Screw You, Cardinal Egan

by Bill Brenner on February 8, 2012

As a devout Catholic, I am outraged by Retired New York Cardinal Edward Egan’s “regrets” about apologizing for the priest sex abuse scandal. Here is a man who thinks the Church “did nothing wrong” in how it handled the crisis.

Mood music:

Countless children were sexually molested by men who had vowed to serve God. The Catholic Church decided to cover it up and move pedophile priests to other parishes where they could prey on others, instead of reporting them to the police like they should have done.

A decade after the scandal was blown wide open, the stains remain. A lot of healing and forgiveness has happened, but there are people who are never coming back. There are adults who will have nightmares for the rest of their lives because of what these priests did to them. There are a lot of good people who would make good priests who will never go down that path because of what happened.

And what does Egan have to say about all this in an interview he did with Connecticut Magazine? He regrets apologizing for the Church’s criminal behavior.

“I don’t think we did anything wrong,” he said.

He says he wasn’t obligated to report abuse claims because he inherited the cases from his predecessor. In other words, since the evil didn’t happen on his watch, he was under no obligation to do anything about it.

The problem, Cardenal Eagan, is that as a servant of God, you are obligated to do something about evil.

Here’s more from The Huffington Post:

In court documents unsealed in 2009, Egan expressed skepticism over sexual abuse allegations and said he found it “marvelous” that so few priests had been accused over the years.

In the recent interview, Egan was asked about a letter he wrote to parishioners in 2002 saying “if in hindsight we discover that mistakes may have been made as regards prompt removal of priests and assistance to victims, I am deeply sorry.”

“First of all I should never have said that,” Egan responded, according to the magazine. “I did say if we did anything wrong, I’m sorry, but I don’t think we did anything wrong.”

Egan said in the interview that he sent accused priests to treatment.

“And as a result, not one of them did a thing out of line. Those whom I could prove, I got rid of; those whom I couldn’t prove, I didn’t. But I had them under control.”

Egan also said he was not surprised that “the scandal was going to be fun in the news, not fun but the easiest thing to write about.”

As for reporting claims to authorities, he said, “I don’t think even now you’re obligated to report them in Connecticut.”

“I sound very defensive and I don’t want to because I’m very proud of how this thing was handled,” Egan said.

Pathetic.

I’ve been asked many times over the years how I could have Faith in an institution that has done so much evil in its history.

My answer is the same now as it’s always been:

I believe Jesus Christ died for our sins. Believing in Him is my lifeline in a life where I’ve made many, many mistakes.

The Christian faith is like any other good thing on this Earth: There are always flawed mortals around to distort it and use it for their own personal gain. I believe in Democracy, even if it’s crawling with corrupt politicians right now.

The idea is what I try to live by. Not the rules and politics that contradict what it’s all about.

Since Egan just set us back a few years in the healing-progress department, I’m digging up some advice I wrote last year for some people who were in the middle of becoming Catholic. Whenever charlatans like Egan talk, I always try to remember these points:

1. Don’t Succumb to “Happily-Ever-After” Syndrome.

Even though I knew deep down that it wouldn’t be the case, I approached the days leading up to my conversion in a high of sorts; feeling like it would be happy forever more once I was Baptized. In some ways that is how it turned out. But for me, things got a whole lot worse before they got better.

The sins I had accumulated up to that point were forgiven that night, but the demons remained a few steps behind me, ready to trip me into another garbage can.

I continued to suffer from the paralysis of OCD. I continued to give in to my self-destructive impulses [More on that in “The Most Uncool Addiction“].

I continued to indulge my over-sized ego and stay absorbed in all things me.

Some of my most self-destructive, addictive behavior took place AFTER my Baptism.

2. Peace IS NOT The Absence of Chaos. It’s a State of Mind (or, if you really want to get technical, a state of being in God’s Grace).

My own world used to be pure chaos. Self-loathing dripped from my pores and I had a craving for peace. I wanted all the violence and worry to go away. It didn’t.

But that’s OK.

I’ve learned that peace is a state of mind, not the absence of chaos. It’s a feeling and mental clarity that comes over you as your Faith deepens. It didn’t just smack me in the back of the head one morning. It’s a state of mind that slowly grew over time.

3. What You Get is Only As Good As What You Put In

Here is what you might call an open secret:  spiritual well-being isn’t just handed to you like an entitlement or a birthday present. You have to work hard at it everyday. Working it takes many forms.

