- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 21, 2002

NEW YORK (AP) Roman Catholic Cardinal Edward Egan wrote in a letter to parishioners yesterday that he apologizes "if, in hindsight," he made any mistakes in his handling of sex-abuse accusations against priests.
Cardinal Egan, who has been criticized for the manner in which he dealt with the sexual-abuse complaints against priests when he was bishop of Bridgeport, Conn., stopped short of saying directly that he had made mistakes.
"It is clear that today we have a much better understanding of this problem. 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," he wrote.
Cardinal Egan has consistently defended his actions and those of the Bridgeport Diocese in the handling of those cases. The letter is the furthest he has gone in acknowledging that mistakes may have been made.
"I consistently sought and acted upon the best independent advice available to me from medical experts and behavioral scientists," Cardinal Egan wrote in the letter, which was to be read at weekend Masses in the New York Archdiocese.
Sealed court records obtained by the Hartford (Conn.) Courant indicate that while the cardinal was in Bridgeport, he didn't notify authorities of abuse accusations against priests.
The Courant and the Connecticut Post have reported that documents show he allowed several priests facing such accusations to continue working.
In the letter, Cardinal Egan said: "I will do everything in my power to ensure, as much as is humanly possible, that such abuse by clergy will never happen again. You should expect nothing less of me, and the leaders of our church."
He is scheduled to leave for Rome today to attend a meeting of U.S. cardinals called by Pope John Paul II to address the sex-abuse scandal.
Earlier this month, the New York Archdiocese gave the Manhattan District Attorney's Office information on abuse accusations against priests in the past 35 years. It also has suspended six priests accused of sexual misconduct with minors.
The archdiocese serves 2.4 million Catholics in parts of New York City and its northern suburbs.
In other developments, Bishop Donald Wuerl of the Diocese of Pittsburgh said American bishops did not realize the full extent of the abuse scandal during the past decades and viewed pedophilia as a moral failure.
"Bishops did not understand the gravity of what we were dealing with," Bishop Wuerl said during a taping of the local "KC/PG Sunday Edition."
He has removed several priests from active ministry because of accusations of sexual misconduct; none has been charged with any crime.

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