After years of lawsuits, the Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport today released some 12,000 pages of documents from 23 sex-abuse lawsuits against six priests that were settled in 2001.
The papers include depositions, affidavits and motions and have been expected to shed some light on how the diocese — in particular former Bishop Edward Egan — handled things.
Here’s the AP’s first report:
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Recently retired New York Cardinal Edward Egan says it was not appropriate to discuss allegations of priest sex abuse with people who had claimed to be abused while he was bishop of the Bridgeport diocese.
Egan makes the statements as part of a 1997 deposition that was part of thousands of documents made public on Tuesday, ending a seven-year legal battle.
Amid questioning by attorneys representing abuse victims, Egan says he believes that it would be inappropriate to discuss previous allegations of priest abuse, saying he would not “draw anyone else into this particular discussion.”
The Bridgeport diocese turned over to court officials more than 12,000 pages from 23 lawsuits against six priests settled by the diocese in 2001.
Here’s the Hartford Courant’s first lead:
“Claims are claims. Allegations are allegations.”
Those six words uttered by retired Cardinal Edward M. Egan during two depositions neatly sum up his approach to handling the burgeoning priest sexual abuse scandal that he inherited when he took over the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut in the late 1980s.
In 448-pages of depositions that Egan was forced to give as part of 23 lawsuits against seven priests that eventually were settled, the Bishop showed little compassion for the alleged victims and instead argued with attorney’s that only a “remarkably small number” of priests have ever been accused of wrongdoing.
“These things (sexual abuse complaints) happen in such small numbers. It’s marvelous when you think of the hundreds and hundreds of priests and how very few have ever been accused, and how very few have even come close to having anyone prove anything,” Egan said.
“Claims are one thing. One does not take every claim against a human being as a proved misdeed. I’m interested in proved misdeeds.”
And here is a statement from the Archdiocese of New York:
On May 22, 2009, the Supreme Court of Connecticut ordered that documentation concerning the sexual abuse of minors by clergy of the Diocese of Bridgeport, 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. It is a topic that has been repeatedly and thoroughly addressed by Cardinal Egan and the Archdiocese of New York as far back as 2002 in response to a series of articles published by the Hartford Courant.
During his tenure as Bishop of Bridgeport (and later as Archbishop of New York), Bishop Egan aggressively investigated and properly dealt with all allegations of sexual abuse of minors by priests. There were no such allegations regarding the five priests mentioned above during Bishop Egan’s Bridgeport years, apart from an accusation that one of them had made an improper gesture in the presence of a minor. The priests is not said to have had any physical contact with the minor, and two nuns who were present at the time have stated that they were unaware of anything inappropriate.
Of the five priests, one died prior to Bishop Egan’s appointment. The remaining four were all sent for expert evaluation and professional treatment to the most highly regarded psychiatric institution in the New England and Greater New York area, which had no affiliation with the Church. They were ultimately returned to ministry only upon the specific recommendation of the aforementioned institution, along with the advice of experienced clergy and laity. This was the recognized evaluation–and–treatment protocol for sexual misconduct cases at the time. It was widely embraced and implemented by the psychiatric community and commended in an editorial of The New York Times.
After their return to ministry, new information was received about misconduct prior to Bishop Egan’s appointment to the Diocese of Bridgeport on the part of the remaining four priests mentioned above. In response, two had their authority to exercise ministry removed indefinitely. The third, who had suffered a brain injury, was permanently retired from ministry. And the fourth, whose misconduct was never firmly established during Bishop Egan’s years in Bridgeport, was permitted to continue in a restricted ministry as an assistant chaplain in a home for the aged, while residing in a convent of religious women.
Three additional priests, who are not mentioned in the case before the Connecticut Supreme Court, were accused during Bishop Egan’s tenure in Bridgeport of engaging in sexual misconduct with minors prior to Bishop Egan’s assignment to the Diocese. In response, Bishop Egan secured a declaration from the Vatican removing one from the priesthood, while the cases of the remaining two were handled according to the evaluation–and–treatment protocol outlined above. One of the two was evaluated and treated in another highly regarded psychiatric institution located near where he was residing. It too had no affiliation with the Church.
During Cardinal Egan’s tenure as Archbishop of New York, the Archdiocese had a policy in place, which included an independent review board of professionals and experts, for dealing with credible allegations of the sexual abuse of minors by priests of the Archdiocese. There was only one such allegation, and it was disproved in an ecclesiastical trial.