NH Resources – August 2002
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Bishop names 6 members to review board
Manchester (NH) Union Leader
August 6, 2002
Bishop John B. McCormack has announced the names of six members he has
appointed to a panel charged with reviewing sexual misconduct complaints
against the clergy.
The Diocesan Review Board, which has been meeting since early this year,
examines the complaints and make recommendations to the bishop. Its members
have all had experience dealing with these types of issues, the diocese
The board members include J. Michael McDonough, a retired Manchester attorney
who serves as chairman; Dr. David Bulmer, a psychiatrist at Catholic Medical
Center; retired Manchester Police Chief Peter Favreau; Msgr. Donald J.
Gilbert, pastor of St. Matthew Parish in Windham, a canon lawyer and former
chief judge of the diocesan tribunal; Christine Tremblay, a member of
the St. Matthew Parish Council, and the Rev. Gayle Whittemore, a Congregational
Patrick McGee, spokesman for the Manchester diocese, said the bishop had
been an early proponent of a review board. The concept later became one
of the recommendations issued by the United States Conference of Catholic
Bishops that met in June in Dallas to deal with the sexual abuse crisis
in the church.
McGee said the review board is a positive step and part of the diocese's
overall program, named "Protecting God's Children." He said
the idea was to have a group of people, including several lay members,
evaluate accusations against priests. He said all matters are handled
confidentially and the board members do not know the names of the priests
against whom complaints are made.
Complaints are first lodged with the bishop's delegate for sexual misconduct,
the Rev. Edward Arsenault, who determines if they need further review
and, if they do, he refers them to the Diocesan Review Board. The board
reports its findings to the bishop.
Law resumes deposition amid clash over abuse case
By Robin Washington and Tom Mashberg
Boston (MA) Herald
August 14, 2002
As Bernard Cardinal Law resumed a grueling stretch of depositions in
the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal, disagreement broke out yesterday
among opposing attorneys over whether there was any chance of settling
While church lawyers said talks continued as recently as Monday night,
counsel for plaintiffs in lawsuits involving a half-dozen priests said
they and their clients were gearing up for a "full- blown trial."
"We haven't had any settlement talks with these guys for weeks,"
attorney Roderick MacLeish Jr. said after deposing Law for about five
hours in a case against the Rev. Paul Shanley, accused of raping young
boys at a Newton parish nearly two decades ago.
"We never close the door, but our clients are very upset now and
they want a jury verdict," MacLeish said.
Minutes earlier, Wilson D. Rogers Jr., chief counsel for the Archdiocese
of Boston, said, "The subject of settlement is active and being pursued
in this case to the extent it would be in any case.
"I spoke to one of plaintiffs' counsel as recently as last night
on the general subject of approaches, strategies with respect to the insurance
companies," he said.
As Law spent another day in a sworn deposition, the transcripts and video
copies of two days of earlier testimony given in June in the case were
released to the public for the first time.
In those seven hours of testimony, released by court order, Law endured
about an hour of questions from MacLeish about his dealings with sexual
misconduct of priests during the early days of his career as a rising
star in the Catholic Church in Mississippi.
But, he said, the issue barely touched him then.
"It wasn't on my radar screen," he said. "I wasn't dealing
with the case of - sexual molestation wasn't something that was before
But after continued questioning, he said he was aware of child sex allegations
against former priest George Broussard, who attended Ohio's Josephinium
Seminary with Law and served with him in Mississippi in the 1960s and
Though Law acknowledged he was aware of the claims, which subsequently
resulted in Broussard's removal from a parish in Jackson to Waveland,
Miss., and the ultimate end of his priesthood, the prelate said he had
nothing to do with Broussard's reassignment.
"I would not have assigned him to Waveland. That would not have been
my responsibility. It would have been the bishop's responsibility,"
Law said. "I was the vicar general, but what I'm saying to you is
that the ultimate personnel responsibility is obviously with the bishop."
Yet in the same deposition, Law said as archbishop of Boston, he delegated
abuse issues to others, including his personnel chief, the Rev. John B.
McCormack, who was not then a bishop. And though repeatedly questioned
about other cases in Mississippi, he did not divulge knowledge of allegations
against the late Rev. Bernard Haddican, whose alleged molestation of Mark
Belenchia of Hattiesburg resulted in a $43,000 settlement two years ago.
