August 16, 2002

NEW YORK (AP)--Cardinal Edward Egan said he and his colleagues responded ``properly'' to past allegations of sexual abuse by priests and described the past year as the most difficult of his life.

In an interview with The New York Times, Egan defended his handling of abuse cases when he was a bishop in the Roman Catholic diocese in Bridgeport, Conn.

``I think we did this properly, as it was understood at the time, and I'm happy with what we did,'' he told the newspaper for a story in Friday's editions.

Egan said he did not agree with the way some bishops in other parts of the country have met with victims, established ministries or held healing ceremonies.

``I don't think that's the way to do it,'' Egan told The Times. ``I think we've handled it in a very serious way.''

Egan, whose response to abuse allegations in Bridgeport came under heavy criticism earlier this year, has consistently defended his actions and those of the Bridgeport diocese.

In Thursday's interview with The Times, Egan reiterated his previous assertions that he relied heavily on the advice of psychiatrists when deciding whether to suspend priests accused of sexual abuse.

``Right now, I have less and less confidence in depending upon the medical and psychiatric community,'' he said. ``It's too dangerous, it seems to me, to do anything now but to play always on the side of safety'' and quickly suspend priests, he said.

Egan said that the sex abuse scandals, the Sept. 11 attacks and other crises have forced him to delay major initiatives for the archdiocese, including plans to reach out to immigrant groups. But he said he had been able to erase a more that $20 operating deficit that he inherited.

The New York Archdiocese, the nation's third largest, serves 2.4 million Catholics in parts of New York City and its northern suburbs.

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