Cardinal Egan takes back apology for abuse: “I don’t think we did anything wrong”

He made his remarks in an interview with a Connecticut magazine, and it’s set off a firestorm:

In 2002, at the height of the outcry over the sexual abuse of minors by Roman Catholic priests, the Archbishop of New York, Edward M. Egan, issued a letter to be read at Mass. In it, he offered an apology about the church’s handling of sex-abuse cases in New York and in Bridgeport, Conn., where he was previously posted.

“It is clear that today we have a much better understanding of this problem,” he wrote. “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.”

Now, 10 years later and in retirement, Cardinal Egan has taken back his apology.

In an interview in the February issue of Connecticut magazine, a surprisingly frank Cardinal Egan said of the apology, “I never should have said that,” and added, “I don’t think we did anything wrong.”

He said many more things in the interview, some of them seemingly at odds with the facts. He repeatedly denied that any sex abuse had occurred on his watch in Bridgeport. He said that even now, the church in Connecticut had no obligation to report sexual abuse accusations to the authorities. (A law on the books since the 1970s says otherwise.) And he described the Bridgeport diocese’s handling of sex-abuse cases as “incredibly good.”

All of which has Cardinal Egan, now 79 and living in Manhattan, drawing fire from advocates who say he has reopened old wounds.

“To many victims,” said Paul Mones, a lawyer who represented several victims of sexual abuse in New York, “an apology was critical to their being made whole, to feeling that, yes, the church knows that I was wronged and that this was a problem that was going on for decades. So if the statements are true, for him to come out and say he was wrong for the apology is more than tragic.”

Read more.


  1. Pathetic. He’s either completely clueless or he’s lying.

  2. Having listened to him speak over the years, I always felt that he represented the worst that clerical pomposity had to offer. He didn’t speak like a normal human being; instead he spoke what for lack of a better word I call “Churchese.” “Children” becomes “chilllllldrennnn.” It was werid.

  3. Elizabeth Scalia says:

    Yes, he was ever a pompous freak; I never understood JPII appointing him to NY. To my thinking he was an unworthy successor to the great John Joseph O’ Connor.

    And I bet Dolan heard this and thought…”thanks. that was helpful. just what we needed. not.”

    Speaking of O’ Connor:

  4. Imprudent remarks, opening old wounds said at the worse time. Perhaps is senility.

  5. I know that bishops don’t normally criticize their own, but as the current archbishop and Carinal designate, I think Dolan needs to publically rebuke this statement. It hurts the Church in NY.

  6. I wonder why so many people are leaving the church?

  7. naturgesetz says:

    This is almost unbelievable!

  8. As an abuse survivor who has remained faithful to Christ and His Church, I find Cardinal Egan’s statement particularly disgraceful.

  9. naturgesetz says:

    Almost as bad is Cardinal-designate Dolan asserting (on what basis? is he personally familiar with the record in Bridgeport?) that Egan always acted appropriately. Unless he is prepared to flesh out this claim, he has really put his foot somewhere undesirable.

  10. OK, Cardinal is 79.. are they sure he still has all his mental faculties? Because this statement is absolutely mind blowing and I can’t even believe it came out of his mouth.. To say I am stunned is an understatement and it does incredible damage to the Church.. Something is WAY off here..

  11. It really is stupefying. Regardless of his own record in Bridgeport, it is not seriously doubted by anyone that horrid acts of sexual abuse, including sodomy, misuse of the confessional, etc., happened on an ongoing basis for years in that diocese. Egan knows this. Dolan knows it. Curtis probably knew it as well.

    The pavlovian reflex of some of these clergy members to pretend that everything was always hunky dory never ceases to amaze me.

  12. What a shame…and how ironic that he says this while hundreds are gathering in Rome at a symposium on “Healing and Renewal” to have a frank discussion on sexual abuse.
    There were times when I thought that C. Egan was treated harshly in the media…not anymore.

  13. Totally. Clueless. Can he claim dementia for his remarks? I think there’s a good case.

    It’s stunts like these that I wish the Church had a place to put these guys when they retire where they can’t speak to anyone where they can be quoted. I’m sorry. When I read this I think how insensitive this “prince” of the Church is, how difficult he is making things for victims and current church leadership, and how he is personally a disgrace to his office. I loved John Paul, but this clown was a mistake to even have been given a red hat, much less the cathedra of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. I’ll go even further: He should never have been made a bishop at all.

  14. In these blogs we often hear of horror stories of how innocent priests have been defamed with an implication that the whole process is flawed and the “persecution” should stop. Seems like the Cardinal is saying the same thing, so why are we upset?