"I told my mother when it was going on. My mother went to Law. She
told him about it but he didn't do anything," Belenchia told the
Herald in June.
Nowhere in the deposition does Law say there weren't other cases - only
that he could not recall another.
"That narrow answer is safe. But the fact that he cites one case
and not the second could damage him in the future," said David Yas,
editor in chief of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.
Law's personal attorney, J. Owen Todd, said his client's answers were
not evasive. "He's totally forthcoming. Absolutely. He's says everything
he has to say," Todd said. Yet, in one instance, Law said that he
had "no memory" of Gilbert Gauthe, a convicted pedophile priest
in Louisiana whose acts, first chronicled by journalist Jason Berry, broke
the church sex abuse story in the media 20 years ago.
Phil Saviano of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests called
the statement "astounding."
"Gauthe was the first priest to get national publicity for having
been a child molester, the first one known to have been moved around from
parish to parish, and he was even here in Massachusetts at the House of
Affirmation for treatment. I can't see how he can say even today he never
heard of him," Saviano said. "What this tells us about Cardinal
Law is that even after the (James) Porter case, he never took the time
to learn about this. I don't see any excuse for it."
Also from the June deposition:
** Law stood by his contention that "poor record keeping" at
the chancery contributed to the church's negligent supervision of abusers,
such as Shanley. "Certainly there was information about Paul Shanley
that was not readily available and it would be helpful to have been,"
** Law went back and forth on whether he recalled reading a 1985 letter
from Wilma M. Higgs warning that Shanley had said publicly, "When
adults have sex with children, the children seduced them." On June
5, during Day 1 of his deposition, Law told MacLeish he did not recall
reading the letter. But after he was shown an archdiocesan file in which
Law annotated the Higgs letter for McCormack with the phrase "please
look into this," he said it was "probable" he had read
the letter. And on Day 2 of the deposition, Law said via counsel, "The
defendant does not believe he read the `Higgs letter' in 1985."
Law backs McCormack’s response in Shanley case
By J.M. Hirsch, Associated Press
Manchester (NH) Union Leader
August 14, 2002
Concord -- Roman Catholic Bishop John B. McCormack was right to believe
the explanation of a Boston priest accused of speaking favorably about
sex with children, Cardinal Bernard Law said in testimony made public
"There was no reason to suspect," Law testified in June during
a deposition in civil lawsuits filed against the Rev. Paul Shanley. "There
was no reason for him to be suspicious.
"And as I recall the response of Father McCormack, he felt that the
explanation was convincing and that what he (Shanley) had said was misunderstood,"
Law said, responding to questions by attorney Roderick MacLeish Jr.
In April 1985, a Rochester, N.Y., woman wrote to Law complaining that
Shanley in a speech had said: "When adults have sex with children,
the children seduced them," and the children "are the guilty
The woman, Wilma Higgs, also said she had some of the comments on audiotape.
In his own deposition in the same case, McCormack said he asked Shanley
about the statements and believed the priest's explanation that Higgs
had taken his comments out of context.
McCormack was Law's deputy in the Boston Archdiocese from 1984 until becoming
bishop of Manchester in 1998.
Blaming poor record-keeping by the archdiocese, Law said that in 1985,
McCormack didn't know about earlier allegations of abuse against Shanley.
Had he known more, Law said, McCormack would have acted differently.
"Father Shanley had a reputation of speaking to the necessity of
dealing in a compassionate way with people who were homosexuals, and very
often when someone does that, it can unfortunately create a backlash,"
Law said. "It's very possible that when Father McCormack read this
letter, he read this letter in terms of that context, which is a very
understandable context," he said.
Asked by MacLeish whether it would have been "common sense"
to check Shanley's file for similar allegations, Law said he wasn't certain.
He also said the church at the time lacked that sort of central file,
but it would have been good to have.
The cardinal also said bishops get many letters complaining about comments
priests make, and church officials would not automatically presume such
allegations are true.
But he acknowledged not knowing what McCormack did to investigate Higgs'
complaint, including whether he ever requested to hear what the woman
claimed to have recorded on audiotape.
