In a major cave-in, Edward Cardinal Egan has given Manhattan prosecutors information about Archdiocese of New York priests accused of molesting children over decades.
Egan, who last month said his Catholic archdiocese would reveal only future, credible sex-abuse cases to authorities, on Tuesday gave DA Robert Morgenthau an undisclosed number of old cases.
Morgenthau will forward cases that involve other counties within the archdiocese to their respective district attorneys. He is reviewing the cases to see which ones could be prosecuted.
"We believed it was the right thing to do," said archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling when asked about Egan's change of heart.
The archdiocese said "the information forwarded to [Morgenthau] is the result of a comprehensive review for priests of the Archdiocese of New York covering the last 35 to 40 years." The information includes dates and locations of the alleged abuse, the outcome of any legal proceedings and the status of accused priests.
Egan's move mirrors that of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, which last week gave Long Island prosecutors similar information.
In contrast, the Diocese of Brooklyn - which includes Queens - refuses to tell authorities about its accused priests.
Yesterday, the archdiocese's lawyer told Westchester County DA Jeanine Pirro that Egan will cooperate with her request for information about molestation complaints against archdiocese priests employed since 1990. Pirro on Tuesday asked Egan for information about accused priests on behalf of herself and prosecutors from The Bronx, Dutchess, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan and Ulster counties.
Pirro had challenged Egan, saying that it is prosecutors - "not the church" - who should review child-molestation claims and decide whether to prosecute regardless of whether the victim wants to do so.
Egan's policy called for church officials to review claims to see if there is reasonable cause to believe them, and to forward such cases to prosecutors if the victim did not object.
Egan's latest moves are a stunning turnabout for the cardinal, a former Connecticut bishop who has a history both of disbelieving molestation claims against priests, and of trying to prevent disclosure about them to the public.
But he and other American Catholic bishops now face strong criticism for their handling of such cases, and are hearing calls to legally force them to tell authorities when a complaint is made.
Egan "had to be pressured into doing the right thing," said Steven Rubino, a New Jersey lawyer who has represented hundreds of people who say priests molested them. "If you have to be forced or pressured - cajoled to do the right thing - you just don't get it."
Church critic Susan Langford said, "It is my sincere hope that the files delivered to the district attorney's office are the complete files."
"Based on Cardinal Egan's track record, I'm skeptical at this point. Hopefully, the cardinal has changed his previous tone and tenor protecting his priests, and now will concentrate, rightfully, on the victims," said Langford, New York regional director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.