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February 8th, 2012
08:24 PM ET

Retired New York Cardinal Egan retracts apology on Catholic priest sex abuse

By Laura Batchelor, CNN

New York (CNN) - A decade after the sex abuse scandal that plagued the Catholic Church across the country, retired Cardinal Edward Egan has taken back his apology for how the church handled the issue.

In an interview published this week in Connecticut Magazine, Egan denies any sex abuse happened under his watch in Bridgeport, Connecticut, or in New York.

"I never had one of these sex abuse cases. ... Not one," he told the magazine. Referencing the apology he issued in 2002, Egan continued, "I should never have said that. I did say 'If we did anything wrong, I'm sorry,' but I don't think we did anything wrong."

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests responded with a press release saying Egan was "unrepentant, self-absorbed and painfully dismissive of the abject suffering of tens of thousands."

"Most bishops have a dreadfully skewed and self-serving view of the crisis," the release said. "But most work very hard to conceal it."

Egan successor as archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan, spoke briefly on the matter at a news conference in the city Wednesday. "I'm not familiar with the extent of the interview, but all I know is I'm grateful for what Cardinal Egan did here," he told reporters.

Brian Wallace, director of communication of the Bridgeport diocese, where Egan was bishop from 1988 to 2000, told CNN, "If there is one thing Catholics agree on, (it) is the abhorrence of child abuse, any form, and the need to make sure that it doesn't happen again."

The timing of Egan's comment coincides with the Vatican's four-day summit on the sex abuse scandal, titled "Towards Healing and Renewal."

CNN's senior Vatican analyst, John L. Allen Jr., says the attitude behind Egan's denial was in fashion 10 years ago but has been abandoned.

"Based upon this week's Vatican summit on sex abuse, the position that Egan expresses in the interview would not be in line with the positions of the Catholic Church," Allen said.

Egan also denied the church has a responsibly to report cases of abuse, telling Connecticut Magazine, "There really wasn't much in the way of (things being kept) hidden. I don't think even now you're obligated to report (abuse cases) in Connecticut."

That contrasts with a statement at this week's summit by the Vatican's chief prosecutor of sex abuse, who said the church has an obligation to report sex abuse.

"Egan is stuck in a mind set that just isn't the case any more," Allen said.

And Wallace told CNN, "We know the abuse was real and it happened. Catholics are united and it won't happen again."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Bishops • Catholic Church • New York

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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.