In a televised statement in May, McCormack said he recalled receiving
Higgs' letter, but for some reason didn't "focus" on the references
to sex with children. He apologized for not following up on that.
But in his June deposition, McCormack said he now recalls taking up the
issue with Shanley, who said he had been talking about his work with child
prostitutes and his comments had been misunderstood.
In his testimony, McCormack said he was inclined to believe Shanley, who
is jailed awaiting trial on charges he raped a boy over a six-year period
in the 1980s.
"I saw Paul as a person who was an honest guy, who was always trying
to help the church reach out to the alienated, the marginalized,"
McCormack said. "I had no reason to think that he was, when he reported
to me, that he was being dishonest. In hindsight I do, but then I didn't."
McCormack questioning continues in lawsuit
By Kathryn Marchocki
Manchester (NH) Union Leader
August 15, 2002
Manchester Bishop John B. McCormack today faces a second day of questioning
about his handling of Boston archdiocesan priests accused of child sexual
abuse, specifically a retired priest charged with child rape.
The deposition is part of a Massachusetts lawsuit brought by three men
who say there were molested by the Rev. Paul R. Shanley in the 1980s.
McCormack, 67, was questioned under oath June 3 by the attorney representing
the three alleged victims. The men, all now in their mid-20s, accuse Shanley
of molesting them when he served at St. Jean Church in Newton, Mass.
Shanley also faces criminal charges for allegedly raping one of the boys.
He was arrested May 2 in San Diego.
McCormack was a top deputy to Cardinal Bernard F. Law of Boston from 1984
to 1998, when he became bishop of Manchester.
He began handling some clerical sexual misconduct cases for the Boston
archdiocese as secretary for ministerial personnel in 1985 and was charged
with exclusively overseeing these cases from 1992 to 1995 as Law's delegate
for sexual misconduct. McCormack took over Shanley's case in 1990 when
Shanley, who graduated from St. John's Seminary with McCormack in 1960,
went on sick leave from St. Jean parish.
Under questioning by Boston attorney Roderick MacLeish Jr. on June 3,
McCormack said he dismissed suspicions of abuse a parent raised about
a Boston priest based on the priest's denial, according to a transcript
of the deposition reviewed by The Associated Press.
McCormack also said he didn't report a new allegation against another
priest to child welfare authorities because that priest denied it.
McCormack, who was a licensed social worker, said he didn't always report
suspicions of abuse to authorities because he was acting as a priest and
wasn't legally bound to do so.
MacLeish told reporters June 3 that the case involves a "pattern
of conduct" and that he questioned McCormack about Shanley and at
least 14 other Boston archdiocesan priests.
Today's deposition begins at 10 a.m. at the Manchester law offices of
Sheehan Phinney Bass & Green.
McCormack recounts Shanley case
By Kathryn Marchocki
Manchester (NH) Union Leader
August 16, 2002
Manchester Bishop John B. McCormack underwent hours of intense questioning
yesterday about how the top echelon of the Boston archdiocese dealt with
Catholic priests accused of molesting children.
McCormack's four-to-five hours of testimony centered on his involvement
with retired priest Paul R. Shanley, one of the most notorious clerics
in the Boston archdiocese accused of molesting children.
The 67-year-old bishop was Shanley's handler when the priest went on sick
leave in California in 1990 and is one of several former top aides to
Law to be deposed as part of lawsuits brought by alleged victims of priests.
"This is the hierarchy of the archdiocese. And, again, what they
knew and when they knew it is something . . . that is a central theme
to our case," said attorney Robert Sherman, who questioned McCormack
under oath yesterday.
It was the second day of a continued deposition that began June 3 and
is expected to last several more days. "We intend to continue the
questioning up until we make sure a full and complete recitation of the
facts concerning Paul Shanley comes out," Sherman added.
The deposition will resume after Labor Day.
Sherman's law firm represents four men, all now in their mid-20s, who
say they were molested by Shanley in the 1980s while Shanley served at
St. Jean parish in Newton, Mass.
Shanley also faces a criminal child rape charge involving one of the boys.
McCormack began handling some clergy sexual misconduct cases in 1985 when
he became Law's secretary for ministerial personnel and exclusively was
charged with overseeing these cases from 1992 to 1995 as Law's delegate
for sexual misconduct.
