Cardinal Edward Egan, former archbishop of New York, has died today in Manhattan at the age of 82. According to archdiocesan spokesman Joseph Zwilling, the cardinal died of cardiac arrest at NYU Langone Medical Center in Manhattan.
Cardinal Egan was spiritual leader of the 2.5 million Catholics in the archdiocese of New York from 2000 through 2009. According to the New York Times,
“In February of 2009, the pope announced that Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of Milwaukee had been selected to replace Cardinal Egan in New York on April 15, concluding a reign that had not been popular with many Catholics but had come to grips with hard decisions on church finances and had walked the line of Catholic doctrine against winds of change.”
Cardinal Egan was outspoken in his opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage, but he acknowledged that the Church might at some point reconsider its opposition to the discipline of celibacy, and might permit married priests. In a statement which was published alongside the photo of an unborn child, Cardinal Egan compared tolerating abortions to the reasoning used by Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin to commit mass murders. He wrote,
“The Catholic Church clearly teaches that abortion is a grave offense against the will of God. Throughout my years as Archbishop of New York, I have repeated this teaching in sermons, articles, addresses, and interviews without hesitation or compromise of any kind. Thus it was that I had an understanding with Mr. Rudolph Giuliani, when I became Archbishop of New York and he was serving as Mayor of New York, that he was not to receive the Eucharist because of his well-known support of abortion. I deeply regret that Mr. Giuliani received the Eucharist during the Papal visit here in New York, and I will be seeking a meeting with him to insist that he abide by our understanding.”
In April 2002, he read a letter of apology at Mass, apologizing for his failure while Bishop of Bridgeport to do more to allay the clerical abuse scandal, saying,
“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.”
Ten years later, in 2012, he withdrew his apology. In an interview with Connecticut magazine, he reportedly said that he “…never should have said that. I don’t think we did anything wrong.”
Cardinal Egan served on the Vatican’s Congregation for Oriental Churches. He was a member of the board of The Catholic University of America, as well as Ave Maria School of Law.
Eternal rest grant to your servant Edward Cardinal Egan, O Lord,
And may perpetual light shine upon him.