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  Manchester NH Resources – October 2002

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McCormack criticizes Cote affair revelations

Manchester (NH) Union Leader
October 1, 2002

Church officials say the way in which public revelations about Rev. Roland P. Cote's long-term sexual affair with a teenager were made are unfair, not only to the priest, but to his parishioners.

"The circumstances under which his past mistakes have been made public are unfair," Manchester Bishop John B. McCormack said in a letter distributed to congregants of St. Patrick Church in Jaffrey Sunday, citing the sequence of events that led to the public statement by newly appointed pastor, Cote.

McCormack added that the disclosures, ". . .have nothing to do with Fr. Cote and everything to do with me and the greater scrutiny under which I serve." Rev. Edward J. Arsenault, who serves as chancellor for the diocese, yesterday echoed McCormack's sentiments.

"I don't think it needed to be made public. I think it became public in a way that was unfair to that (parish) community and to Fr. Cote," said Arsenault. Their comments come in the wake of Cote's announcement Sunday to St. Patrick's parishioners during worship services that he had a homosexual relationship with a teenager from 1985 to 1991.

However, Cote's revelation was the culmination of a three-week process that began when Manchester attorney Peter E. Hutchins filed a Right-to-Know petition Sept. 9 to force state and county prosecutors to turn over Cote's investigative file.

The Union Leader reported the next day that Cote had been investigated for child sexual abuse, but no charges were brought.

Last Friday, McCormack was caught off guard when a Boston attorney deposing him in an unrelated clergy sexual abuse case turned the questioning to Cote.

McCormack replied that he assigned Cote to the Jaffrey parish after Cote admitted having a sexual relationship with a teenage boy years earlier.

McCormack, in a letter distributed to parishioners Sunday, stood behind his decision to transfer Cote, 57, to St. Patrick's even though he did it without telling parishioners about the priest's background.

While Cote violated his promise to lead a chaste and celibate life as a diocesan priest, his behavior was not criminal because Cote was involved in a consensual relationship with a youth who was neither a minor nor a parishioner over whom Cote had authority, McCormack said.

McCormack said Cote assured him that he has reformed his life and has been living a chaste, celibate life for the past several years. He has agreed to submit to a psychological evaluation.

In not telling the parish of Cote's past, McCormack said he was trying to balance a priest's right to privacy against a community's right to know. Arsenault, who handles sexual misconduct cases for the diocese, said he met with Cote and his attorney in May after prosecutors completed their investigation and decided not to prosecute.

The complainant contacted authorities in April.

Arsensault described the relationship as a "series of liaisons" that occurred at Cote's summer house in Newport.

"He told me he was over 18 when it began. I know that's different than what he represented in the original complaint to civil authorities," Arsenault said.

Before filing his Right-to-Know petition, Hutchins said he was assured that the man claimed he was a minor at the time of the abuse. The case couldn't be prosecuted because it was unclear whether the teenager was 15 or 16 at the time, he added.

But Cote claims the relationship began in 1985. If that is the case, then the complainant -- who is now 35 and whose identity is being withheld at his request -- would have had to have been either 17 or 18 at that time. The youth's age is significant because church officials said they do not consider an accusation of sexual misconduct with a minor credible if the complainant is not a minor, or under 18 years old.

The diocese's sexual misconduct policy requires any priest who faces a credible allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor to be removed from active ministry.

The diocese's policy also requires it to inform civil authorities of allegations of sexual misconduct with a minor.

While the diocese's sexual misconduct policies were not put in writing until the early 1990s, the diocese complied with state law during the 1980s that required it to report sexual misconduct with a minor to civil authorities, diocesan spokesman Pat McGee said.

Although the youth didn't know Cote was a priest when the two first met, he realized that before it ended, Arsenault said.

The diocese reached a settlement with the complainant, Arsenault said. He would not discuss its details since the complainant requested it remain confidential.

Catholic church teaching recognizes some people have homosexual orientations, but prohibits any sexual activity outside marriage regardless of whether it is homosexual or heterosexual.