He became the ninth bishop of Manchester in 1998.
McCormack's testimony yesterday focused on his involvement with Shanley
detailed in about 1,000 pages of church documents, Sherman said, adding
he could not comment on the substance of what was said in the closed-door
Those documents, made public under court order in April, contain numerous
correspondences between the bishop and Shanley, abuse allegations against
the priest dating back to the 1960s and Shanley's public advocacy of sex
between men and boys.
Sherman said his firm still is seeking church records for about 80 other
Boston archdiocesan priests whose names were turned over to law enforcement
authorities earlier this year. The records of 10 to 12 priests have been
released so far, he said.
"We expect when those records are turned over, the whole pattern
of dealing with priests will come to light and the American people will
have a chance to make their own judgment on how the archdiocese handled
these matters," he said.
In his brief statement to reporters afterwards, McCormack apologized to
victims of clergy abuse. "I'm sorry for all that has taken place.
I regret the hurt and the deep scars that many victims have," McCormack
"This is a difficult time for everyone, particularly for the victims.
I just want to assure everybody in New Hampshire that I'm doing all I
can to make sure that the church will help victims in every that we can
and to protect children in every way that we can," he added.
McCormack entered the law offices of Sheehan Phinney Bass & Green,
which represents the Manchester diocese, an hour before the 10 a.m. deposition.
He said he tried to answer questions "as truthfully, as completely,
and as honestly as I could."
While there were "glimmers" of tension among the seven attorneys
present, Sherman said none were serious.
"The bishop was cordial. His demeanor was professional the whole
time. We have enormous respect for the office of the bishop," Sherman
Sherman said he would let the public judge how forthcoming McCormack's
answers were after the court releases the videotape and written transcript
of the deposition.
"At some point, this is going to be released . . . and the people
of New Hampshire will have the ability to make their own determination,"
Sherman did not know when a Boston judge will order the documents to be
made public, but said the fact that seven hours of Law's deposition in
June were released Tuesday is reason to expect McCormack's deposition
will not be held up much longer.
Boston scrutinizes Law deposition
By Chuck Colbert
National Catholic Reporter
August 30, 2003
Dog days in August are not supposed to generate banner headlines in New
England; unless, of course, they pertain to heat waves and baseball. But
even eight straight days of 90 degree temperatures and the Red Sox could
not compete for ink and air time with the release of two-days worth of
transcripts, several hundred pages long, from Cardinal Bernard Law’s
continuing depositions, and yet more allegations of sex abuse by archdiocesan
Like Law’s depositions, the new allegations raise concerns not only
about Law’s handling of allegations of sex abuse during his tenure,
but also about those advising him. For example, a Boston Globe “Spotlight
Report” found that “three days after Bernard F. Law became
archbishop of Boston in March 1984, an anguished parishioner from Franklin
[Mass.] wrote Law a detailed letter alleging that a parish priest had
twice sexually molested his wife and that the parish’s pastor and
the local auxiliary bishop treated the couple with hostility.”
That letter written by Gregory B. Nash asked Law to meet with the couple
and “open his shepherd’s heart” to them. But Law neither
met with nor helped the couple. Instead, he wrote back to Nash on April
3, 1984, saying: “After some consultation, I find that this matter
is something that is personal to Fr. [Anthony J.] Rebeiro and must be
considered such.” The letter was marked “Confidential,”
according to the Globe report.
Doubts about charges
WHDH-TV, the local NBC affiliate, reported on a lawsuit, filed by a man
alleging abuse for several years during the 1980s by Fr. Michael Smith
Foster, then a newly ordained priest at Sacred Heart Church in Newton,
Mass. Paul R. Edwards, 35, alleges that Foster began molesting him when
Edwards was 15 years old, the Globe reported.
Foster, now a monsignor, is the archdiocese’s primary canon lawyer
and has advised the cardinal on aspects of canon law pertaining to the
sex abuse scandal. He is also the author of Annulment: The Wedding that
Was: How the Church Can Declare a Marriage Null, and serves as presiding
judge of the Metropolitan Tribunal, which handles annulment cases. Foster
is the highest ranking archdiocesan official to be charged in the sex
abuse scandal. He has denied the allegations, but pending an investigation
and resolution to the charges, he has requested to be placed on administrative
leave. Law granted the request. At the same time, Foster has become a
focus of a group of priests and lay people who have expressed strong doubts
about the charges against him and have raised the issue of what can be
done when a priest is falsely accused.
