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    March 2001. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport settles 23 lawsuits brought against seven unnamed priests for an undisclosed amount of money. The court orders the documents sealed and church officials believe eventually destroyed. Four newspapers – the New York Times, Hartford Courant, Boston Globe and Washington Post, file an emergency appeal in April 2002, seeking to have the documents preserved and unsealed. The diocese embarks on what would be more than a seven-year battle against the newspapers.

    March 17, 2002. The Courant publishes a story based on thousands of pages of sealed court documents and testimony from civil suits against six priests. Among the findings:

    » New York Cardinal Edward M. Egan, while serving as bishop of the Bridgeport Roman Catholic Diocese from 1988 to 2000, allowed several priests facing multiple accusations of sexual abuse to continue working for years.

    » Former Bridgeport Bishop Walter Curtis, who ran the diocese for 27 years before Egan, testified in 1995 that the diocese deliberately shuffled pedophile priests among parishes to give them a "fresh start," and admitted destroying records of complaints against some priests. Curtis also said he didn't believe pedophilia was a permanent condition.

    » In 1964, a teenage student at Sacred Heart University accused Father Laurence Brett, a spiritual director of the university, of performing oral sex on him and biting his penis to prevent him from ejaculating. Bishop Curtis discussed the situation with the Vatican representative in Washington, D.C., and decided not to suspend Brett but to send him out of state. Diocese officials were told that "hepatitis was to be feigned" as an excuse for Brett's absence. In seeming exile, Brett was supported financially by the Bridgeport diocese and was permitted to perform priestly functions. Brett held a variety of ecclesiastical positions in New Mexico, California, and Maryland for the next thirty years, becoming a writer and television minister. In 1991, Egan investigated Brett's case and allowed him to remain in the ministry. When more accusations against Brett surfaced, Egan suspended his priestly faculties.

    » In 1991, Egan appointed Rev. Charles Carr parochial vicar of Saint Andrew Parish in Bridgeport, where he was allowed to minister to children, despite ongoing complaints about pedophilia that had forced Carr into treatment at Hartford's Institute for Living for evaluation at least twice. When the first lawsuit against the diocese in connection to Carr was served in 1995, Egan suspended Carr and placed him on an indefinite leave of absence.

    » Church officials had received abuse complaints about Rev. Raymond Pcolka since his first assignment, in 1966, at St. Benedict's Parish in Stamford. He was transferred several times over the years and sent to the Institute of Living for evaluation at least twice. Egan eventually suspended Pcolka in 1992, but continued to pay his salary, provide health benefits and cover the cost of his attorney's fees for several years. In addition, Egan did not make any effort to remove Pcolka from the priesthood, saying he didn't have sufficient evidence that Pcolka had abused anyone. In 1994, Pcolka exercised his Fifth Amendment privilege more than 100 times when questioned about abuse allegations involving more than a dozen victims over several decades.

    March 18, 2002. Bishop William E. Lori speaks to the media, vowing to introduce initiatives to root out pedophiles in the diocese. » Continue reading Timeline...

    -- Research by Rosa Ciccio and Tina Bachetti of Center for News Research and Archives.
  • Transcript of Oct. 7, 1997 Videotaped Deposition of Bishop Edward Egan [PDF]
  • Transcript of Sept. 23, 1999 Videotaped Deposition of Bishop Edward Egan [PDF]
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"Claims are claims. Allegations are allegations."

Those six words uttered by retired Cardinal Edward M. Egan during two depositions neatly sum up his approach to handling the burgeoning priest sexual abuse scandal that he inherited when he took over the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut in the late 1980s.

>> Transcript of Oct. 7, 1997 Videotaped Deposition of Bishop Edward Egan
>> Transcript of Sept. 23, 1999 Videotaped Deposition of Bishop Edward Egan

In 448-pages of depositions that Egan was forced to give as part of 23 lawsuits against seven priests that eventually were settled, the Bishop showed little compassion for the alleged victims and instead argued with attorney's that only a "remarkably small number" of priests have ever been accused of wrongdoing.

