, one died prior to Bishop Egan’s appointment to the Diocese; and the other four were all sent to the most highly regarded psychiatric institution in New England and the Greater New York area, which had no affiliation whatever with the Church, for treatment and expert evaluation. They were returned to ministry only upon the written recommendation of the aforementioned institution along with the advice of experienced members of both clergy and laity. At the time, this was the recognized professional manner of handling cases of sexual misconduct with minors. Indeed, this manner of dealing with such cases was widely accepted in the psychiatric community, and even commended in an editorial of the New York Times.
When, during Bishop Egan’s tenure, new information was received about misconduct prior to his appointment on the part of the four priests mentioned above, two had their authorization to exercise ministry removed indefinitely; one, who had suffered a brain injury, was retired from ministry; and one was permitted to continue in a restricted ministry as an assistant chaplain in a home for the aged, residing in a convent of religious women.
Three other priests, whose cases are not included in the above-referenced court decision, were mentioned in various newspaper articles during Bishop Egan’s tenure as Bishop of Bridgeport as having been accused of sexually abusing minors, again, long before the Bishop’s assignment to the Diocese. For one the Bishop obtained a decree of laicization from the Vatican within six months. For the other two, the same procedure was followed as for the four priests mentioned above. However, the second of these two was sent for treatment and expert evaluation to another nationally prominent psychiatric institution near where he was then residing.
It should be noted that the information provided above regarding Bishop Egan’s precise handling of cases of the sexual abuse of minors by priests was made known through statements of the Archdiocese of New York as far back as 2002, in response to the publications of articles in a Connecticut newspaper concerning selected documents having to do with these cases.
Finally, it needs to be repeated that, apart from the priest accused of making an improper gesture in the presence of a minor, there were no known instances of the sexual abuse of minors by priests of the Diocese of Bridgeport occurring during Bishop Egan’s eleven-year tenure as Bishop of that Diocese, just as there have been no known instances whatever of the sexual abuse of minors by priests of the Archdiocese of New York occurring during Edward Cardinal Egan’s nine-year tenure as Archbishop of New York.