Cardinal Edward M. Egan, the archbishop of the New York Archdiocese from 2000 to 2009, died of cardiac arrest on Thursday. He was 82.
“I am saddened to tell you that our beloved Cardinal Edward Egan ... has gone home to the Lord,” Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who succeeded Egan, said in a statement. “Thank God he had a peaceful death, passing away right after lunch today, with the prayers and sacraments of his loyal priest secretary.”
In a statement officials at the Archdiocese of New York announced Egan died at NYU Langone Medical Center at 2:20 p.m. Funeral arrangements are pending.
Egan's time as archbishop was rife with troubled church finances and changing demographics in a see with 2.5 million Catholics, according to the New York Times. During his term, the number of registered parishioners increased as did enrollment in Catholic schools and the budget of Catholic Charities. He was highly visible after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and escorted Pope Benedict XVI when he visited New York City in April 2008.
Still, Egan was not safe from controversy. He was a staunch opponent of gay marriage and abortion, once comparing the latter to the same reasoning behind Adolf Hitler’s actions during the Holocaust.
In 2012 he rescinded an apology he had given to victims of clergy sexual abuse in Bridgeport, Connecticut, The Associated Press reported. The diocese paid nearly $38 million to 60 victims of sexual abuse in 2001. Egan, who was bishop of Bridgeport from 1988 to 2000, wrote a letter to parishioners as cardinal in 2002 saying he was “deeply sorry” for any mistakes he made regarding removing priests from their posts or helping victims.
During his retirement in 2012, he told Connecticut magazine, "First of all I should never have said that," Egan said. "I did say if we did anything wrong, I'm sorry, but I don't think we did anything wrong."
Despite his strong stance on key issues, a month before his retirement he appeared to consider loosening the restrictions on clergy celibacy. “I think that it’s going to be discussed; it’s a perfectly legitimate discussion,” Egan said on Albany radio station Talk 1300. He later added, “Is it a closed issue? No. That’s not a dogmatic stand.”
Egan was born on April 2, 1932, in Oak Park, Illinois. He was ordained into the priesthood in 1957. In 1985 he was consecrated a bishop and served in the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Bridgeport. He was appointed Archbishop of New York in 2000 and made a cardinal a year later.