"These things (sexual abuse complaints) happen in such small numbers. It's marvelous when you think of the hundreds and hundreds of priests and how very few have ever been accused, and how very few have even come close to having anyone prove anything,'' Egan said.

"Claims are one thing. One does not take every claim against a human being as a proved misdeed. I'm interested in proved misdeeds.''

Egan's depositions taken in 1997 and 1999 were supposed to remain sealed forever when the diocese settled the cases in 2001. The Courant obtained copies of them in 2002 and published several stories about them. But on Tuesday for the first time the documents were made available to the public after a seven-year court battle by the Bridgeport Diocese to keep them secret.

Egan's depositions are among 12,600 pages of documents released Tuesday including personnel files of well-known pedophile priests such as Laurence Brett, who the Courant tracked down in 2002 living in St. Marteens while still being paid a stipend by the church, and Raymond Pcolka. The documents also contain depositions from the hierarchy of the diocese, including Egan's predecessor Walter Curtis, who not only acknowledged keeping secret files on priests but also that he deliberately destroyed alleged complaints of sexual abuse against some of them because the complaints were "antiquated."

Pictures: Key Figures In The Priest Abuse Scandal

Many of the complaints date back to the late 1960s and 1970s and church officials dismissed much of it as old news while emphasizing that the diocese has undergone a culture change regarding the knowledge of and ability to deal with sexual abuse.

"Contrary to the naysayers, this is very old news. Between 1993 and 2002, more than 200 media reports were published about these and other cases, including extensive Hartford Courant coverage in 2002 in an article that published, without permission, many of the sealed documents. The coverage included the names of the accused priests, critiques of the Diocese's handling of the complaints, victims' accounts, and many other details,'' the diocese said in a statement. Of the seven priests involved in the lawsuits one -- Joseph Gorecki has died, five priests --Charles Carr, Pcolka, Brett, Martin Federici and Philip Coleman have been removed from the priesthood. One priest, Joseph Malloy was exonerated, according to the Bridgeport diocese and is currently the Pastor at the St. Clement of Rome Parish in Stamford, Conn. Egan left to become the Archbishop of New York shortly after the lawsuits were settled. He went on to be named a Cardinal and retired earlier this year.

Critics of the diocese have said that they fought for nearly seven years to keep the documents sealed to protect Egan's reputation while he was still active. The diocese appealed the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court which decided earlier this year no to take up the case paving the way for Waterbury Superior Court Judge Barry Stevens to finally unseal the files.

Only 15 documents will remain sealed because the state Supreme Court ruled they were not submitted as legal documents. Attorneys for the diocese on Tuesday also submitted to Stevens a list of other documents they believe are privileged and should remain sealed that Stevens must rule on.

During his deposition with attorney's from Tremont and Sheldon, the Bridgeport firm that filed the lawsuits, Egan comes off as dismissive, argumentative and at times condescending.

The documents show that Egan failed to investigate aggressively some abuse allegations, reassigned priests that he knew had allegations made against them and in general downplayed allegations made against many of the priests. At one point Egan said he wasn't interested in allegations -- only ``realities.'' He added that ``very few have even come close to having anyone prove anything'' against a priest.

For example, regarding a dozen people who made complaints of sexual abuse and violence against Pcolka, of Greenwich, Egan said, ``the 12 have never been proved to be telling the truth.''

Egan also acknowledges that he never attempted to seriously investigate the truth of such allegations -- accusers were not interviewed, witnesses were not sought, and no attempt was made to learn of other possible victims.

Egan allowed Pcolka to continue working as a priest until 1993, when he suspended him after Pcolka refused an order from Egan to go to the Institute of Living in Hartford for psychiatric treatment. Egan referred to the Institute as his "preferred" place to send priests who needed counseling.