Cardinal Edward Egan fired back at his anonymous priest critics who circulated a letter last week to their brother priests seeking a vote of no-confidence in their archbishop. They had complained that he was vindictive toward critics and that he avoided the media, among other complaints.
On Monday, the cardinal met with his presbyteral council, who not surprisingly voiced their support for the cardinal. And then in a letter dated last Friday, before his Monday meeting, he sent a letter to all priests of the archdiocese claiming that the criticism was coming from priests accused of sex abuse. That’s certainly an interesting twist.
Nowhere in the original letter were such priests mentioned and I wonder what evidence the cardinal has of this. Is he saying that he knows the identities of the letter-writers? Certainly it would be an interesting tactic if this is a bluff. The letter writers cannot refute this claim without unmasking themselves. And by blaming it on disgruntled abusers, Egan now looks like he’s being criticized for cracking down on perverts, a stance that won’t garner him criticism from any other quarter. You might even call it a shrewd political move.
But because it would also be dishonest and lacking in Christian charity, i.e. sinful, I hope that isn’t what happened here. I’d rather it be that Egan has actually identified his accusers and is calling a spade a spade. The alternative is just too disheartening.
I do not that the cardinal does not address any of the actual complaints listed in the original letter.
In his October 20 letter Cardinal Egan does not address the specific complaints listed in the anonymous letter, which charged that his leadership has been characterized by arbitrary decisions and a lack of contact with the New York archdiocesan clergy. Those complaints appeared to reflect widespread opinions among New York priests, not merely those accused of sexual abuse.
But the strength of his anger comes through clearly. He warns darkly that any priest found guilty of sex abuse and later caught speaking untruthfully before the media will be called in to his office to apologize.
If the priest refuses to make a public apology, the cardinal continued, he will be brought before a special archdiocesan panel to review his case. While promising to abide by the panel’s decision, the cardinal said, “I have no doubt what the conclusion of the panel will be.”
That sounds dangerously like a kangaroo court. It also sounds dangerously like the complaints in the original letter may not have been far off the target. At least that’s the impression left.