After insisting for weeks that he properly handled sex abuse charges against priests while he was bishop of the Bridgeport Diocese, Cardinal Edward Egan, now the archbishop of the Archdiocese of New York, apologized Saturday for any mistakes that "may have been made" in those cases.
The apology, included in a letter that is being read to parishioners from every pulpit in the New York archdiocese this weekend, stops short of acknowledging any direct culpability.
In a separate statement to the Hartford Courant Saturday, however, Egan admitted that he shouldn't have reassigned one priest - the Rev. Charles Carr - to parish work following repeated allegetions of sexual misconduct. The statements are unprecedented for the cardinal, who has staunchly defended his actions in Bridgeport.
"Over the past fifteen years, in both Bridgeport and New York, I consistently sought and acted upon the best independent advice available to me from medical experts and behavioral scientists. It is clear that today we have a much better understanding of this problem," Egan wrote in his letter to parishioners.
"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."
The apology comes more than a month after the Courant reported that Egan allowed several priests accused of sexual misconduct with children to continue working for years under his tenure and failed to report any allegations to the authorities.
The Courant based its stories on sealed court documents from lawsuits the diocese settled last year for roughly $12 million. These documents include pretrial testimony from Egan and other diocesan officials and personnel files of the accused priests.
Although Egan continues to defend his past actions by saying he reassigned abusive priests only on the advice of pyschiatric professionals, doctors at the nationally renowned psychiatric hospital Egan used almost exclusively during his tenure have publicly objected to this characterization.
Officials at The Institute of Living in Hartford, which operates one of the few programs in the United States specifically aimed at treating Roman Catholic priests accused of sexual misconduct, said last month they now believe they were used by church officials.
Doctors at the psychiatric hospital said the church has concealed information about past complaints against clergy sent to them for treatment and disregarded warnings that the hospital's evaluations were not intended to determine whether a priest should return to parish work.
Although Egan has not publicly addressed those accusations, he has opted for a different strategy in New York since news of the Bridgeport cases broke in March.
Earlier this month, the New York archdiocese gave the Manhattan district attorney's office information about sex abuse allegations against priests that span the last 35 years and suspended six priests accused of molesting minors.
Egan's letter to parishioners comes on the eve of a meeting of U.S. cardinals with Pope John Paul II in Rome to discuss the sex abuse scandal in this country.
Cardinal Is `Deeply Sorry'
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