Thursday, December 3, 2009
In Egan’s Depositions, a New View of a Sex Scandal
The deposition was in its fifth grueling hour. The lawyer and the witness had dueled over the meaning of common words, about whether an executive “supervises” or “administers,” about the difference between a lie and a failure to tell the truth.
Then the lawyer sprang his big question: You could have prevented someone from hurting people and you decided not to. Why?
The witness was Edward M. Egan, then the Roman Catholic bishop of Bridgeport, Conn. The question was about a priest who had been accused of sexually molesting children.
“I didn’t make a decision one way or the other,” said Bishop Egan, whom the lawyer suggested had failed to act quickly against the cleric. “I kept working on it until I resolved the decision.”
The exchange is one of hundreds recorded in a vast trove of documents the Diocese of Bridgeport made public on Tuesday after battling in court for seven years to keep them sealed. The archive — more than 12,000 pages of memos, church records and testimony — was gathered for 23 lawsuits, alleging sexual abuse of children by seven priests, that the diocese settled in 2002.
At the heart of it lies the bishop’s testimony, in two wide-ranging depositions from 1997 and 1999. Punctuated by legal parsing and frequent exasperation on both sides, transcripts of the videotaped sessions show the man who would become one of the church’s most prominent American leaders — the archbishop of New York, and a cardinal — as he navigated a budding scandal that still threatens the church’s finances and reputation.
Since 2002, when he moved to New York and nationwide attention focused on the church hierarchy’s handling of abuse complaints, Cardinal Egan has faced troubling accusations about his tenure in Bridgeport: that he allowed priests facing multiple sex abuse allegations to continue working; that he did not refer complaints to criminal authorities; and that he showed little interest in meeting with accusers.
[Read the rest here.]