Cardinal Edward Egan, in a letter to parishioners this weekend, said he apologized "if in hindsight" he has made any mistakes in handling sex abuse cases involving priests.

Egan, the former bishop of Bridgeport, Conn., and currently head of the New York Archdiocese, said that over the past 15 years, "I consistently sought and acted upon the best independent advice available to me from medical experts and behavioral scientists.

"It is clear that today we have a much better understanding of this problem. If in hindsight we also discover that mistakes may have been made as regards prompt removal of priests and assistance to victims, I am deeply sorry," he wrote.

Egan, whose handling of sexual abuse cases in Bridgeport has come under heavy criticism, stopped short of saying directly that he had made mistakes.

Sealed court records obtained by The Hartford (Conn.) Courant indicate that Egan, while in Bridgeport, failed to notify authorities of abuse allegations. The Courant and the Connecticut Post have also reported that documents show Egan allowed several priests facing such allegations to continue working for many years.

Egan has consistently defended his actions and those of the Bridgeport Diocese in handling those cases. This weekend's letter is the furthest he has gone in acknowledging that any mistakes may have been made.

In the letter, Egan added "I will do everything in my power to ensure, as much as is humanly possible, that such abuse by clergy will never happen again. You should expect nothing less of me, and the leaders of our church," Egan said.

The letter was released Saturday by the archdiocese and was to be read at all Masses over the weekend.

Egan is scheduled to leave for Rome on Sunday to attend a meeting of U.S. cardinals called by Pope John Paul II to address the sex abuse scandal that has erupted in the American church this year.

Earlier this month, the archdiocese gave the Manhattan district attorney's office information on sex abuse allegations against priests over the past 35 years. It has also suspended from active duty six active priests accused of sexual misconduct with minors.

The New York Archdiocese serves 2.4 million Catholics in parts of New York City and its northern suburbs.