Office of the Bishop
Diocese of Manchester

[Note: This transcript of Bishop John B. McCormack's letter to Jeffrey Blanchard of NH-VOTF was provided to by Carolyn Disco. McCormack's letter responds to NH-VOTF's call for McCormack's resignation. See also NH-VOTF's reply to McCormack's letter.]

April 14, 2003

Mr. Jeffrey Blanchard
Voice of the Faithful
PO Box 423
Concord NH 03302-0423

Dear Mr. Blanchard:

I was surprised to learn of the recent decision by the Steering Committee of the New Hampshire Voice of the Faithful to call for the resignation of Bishop Christian and myself, as well as by the description you sent to our Holy Father about my responses and those of Bishop Christian to the terrible incidence of sexual abuse by some priests and the current state of our local church. It is clear from your letters that you and others are in great distress, and I am sorry that you have not taken an opportunity to make this known to me or to my representatives.

During the past few years, I have worked diligently to establish good working relationships with persons and groups interested in assisting the Church in responding to adult survivors of sexual abuse. I consider our efforts to be quite different than your description of them in your letters to the Holy Father and Bishop Gregory. The conclusions you and the Steering Committee make are not based on the reality of the current pastoral response of our diocese to reports of child sexual abuse. The recent report of the diocese, Restoring Trust, provides a clear explanation of what the diocese is doing and where and when it was inadequate in its response in the past.

Your recommendation that Bishop Christian and I resign from our office is not one for us to make alone. Such an action can only be done in consultation with our Holy Father. Resignation from office is not part of the tradition of the Church, nor does it constructively contribute to the healing of survivors or the members of the Christian faithful. I am committed to serve the Church as best I can, and I am convinced that I should continue to serve the Church faithfully as Bishop of Manchester in fulfillment of God's will and that of our Holy Father. Despite the challenges that I face as a pastor and shepherd of our local church, I intend to do all I can to help restore the trust that has been diminished, and I am confident that the grace of the Lord and the collaboration of the many priests and people with whom I serve will bring this about. I regret that you and the members of the Voice of the Faithful have decided to take another tact.

You may recall that I attended the first meeting of the Voice of the Faithful in Concord last year, and I asked Sister Rosemary Crowley to serve as my liaison to the parish groups associated with the Voice of the Faithful in order to ensure that the desires of the people to assist survivors and to support priests would be appropriately encouraged. The third objective of the Voice of the Faithful, namely, to promote structural change in the Church, has not been clearly explained; and therefore I have respectfully withheld reaching a conclusion regarding this intention. To date, I know of no substantial effort by the Voice of the Faithful to assist or support the many efforts of our diocese to respond to survivors or to support priests who serve the people of New Hampshire faithfully and well. Instead, the Steering committee of the New Hampshire Voice of the Faithful has chosen to announce an initiative that undermines and harms the mission and communion of the Church.

While I acknowledge that trust in the Church and in its bishops has been affected by the crisis, I do not concur with your observation that my moral authority as bishop has eroded, nor do I agree that the Church of Manchester is in a state of spiritual distress. Along with countless members of the Church, the pastors and pastoral ministers of our diocese work diligently to address this painful reality within our Church and to promote the mission of the Lord. While this moment of crisis challenges us all, I believe that by being committed to our Christian vocation of carrying out the Lord's mission that we will be strengthened as members of the Church and that people's trust and hope in us and in the Lord will be deepened.

I want you to know that there has been no pervasive pattern of behavior on my part or that of Bishop Christian to conceal or to cover up the actions of sexual abuse by priests. The response of the diocese to reports of sexual misconduct of minors in the past often times relied too much upon the confidentiality requested by adults who reported being abused as minors. Today, every report of sexual abuse, even by an adult, is shared by the diocese with the appropriate civil authorities of the State. Every report is handled by competent lay persons, and every investigation of a report is presented to our Diocesan Review Board, a majority of whom are lay persons, who make recommendations to me regarding the credibility of the accusation and the pastoral response of the Church to the complainant and the accused person.

You mention in your letter to our Holy Father that our diocese is in a state of moral paralysis and that I am prevented from functioning in an effective manner. I do not concur with this description either. My
relationship with the pastors of our parishes and with the many Christian faithful with whom and to whom I minister is basically a good and effective one. It is because of this that the response of our diocese to this crisis is proving to be helpful to many. I regret that these efforts have not proved to be helpful to you. We are moving ahead with the mission of our Church and with our pastoral planning for the future.

It is my belief that the response of our Church to this crisis must be one made by the whole Church - laity, religious, deacons, priests and bishop - working together by the grace of God in extending Christ's healing presence to the persons and their families who have been harmed as children and whose trust in the Church needs to be healed.

I urge you to reconsider your conclusions about the state of the Church in New Hampshire and upon the simple and ineffective solutions you propose to problems which are quite complex and which we all want to resolve effectively. A Church that ministers in unity will help people to heal. A Church willing to learn from past mistakes will shape the future. A Church that works in a spirit of collaboration will inspire the trust and confidence needed to ensure that our Church is a safe environment for all persons, especially children and young people, to worship.

My prayer and my hope are that you and the other members of the Voice of the Faithful who concur with your opinions and sentiments will rejoin the efforts of our local Church in Manchester. If further reflection or understanding of my response and that of the diocese to the painful reality of child sexual abuse would be helpful to you, I would be pleased to ask my delegate, Father Edward Arsenault, and my liaison with the Voice of the Faithful, Sister Rosemary Crowley, to meet with you. I am confident that they and those who assist them can help you understand the positive and constructive steps we are taking to meet these challenging efforts and to carry out the mission of our Lord in our Church.

Sincerely in our Lord,

John McCormack
Bishop of Manchester


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