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Cardinal defends handling of sex abuse cases

Egan: "My heart goes out to any and all victims and their families."  

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Roman Catholic Cardinal Edward Egan, under scrutiny for his handling of child sexual abuse cases when he was a Connecticut bishop in the 1990s, said Tuesday he was "confident that these cases were handled appropriately."

Egan, now the archbishop of New York, said he was preparing a letter for church members in the archdiocese on the "tragedy and immorality of sexual abuse" and on how the church will respond.

In a statement issued by his office, Egan said the letter also would touch on the "salient and essential facts" of the Connecticut cases.

He vowed the archdiocese would "thoroughly" investigate all allegations of child sexual abuse and would contact law enforcement agencies if there was "reasonable cause" to believe abuse has occurred and if the victim consents to reporting the crime.

Asked whether the cardinal's statement meant the archdiocese would not turn over information in past cases, a spokesman said, "We don't intend to go back 20 or 30 years and release information."

In his statement, that cardinal said, "Sexual abuse of children is an abomination. It leaves scars on its victims that long endure. My heart goes out to any and all victims and their families."

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"Sexual abuse of children is not only immoral it is also illegal."

Egan also said anyone bringing an allegation to the archdiocese would be encouraged to report it to the proper civil authorities.

Before being picked by the Vatican to head New York's Catholic archdiocese, Egan served as bishop of Bridgeport, Connecticut, from 1988 to 2000.

The Hartford Courant reported Sunday that during the 1990s charges by 26 plaintiffs against six priests in the Bridgeport diocese were kept secret and that many of the priests were allowed to continue working.

The newspaper cited sealed court files showing that nine other priests in the diocese had been accused of sexual abuse.

In his statement, Egan said the Courant's story "omitted certain key facts and contained inaccuracies," but he did not elaborate.

The cardinal said that during investigations of child sexual abuse allegations the archdiocese would "respond appropriately and pastorally to the person bringing the allegation and to the clergyman.

"In any such investigation, of course, we have to respect the rights of all persons involved, the rights of the accuser as well as the rights of the accused," he said.

The controversy involving Egan's tenure in Bridgeport is the latest episode in a burgeoning debate over how the Catholic Church has dealt with pedophile priests.

The controversy has been most acute in the Boston archdiocese, which paid out a multimillion-dollar settlement to victims of a former priest convicted of sexual abuse.

In the wake of that case, the church turned over the names of more than 90 priests accused of sexual misconduct to local prosecutors and created a blue-ribbon panel to study clergy sexual abuse.

Despite those steps, some prominent Catholics have called for the resignation of the Boston archbishop, Cardinal Bernard Law, over his handling of the child sexual abuse allegations.


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