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Word for Word: Less than words can say

By BILL DURYEA
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 28, 2002

From depositions of Edward M. Egan, bishop of the Bridgeport (Conn.) diocese from 1988 to 2000, given in a civil case alleging sexual misconduct by priests in the diocese. The depositions taken Oct. 7, 1997, and Sept. 23, 1999, were sealed by the court as part of a $12-million settlement in 2001. They were obtained by the Hartford Courant newspaper and published March 17. Edward Cardinal Egan, now the archbishop of New York, issued a statement March 23 in which he described sexual abuse of children as an "abomination." Cardinal Egan vowed "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."

-- BILL DURYEA, Times staff writer

* * *

Edward Egan: These things happen in such small numbers. It's marvelous when you think of the hundreds and hundreds of priests, how very few have been accused, and how very few have ever come close to having anyone prove anything. Claims are not of interest to me. Realities are. Claims are claims. Allegations are allegations.

Attorney Cindy Robinson: Are you saying that, over time, the instances of clergy sexual abuse have increased?

Egan: Over time the allegations have increased.

Robinson: Okay. Well, I'd like to -

Egan: Did you hear that? Not instances -- your word was instances.

Robinson: Bishop, I can hear quite well

* * *

Robinson: Are you aware that (the case) involves instances of oral sex, anal sex, beatings, violence, sadistic verbiage -- are you aware of the extent of the claims in this case?

Egan: I am not aware of any of those things. I am aware of the claims of those things, the allegations of those things.

Robinson: And you clearly are aware of the number of people that are making similar claims during the same period of time, involving Father Raymond Pcolka, correct?

Egan: I am aware that there are a number of people who know one another, some are related to one another, have the same lawyers and so forth, I am aware of the circumstances, yes.

Robinson: So you understand that there is a significant part of the Catholic faithful that have claimed to be affected by Father Pcolka's sexual abuses, correct?

Egan: I am not aware that a significant part of the Catholic faithful claim to have been affected by Father's abuses, no . . . The Catholic faithful of Fairfield County, of which this diocese is comprised, is 360,911 signed up in our parishes. I believe we can safely say there's another 150,000 or more not signed up in our parishes. Is 12 a significant portion? And then let us please remember that the 12 have never been proved to be telling the truth.

Robinson: And Father Pcolka, let us remember, won't tell us the truth because he continues to take the Fifth Amendment.

* * *

Attorney Paul Tremont: Okay. And from that memo you became aware of the fact, did you not, Bishop Egan, that under your predecessor's administration of the Diocese, it was decided that they would feign hepatitis and that is why (Father Laurence Brett) was not around?

Egan: That's what the final sentence says on the second page.

Tremont: So they would hide the complaint of sexual abuse and tell persons that he had hepatitis and that is why he was not around?

Egan: I wouldn't read it that way.

Tremont: You wouldn't?

Egan: No, I would read it that this man is going away, and if anyone asks, say he's not well, he has hepatitis. That's quite a bit different than saying you are going to hide it. If someone were going to ask -- I don't perceive it that way, that's not my style, but I think it's altogether understandable to anybody reading it. This person has been accused of doing such and such, we're going to be sending him away for attention. I wouldn't have done this, but I don't think it's a serious matter. Someone would say, well, if anybody asks, make it that he's not well, that he has hepatitis. The word "feign," of course, makes it somewhat dramatic, but my reading it is not -- my reading is the one I have just given you.

* * *

Tremont: He admits that he had oral sex with this young boy and that he actually bit his penis and advised the boy to go to confession elsewhere?

Egan: Well, I think you're not exactly right. . . . It seemed to me that the gentleman in question was an 18-year-old student at Sacred Heart University.

Tremont: Are you aware of the fact that in December 1964 that an individual under 21 years of age was a minor in the state of Connecticut?

Egan: My problem, my clarification, had to do with the expression "a young boy" about an 18-year-old.

Tremont: A young -- all right, a minor, is that better then?

Egan: Fine.

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