Those new allegations and Law’s testimony generated a variety of
responses and concerns. Interviews with a dozen people, including priests,
a nun, members of the laity, abuse survivors, and spokespersons from the
two major church-reform and victim-survivor advocacy groups, indicate
that the scandal in the Boston archdiocese continues to take a pastoral,
financial and spiritual toll.
On Aug. 13, the day the written transcripts were released to the public,
New England Cable News broadcast more than five hours of videotapes of
Law’s deposition taken on June 5 and 7. He was questioned then by
Roderick MacLeish, a Boston attorney who represents Gregory Ford and his
parents, Paula and Rodney Ford, among others, in a civil negligence lawsuit
against the cardinal. The case stems from alleged sexual misconduct by
Fr. Paul R. Shanley, who also faces criminal proceedings in the rape of
four boys and who has denied the charges.
Although Law through his attorneys requested that the depositions not
be released until the cardinal had completed his testimony, a judge denied
the request, citing widespread public interest as a reason for her decision.
A major portion of the deposition focused on the cardinal’s handling
of priests accused of sexual misconduct and their reassignment to parish
ministry, without notifying parishioners. Both his policy and practice,
Law testified, had been to reassign the alleged offenders.
As a matter of policy
As MacLeish pressed Law on that point during questioning, the cardinal
said, “I did not, as a matter of policy in 1984, ’85, ’86,
’87, ’88, ’89, ’90, ’91, ’92, ’93,
’94, ’95, ’96, ’97, ’98, ’99, 2000,
2001, go to parishes on the occasion of dealing with a priest against
whom an allegation of sexual abuse of a child had been made.” He
added, “Did I think that I should have informed the parish and then
done it? No. I simply didn’t have that as part of our response to
That policy remained in effect until this year when the clerical sex abuse
scandal exploded here, and the archdiocese adopted a “zero-tolerance”
policy including the notification of and cooperation with civil authorities.
“No priest against whom a credible allegation of sexual abuse of
a minor has been made may hold any assignment whatsoever,” Law said
during his testimony.
Still, the prevailing pattern over Law’s tenure as head of the Boston
archdiocese since 1984 was to reassign priests accused of sexual misconduct.
In at least one case, moreover, Law not only reassigned, but also later
promoted to pastor and area vicar a priest who had admitted to charges
of sexual misconduct.
Law said that he was aware of a 1988 allegation of sexual misconduct against
Fr. David Graham, who admitted molesting an altar boy. The incident took
place 10 to 20 years earlier. Parishioners were not told about Graham’s
admission, and Law permitted Graham to continue with parish ministry at
St. Joseph’s Church in Quincy, Mass. “He was allowed to continue,
yes, after intervention by a medical source,” Law said under oath.
By 1990 Law had promoted Graham to pastor. By 1992 another allegation
surfaced, what archdiocesan records refer to as “a vague second-hand
complaint.” The report of the second allegation made its way to
Law’s delegate handling the case and a review board, appointed by
the cardinal. In 1995 Law’s delegate recommended that Graham not
be involved with parish or youth ministry and that he be engaged in therapy.
But within seven or eight months the board recommended that Graham be
engaged in ministry without limitations or restriction and full access
to minors. In 1996 Law promoted Graham to area vicar with oversight responsibilities
in more than a dozen parishes in Braintree, Quincy, Milton and Randolph,
MacLeish also questioned Law extensively about his handling of the Shanley
case. Despite learning of allegations against Shanley in 1993, Law said
that he did not inform St. Jean’s parishioners of them. The cardinal
testified that he had appointed Shanley as pastor there, without asking
to see his personnel files. Those files, kept under lock and key by senior
archdiocesan officials, contained records of several complaints against
Shanley. One dated as far back as 1966 when a fellow priest documented
an accusation that Shanley had molested a boy.
