The Roman Catholic diocese of Bridgeport has long resisted explaining its complicity in clerical abuse that took place within it, for the last several decades. This resistance, however, has more or less been futile (if I may paraphrase Star Trek: the Next Generation). At every step, their attempts to hide what they were doing and cover their tracks, have failed. Their most recent defeat came a few weeks ago at the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to prevent state courts from releasing a number of legal documents dealing with a list of abuse reports which the diocese had settled with their accusers (WebCite cached article). This cache of documents was finally released today, and the picture they paint of the diocese, and specifically of (then-Bishop, and later, Cardinal) Edward Egan when he was deposed, is not flattering, as the Hartford Courant reports:

Cardinal Edward Egan Protected Abusive Priests At Victims’ Expense

“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. …

During his deposition with attorney’s from Tremont and Sheldon, the Bridgeport firm that filed the lawsuits, Egan comes off as dismissive, argumentative and at times condescending.

The documents show that Egan failed to investigate aggressively some abuse allegations, reassigned priests that he knew had allegations made against them and in general downplayed allegations made against many of the priests. At one point Egan said he wasn’t interested in allegations — only “realities.” He added that “very few have even come close to having anyone prove anything” against a priest.

For example, regarding a dozen people who made complaints of sexual abuse and violence against [accused abuser Fr Raymond] Pcolka, of Greenwich, Egan said, “the 12 have never been proved to be telling the truth.”

Egan also acknowledges that he never attempted to seriously investigate the truth of such allegations — accusers were not interviewed, witnesses were not sought, and no attempt was made to learn of other possible victims.

Egan allowed Pcolka to continue working as a priest until 1993, when he suspended him after Pcolka refused an order from Egan to go to the Institute of Living in Hartford for psychiatric treatment. Egan referred to the Institute as his “preferred” place to send priests who needed counseling.

His handling of complaints made against Carr was no different, the records show.

Despite a May 1990 memo by a diocese official worrying about “a developing pattern of accusations” that Rev. Charles Carr of Norwalk had fondled young boys, Egan kept Carr working as a priest until 1995, when he suspended him only after a lawsuit was filed.

Of course, Egan — who after these depositions was elevated to Archbishop of New York and became a Cardinal because of that, before retiring a short time ago — had merely carried on what his predecessor (the late Bishop Walter Curtis) had done, as the Courant goes on to explain:

The documents also show that Egan inherited the priest abuse scandal from Curtis, who admitted he deliberately shuffled pedophile priests among parishes to give them a “fresh start.” Records show that seven priests accused of sexual misconduct were at one time assigned to St. Teresa’s Church in Trumbull between 1965-1990. Curtis, who is now deceased, was deposed three times. He also admitted he did not think that pedophilia was a permanent condition.

Curtis viewed pedophilia as “an occasional thing” and not a serious psychological problem and was more concerned with weeding out potential gays among clergy applicants.

“We had a policy in this sense, that before a candidate was accepted for study for the priesthood, [they] would have psychological testing, and if there appeared signs of homosexuality, he wouldn’t be accepted,” Curtis testified.

Curtis also testified that records of complaints against priests would usually be put into the diocese’s “secret archive,” a canonically required cache of historical documents accessed only with keys kept by the bishop and the vicar.

He said he would occasionally go into the archive and remove what he called “antiquated” abuse complaints, and destroy them.

Curtis’s deposed testimony more or less amounts to an indictment against the Roman Catholic Church, showing that — as custom and as policy — it consciously chose not to take abuse reports seriously, and even when they suspected an allegation might be true, they nevertheless made efforts to shuffle the accused priests around and to “rehabilitate” them.

What a nice, Christian organization the Roman Catholic Church is … no?

Update: The Courant today ran a follow-up story, focusing on the example of Fr Raymond Pcolka. It shows that the Church knew, prior to his ordination, that he had psychological problems … yet they ordained him anyway, assigned him to a parish, and within months were hearing complaints about him. Pcolka had a nearly 3 decade career of abuse before the diocese finally decided they could not tolerate him any more and retired him. What a wonderful crew.

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4 Responses to “Egan Didn’t Take Abuse Reports Seriously”
  1. […] Milwaukee archbishop Rembert Weakland made a similar admission, a few years ago. Other hierarchs have expressed a casual attitude toward abuse allegations. Really, this is an old story. The hierarchs’ lack of anything remotely […]

  2. Deena Lawson says:

    I knew Fr. Raymond Pcolka. He headed up the altar boy program and was very much loved by all. We were floored when the people came forward a few years after and we learned what had been going on at Holy Name of Jesus. Fast forward another decade or so and I learn my sister's boyfriend's brother killed himself – the assumption is that it was because of a priest who befriended him and spent a lot of one-on-one time with him and was later accused of sexual abuse as well. I'm Catholic and disgusted by the actions of those priests who used their role to commit such atrocities. But when you look back prior to 1990, a lot was not understood about psychological abnormalities such as pedophilia and such abuse occurred in public schools, in offices (positions of power for sexual favors and even cases of outright rape) etc. and it was ALL swept under the carpet and/or kept quiet, not just the Catholic Church. Of the thousands of priests that served throughout the diocese, the accusations were against a small number. Sexual predators come from all walks of life, not only the Catholic Church.

    • PsiCop says:

      Re: "I'm Catholic and disgusted by the actions of those priests who used their role to commit such atrocities."

      Glad to hear it. You should be.

      Re: "But …"

      Sorry to say, nothing good ever comes from a "but" like that.

      Re: "… when you look back prior to 1990, a lot was not understood about psychological abnormalities such as pedophilia …"

      Hate to say it but I don't buy that. Not for even a second. Hurting kids is hurting kids. It was wrong, and known to have been wrong, before 1990 as well as after.

      Re: "… and such abuse occurred in public schools, in offices (positions of power for sexual favors and even cases of outright rape) etc. and it was ALL swept under the carpet and/or kept quiet, not just the Catholic Church."

      I knew this would be coming. The old "but it happened elsewhere, too" excuse. Well, it was wrong in all of those settings, in addition to the Church. So I really don't care about all the other venues where kids were hurt. It shouldn't have happened there, either.

      Re: "Of the thousands of priests that served throughout the diocese, the accusations were against a small number."

      Nevertheless, it happened. And that "a small number" were accused, has absolutely no bearing on that reality. It just doesn't.

      Re: "Sexual predators come from all walks of life, not only the Catholic Church."

      True enough, but that also is not relevant here. You're pursuing "two wrongs make a right" thinking, and as such, are guilty of a fallacy. That kids are hurt in other places than the Church cannot and will never absolve the Church of its wrongdoing. Your "it's not just a Catholic thing" apologia is noted but dismissed. Not only is it fallacious, but I have never even so much as suggested it was solely a Catholic problem. I've repeatedly said it's not. What's more, the news media don't, either. Just a few days ago the New Haven Register and WTNH-TV began an expose on a rash of accusations and investigations of public-school teachers. The media report such stories all the time. Do a Google News search on "teacher arrested" and you'll always get a bunch.

      What makes the Catholic Church's pedophilia problem worse, is that the Church claims to be an arbiter of morality. When it's caught protecting child abusers, though, that makes them hypocrites and destroys their moral credibility. If they really wanted to be the moral arbiters they say they are, they'd have owned up to this issue decades ago and would have stopped protecting abusive clergy. But they haven't. They still block prosecutions and they still harass accusers. They reel off excuses, some of them rather egregious, and just keep doing what they want. They have no shame, and are certainly not the "men of God" people like you think they are.

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