New York priests stand by Cardinal Egan

.- The Priest's Council of the Archdiocese of New York met for two hours yesterday with Cardinal Edward Egan to discuss with him a highly critical, anonymous letter that was circulated among priests of the archdiocese and in the media.

The letter accused the cardinal of not serving his priests well and called on the Vatican to quickly accept his resignation when he turns 75 in April, the mandatory age for bishops to offer their resignation as stipulated in canon law. The letter urged diocesan priests to cast a “no-confidence” vote against the cardinal.

In a statement released following yesterday’s meeting, the council expressed their support for the cardinal and his continued ministry in the archdiocese.

“We are appalled that the letter was sent anonymously, and that it can and has been used by those who seek to damage the Church,” reads the statement.

“As today's meeting has shown, it is possible to meet and discuss any issue with Cardinal Egan, and if any priest has a concern he can raise it and discuss it at any time. A letter of this sort does a grave disservice to the entire Church and to this archdiocese in particular,” it said.

The council members said they were “upset and dismayed” that the archbishop was “personally vilified in this manner.”

Msgr. Robert Ritchie told the Daily News yesterday that the letter was poorly timed, ill-advised, and showing lack of respect for the archbishop. He said he disagreed with its contents.

According to Kevin Knight’s Blog at New, a source at the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops said the Holy See is watching the case very closely, but will not be affected by an anonymous and uncharitable letter from an unknown writer or group of writers.

The source told Knight that the Vatican wants to leave “no doubt in the minds of the faithful that the Holy Father is sovereign in the appointment and removal of bishops.”

However, the source also suggested that the priests’ effort would backfire. “They will not attain what they’re trying to accomplish. If they did, it would set a harmful precedent, and the door would be opened to all sorts of groups trying to pressure the removal of unpopular bishops.”

The letter, he said, would be “treated like it doesn’t exist.”

The Priest Council meeting, originally scheduled for the morning, was moved to 1 p.m. after the family of a well-known archdiocesan priest requested a morning funeral in Westchester County.  The archdiocese clarified yesterday that the meeting was scheduled prior to the funeral’s announcement.  Several media sources had reported that the cardinal scheduled the meeting atop the funeral.