The cardinal testified that he did not know that an archdiocesan liaison
to victims alleging sex abuse by priests wanted parishioners to be alerted
about sexual misconduct. As early as 1994 in fact, Sr. Catherine Mulkerrin,
who at the time was employed by the archdiocese and worked directly with
victims, recommended that church bulletins run notices about priests who
had been accused or admitted to sexual misconduct and had served in various
The cardinal went back and forth when asked whether he had seen a 1985
letter, written by Wilma M. Higgs, of Rochester, N. Y., complaining about
a speech by Shanley that approved of sex between men and boys. First the
cardinal said that he had seen the letter, but two days later he said
he believes it likely he did not read it.
Reactions to the depositions varied. Tom White, development director for
Voice of the Faithful, after reading the entire transcript, said he was
“absolutely devastated.” He added, “He just doesn’t
get it. There is a blind spot, something fundamentally missing from his
make up, that you know he won’t ever get it; he’s so desensitized.
…What’s missing is a visceral, instinctual reaction to the
consequences of sex abuse to children’s lives. A parent in any situation
like this would say, ‘Take off the collar; get help. But don’t
send them back to the parish.’ ”
A different response came from among some of those who watched the videotapes
but had not yet read transcripts of Law deposition. One abuse survivor,
who asked not to be identified, acknowledged with “dismay”
how well the cardinal came across on television.
Another woman, long active in parish and diocesan ministry and now with
abuse survivors, also said Law “looked very good.” She added,
“He seemed credible, confident and sincere.”
She also said that part of Law’s testimony, where the cardinal testified
that he was never told about complaints against Shanley before his tenure
began in Boston in 1984, “really bother me,” she said. “It
seems that [Bishop] Daily never fully informed the cardinal.”
It was Thomas V. Daily, now bishop of Brooklyn, who during the 1970s and
early 1980s handled many of the complaints against Shanley.
Law testified that he relied primarily on the advice of deputies, Bishop
John B. McCormack, now bishop of the Manchester, N.H., diocese, and Daily,
in the handling of personnel matters.
That testimony prompted Fr. Tom Carroll, pastor of the Jesuit Urban Center,
to write in his weekly insert to the parish’s bulletin: “Some
of the quotations from the ongoing deposition of Cardinal Law that have
been reported in the press in recent days seem to suggest that the cardinal,
our archbishop and ordinary, has not understood this task of selection
and supervision of his priests as a primary and personal concern in his
Another reaction to Law’s deposition and testimony was more pointed.
“I was looking at the Catholic Bill Clinton,” said Joe Gallagher,
a spokesman for the Coalition of Catholics and Survivors, a local abuse
victim advocacy group. “He was at the top of his game, parsing words.”
During a telephone interview Gallagher voiced concerns, shared by many
others, about Law’s seeming aversion to accountability. “When
Law was a vicar in Mississippi, dealing with abusive priests, it was the
responsibility of his boss, the bishop,” Gallagher said. “Wherever
he’s responsible … it’s the responsibility of someone
The local media weighing in on Law’s deposition was largely critical.
The Boston Herald ran a lead editorial, under the headline, “Cardinal’s
answers no answer at all.” A Boston Globe editorial, “The
cardinal’s oath,” once again called for Law to resign.
Fr. Robert Bullock, pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Sharon, Mass.,
said in a telephone interview, that he has noticed a drop in church attendance.
“The numbers are very much lower,” he said, “appreciably
In addition to concern about the morale of the people, Bullock and other
priests are concerned about the process by which 20 priests accused of
sexual misconduct have been removed from ministry. According to Bullock
and one other longtime observer of the archdiocese, priests are called
to the chancery and with no chance of defense, informed of the allegations
and dismissed from active ministry. Even if a priest denies them, he is
told to vacate his rectory, they said.
“Ironically, the church treats people worse than civil society.
If you are accused in civil society, you at least get a lawyer,”
said the observer, who asked not to be identified.
Morale among priests is so low and fear so high that Bullock, on behalf
of the Boston Priests’ Forum, has written a letter to Law, asking
that he address the due process concerns. “All of us need to know
our rights,” Bullock wrote. “What happens to a priest who
is falsely accused? How is the accusation determined to be substantial?
Who does the investigation and what are the criteria?”
Bullock also wants Law and the regional bishops to meet with the priests.
Law has not done so since February.