  15. Richard Johnson says:

    For one thing, his ignorance of the law during his time in Connecticut should lead one to question his grasp of the situation.

    “He said that even now, the church in Connecticut had no obligation to report sexual abuse accusations to the authorities. (A law on the books since the 1970s says otherwise.)”

    If he is so ignorant of the law, can we be certain he was fully aware of the behavior of those under his supervision? I think not.

  16. He’s not saying the same thing in any way. What he’s doing is the intellectual and moral equivalent of holocaust denial (versus what a historian might dispute about this or that factual detail of the events). People are upset because they know the one way for the Church out of this scandal is real contrition and empathy on the part of its leaders. Instead they get a man who is still a prominent public figure spitting on the very idea of empathy and displaying the moral reasoning of a pit viper.

  17. Part of the problem is that bishops like Egan just surrendered their judgment and Christian compassion I dare say to the large law firms they hired to defend them. Those firms, with their huge overhead and large salaries, had as their primary motivation the making of large amounts of money. I have no doubt that it was the foolish reliance on lawyers that led Egan to make the absurd argument at one point that priests were “independent contractors” for whose conduct the diocese was not responsible.

  18. “He also claimed that the Church had no obligation to report abuse to the civil authorities.”

    There is a special place in hell for a man like Egan.

  19. David J White says:

    I think Robyn and Fr. Jim have a point. The recently deceased Card. Bevilacqua was reportedly suffering from dementia. It’s entirely possible that Card. Egan, who is also over 80, is as well.

  20. Thank You David,
    I will not bash him and not because I am a fan or not a fan..his statement is kind of unbelievable. We all know what happened there and he does too so thats why I just wonder if all his mental faculties are still in place..because if one could look at his statement with “Christian Charity” that I see touted in some of these comments, it would seem by his statement something is very off…

  21. If a bishop retired or active wants to go to interviews, I would hope they would set some guidelines on what they are willing to discuss. I do not think going back multiple years when cases have already been decided and apology was given is something that needs to continue to be the focus of every interview. In reading it, it seems like Egan did not want to go there and the reporter had no other agenda. Simple answer should have been next other questions, interview over. While I am in full sympathy to anyone molested, it seems like this is the only thing of interest to many who hate the Catholic Church. It is not surprising that the media would want this topic to replace the current Obama attack on religious freedom.

    The Catholic Church educates 2.6 million students at a cost to the Church of $10 billion, and a savings to the American taxpayer of $18 billion. The graduates go on to graduate studies at the rate of 92%. The Church has 230 colleges and universities in the U.S. with an enrollment of 700,000 students. The Catholic church has a non-profit hospital system of 637 hospitals, which treat 1 out of ver…y 5 patients – not just Catholics – in the U.S. But the national press is tying to denigrate the Catholic church in this country….12% of the 300 Protestant clergy surveyed admitted to sexual intercourse with a parishioner. 38% acknowledged other inapprpriate sexual contact in a study by the United Methodist church. 42% of clergy women reported unwanted sexual behavior. 17% of laywomen have been sexually harassed. Meanwhile, 1.7% of the Catholic clergy have been found guilty of pedophilia; 10% of Protestant ministers have been found guilty of pedophilia. A study of American priests showed that most are happy in the priesthood and find it even better than they had expected. We have been hurt by a small number of wayward priests that have been weeded out. Walk with our shoulders high and our head higher. Be a proud member of the most important non-governmental agency in the United States.

  22. Comments like this leave the Church with basically no credibility when they argue the Holy Spirit is working through our leaders. He, a leader of the Church, is obviously wrong on this. So what else is the Church wrong on? I’m profoundly sad to read this.

  23. Mary Pirie says:

    Does this guy seriously think he’s a Christian? He’s a disgrace to the church and an affront to all right thinking Catholics.

  24. Wow, that is an unChristian remark if ever I heard one.

  25. Mark, I wish you would cite your sources. This is not a criticism – numbers are so hard to find ‘drilled down’ to this level of simplicity and they are useful to have on hand when the discussion turns to fact-based this-versus-that stuff. I’ve read a lot on this issue and I get lost in the statistical mazes at times. Having spent some years using fact to defend funding to separate (not only Catholic) schools in my part of the world, I appreciate the difficulty. And extra tools in the toolbox are welcome.
    On a general level, though, I believe that we (the Church) have spent so much time assuming and preaching that we are The True Church and all that goes with it, I am not the least surprised that we get hit harder than others for the same seriousness of offense. We have set ourselves up for it.
    I have watched a number of people progress through levels of hierarchy and start to think they are better people as a result, deacons included. In the light of this new importance, they seem to see their decisions and statements as purer than those made by others.
    “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
    Prefacing this by saying that I am not trying to characterize Cardinal Egan in any particular way, I think Orwell had it about right in many cases we witness today. Just look at Poland – and pray.

