Anonymous Clergy Group Castigates Egan; Priest's Council Defends N.Y. Cardinal after Letter Calls for Vote of No Confidence

Article excerpt

The Priest's Council of the New York archdiocese rallied to support Cardinal Edward Egan Oct. 16 after an anonymous letter that circulated among archdiocesan priests and on the Internet urged a vote of no confidence in Egan.

A group, calling itself A Committee of Concerned Clergy for the Archdiocese of New York, issued the 950-word letter, which Egan was shown Oct. 10 after two priests working at the archdiocesan center received a copy of it. The committee said it could not identify its members because of Egan's "severely vindictive nature."

The letter stated that the morale of local priests was at an all-time low and cited the cardinal for his "arrogant and cavalier manner" in dealing with his priests, "the cruel and ruthless way" in which he dismissed several of them from the seminary faculty, and the fact that he flew to Rome two days after 9/11, leaving the press to call Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, rather than the cardinal, the "Shepherd of the City."

The document criticized the cardinal for being more concerned with financial management of the archdiocese than with the spiritual needs of its priests and people.

Among its harshest claims is that Egan's relations with his clergy during the past six years "have been defined by dishonesty, deception, disinterest and disregard." The letter suggested priests cast a secret vote of "no confidence in Cardinal Egan" when they next hold their vicariate meetings. A ballot was included at the end of the three-page letter.

Its authors want Pope Benedict XVI appraised of the situation in the New York see by April 2. That is the day Egan turns 75 and must tender his resignation to the pope. "The search for a new archbishop should begin sooner rather than later," the letter stated, adding that cardinals--at the pope's bidding--often serve until age 80.

Egan, "recognizing the damage an anonymous letter like this could cause the church," acted swiftly, said archdiocesan spokesman Joseph Zwilling. He called "an extraordinary meeting" of his Priest's Council, Zwilling told NCR. The assembly took place Oct. 16 with 32 of the 40 members in attendance, including three auxiliary bishops.

Following the two-hour gathering in which the council heard Egan make a point-by-point reply to his critics, his top aides issued their own opinion of the prelate and the job he is doing. "We stand with him in confidence, and look forward to his continued ministry to the clergy, religious and laity of the archdiocese of New York."

In their statement released after the meeting, the priests said they were "upset and dismayed that our archbishop has been personally vilified in this manner." They were "appalled that the letter was sent anonymously, and that it can and has been used by those who seek to damage the church. …