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When documents have been released explaining the reality of sexual abuse by priests in Catholic dioceses, the results have been quite astonishing. Bridgeport, Connecticut is no exception. In 2009, the state Supreme Court directed the release of thousands of legal documents from legal cases filed against predator priests. The lawsuit against the church was started by papers including the venerated New York Times.
The court decision reported that beginning in the mid-1990s, astonishingly twenty-three actions alleging sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergymen employed by the diocese were filed. Throughout pretrial discovery in those cases, trial court issued sealing orders with regards to certain files and information that had been acquired in discovery on the ground that their disclosure could endanger the defendants’ right to a fair trial. Critics of this approach always ask, “what about the rights of the victims?
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The material that was ultimately released was made up of over 11,000 pages of files including what the Times described as decisions the diocese made in assigning priests who had molested young children previously to roles where they abused children again.
The papers were originally acquired in lawsuits filed in the 1990s during the tenure of Bishop Edward Egan. Although the actual incidents of abuse transpired ahead of his tenure, the documents suggest he knowingly shuffled predator priests into new jobs during this time period.
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Egan maintained that he had followed church policies during the time by distributing problem clergymen to treatment and not permitting them to work again until they had been cleared to do so by mental health professionals, but that these guidelines had since been modified. David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, stated that due to the delays, children have been unnecessarily in danger, and he is right. In 1990, Egan received a memo concerning "a developing pattern of accusations" regarding Charles Carr of Norwalk, who allegedly fondled young boys. Egan kept Carr for five years after getting the memo, suspended him only after a lawsuit was filed, and in 1999 made him a chaplain at Danbury's hospital.
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Although Egan publicly said he was sorry in 2002 for the churches managing of abuse, he amazingly retracted the apology in 2012. He called his managing of the situation "incredibly good" and mentioned of the apology, "I never should have said that, I don't feel we did anything wrong." Obviously, this did not sit well with many of the victims.
Egan also added, "I never had one of these sex abuse cases. If you have another bishop in the United States who has the record I have, I'd be happy to know who he is." As society demands more openness and accountability from the church, we can hope that officials with Egan’s cavalier frame of mind toward sexual abuse can become a thing of the past.
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