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Jan 1, 2002 | The New York Post The New York Archdiocese yesterday defended Edward Cardinal Egan's actions when he compensated a suspected pedophile priest by allegedly paying off thousands of dollars of his debts while bishop of Bridgeport, Conn.

The Post yesterday reported that Egan paid the Rev. Gavin O'Connor $17,000 to settle bank debts and gave him money for a defense attorney after he was accused of molesting several boys between 1977 and 1985.

In papers relating to a lawsuit filed against O'Connor, the victim's lawyer called the payment a "payoff" to keep O'Connor quiet about the pending case against him. A Hartford Superior Court judge allowed testimony on the hush-money allegation in March 1998, but the diocese quickly settled the case for an undisclosed amount.

Archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling defended Egan yesterday, saying that one month after he became Bridgeport's bishop, the lawsuit against O'Connor was settled and Egan suspended the priest.

Egan had O'Connor sign a request for laicization so he could no longer act as a priest. Egan then took the request to the Vatican (news - web sites), and O'Connor was dropped in July 1989.

"He [Egan] acted in a very appropriate manner," Zwilling said.

Zwilling said Egan reached a "very generous" settlement with a victim's family in the case.

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