Service is a big one. Getting to Mass every week is important.

But you have to do more. You have to go on retreats like Cursillo, which will be as life-changing an event for you as the Baptism was. I’ve been on two retreats since my conversion: Cursillo and an ACTS retreat the year before that. The soul searching and sharing you do on these weekends is priceless.

Then there are programs like Lenten Longings, where you keep studying Scripture and discussing it in a group, in context with your daily life struggles.

I’ve gotten a lot from lectoring as well. By getting up in front of everyone and doing the readings, I’m better able to actually understand what the readings mean. And when you actively participate in the Mass, you’re less likely to fall asleep.

And go to Confession often. You won’t believe how good it feels to get rid of the mental trash until you do it.

4. Don’t Let Politics Get in the Way

An active Parish community is like any other community: There are a lot of folks with strong ideas who will butt heads, especially in a Parish like ours where there’s a school attached.

You also might not like everything the priest tells you every week.

People always use these things as excuses not to practice their Faith. Don’t let it happen to you.

All that matters is your own relationship with God. You have to move beyond the politics of human nature and remember the big picture.

I like to compare it to American government. We may not like the President or the Senator in office at any given time, but most of us stay devoted to our country and way of life. So maybe you have a problem with the priest. The priest is human like the rest of us, open to making mistakes. But most of the ones I’ve known do their best and get it right more than they get it wrong.

And there will always be bad seeds out there who twist religion to fit their own sinister goals, taking a lot of people down the hellhole along the way. The Manson Family is a perfect example.

Just remember: It comes down to you and your relationship with God.

If you invest too much of your Faith in the organizational/political/administrative structure, you’re looking in the wrong place and will almost certainly be dissapointed.

5. Plan to Fight the Good Fight to Your Dying Breath

I’ve come a long way in my spiritual growth. With God’s help I’ve overcome crippling addiction and depression and I know more peace today than I ever have.

But boy, I can still screw up with the best of ‘em.

My most destructive addictive behaviors are under control, but I’m always tap dancing from one habit to another. [More on that in “Addicted to Feeling Good: A Love-Hate Story“].

There are still days where I come to church with a crappy attitude. My mind will be on everything else but God. A perfect example is in the post “Rat in the Church Pew.”

I still let my ego get the best of me, especially in my career as a Journalist. I’m easily distracted by shiny objects. 

They are all things I need to work on. I can do so much better than this. But I used to be a lot worse.

In summary, it’s a life-long journey. You’ll keep making mistakes.

But keep your heart and head in the right place and everything will be fine.

Things WILL be fine — even if people like Cardinal Egan keep trying to get in the way.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

juliebooth February 8, 2012 at 10:41 am

Thanks for writing this.

George Scione February 9, 2012 at 2:22 pm

This was only one reason I left the Catholic Church. Do I still believe in the teachings I grew up with, yes. But I couldn’t lie to myself and say this was just one or two cases of bad priests – this was an epidemic.
There are a few smaller reasons I left the church – not allowing women to be priests and not allowing gay members of society to marry their loved ones just to name two – but my beliefs in the Holy Trinity remain strong to this day. A church is not supposed to be about the building you worship in. It is about the community, the fellowship of neighbors that come together to praise God and share in the spirit of love, understanding and forgiveness. How can we as a people forgive if such high-ranking members and leaders in this community all of a sudden believe there was no wrongdoing in this situation?
Thus my community of faith is my family and friends. My contact with God above is just as strong without a priest as a middle man. I prefer the one-on-one approach.

Catherine Waldron September 10, 2012 at 3:10 pm

Bill, I think it’s a matter of “The Church is them” vs “The Church is us.”
When a bishop speaks, he either speaks in his role as an individual or in his pastoral role as servant-leader.
If the Church is us, the we all share the responsibility for its failings.
I pray the Holy Spirit will breathe wisdom and discernment where church leaders as individuals appear unable to grasp the magnitude of suffering that continues due to the actions not only of pedophile priests but especially the action and inaction of church leaders in many different dioceses over a period of many years. As members of the Body of Christ we are called to pray and to act. Even in anger we are called to love one another. I struggle with this calling because it is certainly easier to call a Cardinal a charlatan, than to wrestle with the intersection of media celebrity interview, the made for media soundbite apology or non-apology, the very real financial impact on the Church of the abuse scandal lawsuits and criminal investigations, and the “Deny everything,” counsel from any attorney steeped in our U.S. justice system which is not always aligned with heavenly justice.

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