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Conn. Looks at Church Abuse Claims

March 19, 2002

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) _ A prosecutor is investigating whether the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport complied with a state law requiring the church to report allegations of child molestation during the 1980s.

Edward M. Egan _ now a cardinal in New York City _ served as bishop of the diocese from 1988 to 2000. And according to sealed court documents cited by The Hartford Courant on Sunday, he allowed several priests accused of molestation to continue their duties for years.

The newspaper said court documents indicate Egan did not aggressively investigate some allegations and did not refer complaints to criminal authorities.

State’s Attorney Jonathan Benedict on Monday confirmed his office was investigating the diocese but stressed he was not specifically investigating Egan, now head of the New York Archdiocese.

But Benedict noted that the alleged abuse cases took place in the 1980s, and said it appeared the statute of limitations has probably run out on any failures to report.

Egan’s spokesman, Joseph Zwilling, told The Associated Press on Saturday that Egan would not discuss the Courant’s story and referred questions to Bridgeport officials.

Clergy are among those required by law to report suspected child abuse under a law that dates to 1971, Benedict said.

``We have always complied with the mandate,″ said Joseph McAleer, spokesman for the Bridgeport diocese. ``We have always complied with the authorities and will continue to do so.″

Last year, at least 26 people who said they were molested by priests between the late 1960s and the early 1990s reached an undisclosed financial settlement with the diocese.

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