  26. There ought to be a special place for him in the correctional system as well.

  27. Jill:

    For what it’s worth, it’s precisely because we have men like this as leaders that the Holy Spirit is necessary. Infallibility is not inspiration. It’s a negative protection that *presumes* our leaders are liable to be sinful disgusting human failures and idiots, not living saints. it’s more accurate to say that the Holy Spirit is keeping our sinful and stupid leaders (and, by the way, us) from making something a fixture of Catholic teaching than to say that he is “working through our leaders” (except, of course, in the sense that he works through them when they repeat teaching or do liturgical actions which they did not invent and which they are merely passing on). In such instances, their personal morality does not (thank God) enter into it any more than your math teacher’s personality or personal morality matters when he tells you 2+2=4.

    Not to take away a bit from the sheer disgustingness of Egan’s remarks (unless this is dementia talking).

  28. pagansister says:

    Arrogant dude, with everything that implies! Wow! What a horrible representation of the RCC. With statements like that, it is, IMO, no wonder there are some in the Church who find it necessary to leave and join another Christian denomination. Some above mentioned dementia as a possible reason he may have said what he did. Wouldn’t his “bosses” keep him from interviews if they thought he had dementia? I would think so.

  29. Cold, punishing and heartless words spoken by a cold, punishing and heartless man.

    On the eve of Dolan’s consistory, it’s damned near diabolical.

  30. George Mason says:

    The G in your name does not stand for “God” so you better be careful when you sit in judgment of who goes to Hell.
    I am shocked and offended that the Deacon Moderator of this blog did not have the charity to warn you.

  31. George Mason says:

    The Holy Spirit works in the bishops by keeping them from heresy when they teach matters of faith and morals in communion with the Pope. But, this is clearly not a statement that obliges belief. It is a personal opinion of the Cardinal and like any personal opinion can be false or true.
    The Holy Spirit does not control bishops so that they say and do what the Spirit wills. But, the Spirit does ensure that any sins they may have does not affect the validity of the sacraments they celebrate or change the perennial truths they teach.

  32. George Mason says:

    I just read the whole interview from the linked source and not just the excerpts in the New York Times article.
    I recommend those quick to self-righteous judgment do the same.
    It is easy to let hate rule our hearts. But, let’s try to understand what was said in the context.
    It seems Egan is only saying that under his watch as bishop of Bridgeport, he made sure that homosexual predators in the clergy were dismissed, or sent for treatment and then kept out of parishes.
    Of course, it is more fun to sit in the seat of judgment and feel self-righteous, right?

    I also hope Deacon Kandra will chime in after all these hateful unChristian sentiments have been expressed, lest his “silence” indicate his own consent.

  33. naturgesetz says:

    George Mason —
    You make a good point. Unfortunately, Cardinal Egan sometimes expresses himself imprecisely in the interview, saying things like he never had a case while he was Bishop of Bridgeport, and he handled all the ones he had correctly.

    It seems he’s saying that no new cases occurred while he was there, and the only cases he had to deal with were ones that arose under his predecessor. Whether that is true is a matter of fact which somebody could research. Perhaps there were few enough priests in the diocese that it could be true.

  34. Yeah, the name-calling is pretty direct and unhelpful, even if it might be true.

  35. Given the judged absence of institutions that handled sexual abuse cases well, I’m inclined to believe that folks aren’t grossly concerned with meritorious evaluations. The only compliments are backhanded ones like claims that a bishop is better than his predecessor about complaints, or the compliments are for cheap and easy things like meeting with victims or criticizing past officials. People should have little surprise that folks who had nothing to do with sexual abuse but had to deal with the problems that arose from it and made what they thought were the best choices are resentful and hurt in the end by the treatment they received. It is after all easier to stand above the fray and pose for holy pictures.

  36. Hate to say it, but I’m hoping it is dementia. That’s the most charitable explanation for this outrageious statement.

  37. Sounds just like Rick Santorum on Iran to me.


  1. [...] good place to start would be symbolic leadership from the top. The Catholic Right is really ticked off–you know when the GLB’s and GLG’s are not only openly calling a JPII bishop names [...]

  2. [...] February 14, 2012 by Mark SheaOver at the Deacon’s Bench last week, a reader wrote concerning Cardinal Egan’s grotesque remarksComments like this leave the Church with basically no credibility when they argue the Holy Spirit is [...]

Leave a Comment