The Egan kerfuffle

The Egan kerfuffle

After a group of anonymous priests in New York tried to rally their brethren against Cardinal Edward Egan, to ask the Vatican to speedily accept his resignation upon reaching the age of 75 next year, Egan called a meeting of the presbyteral council yesterday and afterward they offered their support for the cardinal and denounced the anonymous letter writers.

The Priest’s Council, which advises the cardinal, said it was “upset and dismayed that our archbishop has been personally vilified in this manner,” and expressed its support.

Many seem to be focusing on the unusually public reaction by Egan. When 74 priests in 2003 signed a letter criticizing him for his handling of the cases of priests accused of sex abuse, there was no discernible reaction. But this anonymous missive elicited an emergency meeting of the presbyteral council. What was different about this letter?

In any case, it looks like the letter will have the opposite of the intended effect. The New Advent blog has an exclusive tip from an insider at the Congregation for Bishops who said the letter has only galvanized the Vatican into refusing to give the appearance of giving in to such tactics.

Our source told us that “we want to leave no doubt in the minds of the faithful that the Holy Father is sovereign in the appointment and removal of bishops.”

He suggested that the effort in New York would backfire on its proponents.  “They will not attain what they’re trying to accomplish.  If they did, it would set a harmful precedent, and the door would be opened to all sorts of groups trying to pressure the removal of unpopular bishops.”

Where Egan’s standard resignation letter might have been speedily accepted, now he may be allowed to stay on for some after.

Of course, if you want to go into full tin-foil hat mode, you could speculate that maybe that’s what these anonymous letter-writers wanted all along and accomplished it with a game of reverse psychology…. Nah!

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