Outing Cardinal Egan

A priest's lawsuit alleges the Catholic Church is hiding pedophile clergy—and offers a stunning reason why

Who knows whether Cardinal Edward Egan is sleeping soundly these days. But as head of the New York archdiocese—as the top Roman Catholic prelate in the state—he'd have every reason to be restless after the recent advent of a little-noticed lawsuit.

The suit, now pending in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, was filed on December 13 by Bob Hoatson—a 53-year-old New Jersey priest considered a stalwart ally among survivors of sexual abuse by clergy. Hoatson, the now-suspended chaplain for Catholic Charities in Newark, is suing Egan and nine other Catholic officials and institutions, claiming a pattern of "retaliation and harassment" that began after Hoatson alleged a cover-up of clergy abuse in New York and started helping victims.

But that's not all his lawsuit claims. Halfway through the 44-page complaint, the priest-turned-advocate drops a bomb on the cardinal: He alleges that Egan is "actively homosexual," and that he has "personal knowledge of this." His suit names two other top Catholic clerics in the region as actively gay—Albany bishop Howard Hubbard and Newark archbishop John Myers.

"It's time the church confronts this dysfunction," says Father Bob Hoatson.
photo: Jay Muhlin
"It's time the church confronts this dysfunction," says Father Bob Hoatson.

Details

Outing Cardinal Egan
Father Bob Hoatson Says Closeted Catholic Leaders Can't Protect Abuse VictimsóAnd He's Naming Names
by Kristen Lombardi

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  • It's not that Hoatson has a problem with, as the suit puts it, "consensual, adult private sexual behavior by these defendants."

    No, what Hoatson claims is that, as leaders of a church requiring celibacy and condemning homosexuality, actively gay bishops are too afraid of being exposed themselves to turn in pedophile priests. The bishops' closeted homosexuality, as the lawsuit states, "has compromised defendants' ability to supervise and control predators, and has served as a reason for the retaliation."

    Hoatson realizes what he's up against. "I stopped and I thought long and hard about these allegations," he says. "It's time the church confronts this dysfunction. I couldn't do this outside of filing a lawsuit. The only thing the church responds to is negative publicity or a lawsuit. If I kept trying to do this within the system, I would be gone."

    The case hinges on several statutory and legal claims. It argues that Egan and the other bishops retaliated against Hoatson for being a whistle-blower, that they intended to harm him and his career, and that they engaged in a conspiracy to do so.

    Joseph Zwilling, Egan's spokesperson, denies the allegations, saying, "There is no truth to any of the statements he has made concerning Cardinal Egan." His counterpart in the Newark archdiocese, James Goodness, calls the charges "patently untrue." Goodness has released a four-page statement painting Hoatson, an archdiocesan priest in good standing until he was placed on administrative leave, as "a troubled individual" who bagged his parish duties to minister to victims.

    About That White Report

    In February 2004, Andrew Zalay came forward with the first of what would become a flurry of allegations that Bishop Howard Hubbard, head of the Albany diocese, had had homosexual encounters. Flanked by his Manhattan attorney, John Aretakis, Zalay told reporters at a press event that he'd discovered the 1978 suicide note of his brother, Tom, who had written about a sexual relationship with the bishop in the '70s.

    That announcement set off a chain of events ending with the so-called White Report, the findings of a private investigation requested by Hubbard and commissioned by diocese's lay review board. Former U.S. prosecutor Mary Jo White, whose name carries great credibility, was paid $770 an hour by the diocese for her four-month inquiry, consisting of 300 interviews, 20,000 records, and exonerating lie-detector tests on Hubbard and eight other priests and former priests. The following is a road map of the 525-page report's contents:

    THE ALLEGATIONS:

    • Hubbard had a sexual affair with Tom Zalay in the late '70s.

    • Hubbard paid a teenage street hustler for sex in the late '70s.

    • Hubbard had homosexual affairs with three Albany priests.

    • Hubbard had patronized gay bars.

    • Hubbard had engaged in gay sexual activity in Albany's Washington Park.

    THE CONCLUSIONS:

    • White found "no credible evidence" to substantiate the charges that Hubbard had homosexual relations with Zalay, the street hustler, or the three priests.

    • She found "no credible evidence" that Hubbard "ever led a homosexual lifestyle or engaged in homosexual relations at any time."

    • She determined similar charges "could be expected to emerge" again, and warned they "should be met with considerable skepticism."

    • White said Aretakis had a habit of forcing his clients to sign false statements.


    Aretakis says he's "never told a client to lie or offer up a false statement, nor would I ever do that." He has denounced the report as not being neutral because White was hired by the lay board to investigate its boss—Hubbard. He and his clients refused to cooperate with her because, he argues, "She had a classic and a substantial conflict of interest."

    White, for her part, did not return the Voice's phone call. In February 2004, when she announced the start of the investigation, she laid out the reasons she could remain independent—for instance, she is not Catholic, had never met Hubbard, and had never represented him or the Albany diocese before. Asked about the appearance of a conflict, she said, "There is not a chance at all that I would undertake this [in] other than a totally independent way, and the money is totally irrelevant to that independence." 1

     
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