PUTTING IT IN WRITING (Letter Dated 3232002)
My Dear Friends in the Lord,
There can be no doubt: sexual abuse of children is an abomination. It is both immoral and illegal and I will not tolerate it. Be assured, that I will continue to do everything in my power to ensure the safety and security of every child in this Archdiocese. Should any priest sexually abuse a child, he will be removed from pastoral ministry. My heart goes out to any and all victims and their families.
The explosive headlines of the last few weeks have focused everyone's attention on the issue of sexual abuse of minors by a small number of clergy. The overwhelming majority of our good and dedicated priests, who do splendid work day after day, have found their reputations unfairly tarnished by the terrible misdeeds of a few.
Let me be clear. I regard any accusation of sexual abuse with the utmost seriousness. Should the Archdiocese of New York be approached with an allegation, we will make the appropriate report to the proper authorities, if there is reasonable cause to suspect abuse and the victim does not oppose the reporting. I would strongly encourage, however, anyone who has an allegation of sexual abuse to bring it to the proper civil authorities directly and immediately.
It has been and continues to be the policy of the Archdiocese of New York to thoroughly investigate all allegations and to respond appropriately and pastorally to the person making the allegation and to the clergyman as well. The policy states: Each reported incident will be immediately investigated, with care taken not to interfere with any criminal investigation and with a high level of Christian care, concern, and confidentiality for the alleged victim, the family of the alleged victim, the person reporting the incident, and the alleged perpetrator.
The policy of the Archdiocese further requires any personnel of the archdiocese having information concerning sexual abuse to immediately report it. A review of the report shall be undertaken to determine the validity of each claim. If the alleged claim appears substantiated, and after consultation with competent Archdiocesan officials, the alleged perpetrator shall be removed from any function, responsibility or ministry until the matter is resolved. For the person bringing the allegation, and without commenting on the truth of the accusation, medical, psychological and spiritual assistance, and in appropriate instances, economic assistance, may be offered in the spirit of Christian charity.
A March 17th article in a Hartford newspaper, widely reported the local media, focused on what the writers clamed were mishandled cases of child abuse by clergy during my tenure in the Diocese of Bridgeport. About these cases, the following points need to be made:
First, in every case discussed in the article, the alleged abuse occurred prior to my appointment as Bishop of Bridgeport.
Second, the policy and practice that I established for the Diocese and followed in every instance required that any clergy accused of sexual misconduct with a minor was, after preliminary diocesan investigation, to be sent immediately to one of the most prominent psychiatric institutions in the nation for evaluation. If the conclusions were favorable, he was returned to ministry, in some cases with restrictions, so as to be doubly careful. If they were not favorable, he was not allowed to function as a priest.
Third, in all of the cases, the plaintiffs were already adults represented by attorneys and seeking financial settlements from the Diocese. These cases were well publicized, and a matter of the public record at the time. At no time in these discussions did any representative of the diocese discourage the plaintiffs or their attorneys from contacting civil authorities.
Fourth, inasmuch as they were represented by legal counsel, direct communications between myself and the plaintiffs were precluded.
In closing, it is my intent to keep the people of the Archdiocese informed regarding these matters as the situation warrants. Moreover, I pledge to you that I am totally and unconditionally committed to protecting our children from abuse of any king. My clergy who are good and holy men, join me in this. As I said earlier this week, our children are to be protected always, and in this the Archdiocese of New York will be ever vigilant.
Faithfully in Christ,
Edward Cardinal Egan
Archbishop of New York