In addition, a priest who engages in sexual activity also violates his promise to lead a chaste and celibate life, said Sr. Maureen Sullivan, O.P., assistant professor of theology at St. Anselm College in Goffstown.

"Any sexual activity on the part of a priest, whether homosexual or heterosexual, would be considered serious sin because of his promise of celibacy," she said. "It's confessional material and needs repentance and a real effort not to engage in this type of behavior."

Meanwhile, revelations about Cote further rocked the parish still reeling from the resignation of its previous pastor, the Rev. James A. MacCormack, in May.

MacCormack sued the bishop and other church leaders in July, claiming they ruined his career because they feared he would disclose the discovery of pornography found in the rectory apartment of a Manchester priest upon his death in 1999.

While Cote was forthright in admitting his past mistakes to his parish Sunday, Sullivan said she can understand why parishioners might be upset.

"Should Bishop McCormack have assigned (Cote) to this parish that already had a problem with the previous priest?" she asked.

"I guess with hindsight and 20-20 vision, maybe the fact that these people already had a dark moment, maybe you would want to send in . . . someone with no blemish whatsoever so there is no possibility that they could be touched again by scandal," she said.

McCormack will celebrate the 9 a.m. Mass at the Jaffrey parish Sunday and meet with parishioners to answer their questions afterwards.



NH lawyer for abuse victims wants priest files turned over

By Kathryn Marchocki
Manchester (NH) Union Leader
October 2, 2002

A Manchester attorney who represents scores of alleged abuse victims said he will ask the court today to order the Catholic Diocese of Manchester to turn over all its files on priests. Attorney Mark A. Abramson said he wants all clergy personnel and probation files, archives and complaints of sexual abuse reported to the diocese now that he is no longer part of settlement negotiations and intends to take the cases to trial.

"We are going forward full steam ahead. Before this thing is over with, we are going to open up the vault of secrets and let the entire state of New Hampshire know what's been hidden all these years," Abramson said.

He said he gave the diocese until yesterday to produce the documents.

Abramson also said he notified the diocese that he intends to depose five top church oficials responsible for assigning priests and handling abuse complaints.

Meanwhile, the diocese yesterday filed a motion to postpone the discovery process in civil suits until the criminal investigation of its handling of clergy abuse complaints is done.

Diocesan lawyers also filed a motion to force Abramson's alleged victims to reveal their identities. "It's only a matter of fundamental fairness to know who your accuser is," said Diane Murphy Quinlan, assistant to the diocese's delegate for policy administration.

Abramson said the move is intended to intimidate.

"It's an effort to scare off as many victims as possible. That's been their MO (modus operandi, or way of doing something) from the beginning. They want to string this out as long as they can so they can keep this as secret as they can, which they've been doing forever," Abramson said.

Abramson represents 56 men and one woman whose ages range from the late 20s to 60s who say they were molested by clergy in New Hampshire.

Many of his clients have withheld their identities in civil suits, referring to themselves as John and Jane Does.

Quinlan said revealing their names not only is a matter of fairness, but required by court rules.

"They've named the diocese and they've named the accused priest, but we don't even know who they are and that makes it difficult for us to respond," she explained.

The diocese had not pressed the issue before because it had hoped to resolve the cases without litigation, she said.

This changed about a week ago when negotiations to reach a group settlement ended between Abramson and diocesan attorneys.

Abramson and two other attorneys had participated in group settlement talks with diocesan attorneys since the summer.

"We would much prefer to resolve these issues outside a public forum . . . But once it's in court, it's a public forum and we all need to play by the rules," Quinlan said.

Abramson also said he notified the diocese that he intends to question under oath Bishops John B. McCormack, Francis J. Christian and Odore J. Gendron and Monsignor John P. Quinn and the Rev. Edward J. Arsenault.
These depositions would be put on hold if the court grants the diocese's motion to postpone discovery until the state attorney general's criminal investigation of the diocese is complete.

The Attorney General's Office this spring launched a criminal inquiry into how the diocese handled decades of clergy sexual abuse complaints.

That fact-finding phase of that investigation is expected to be done by mid- to late fall.

The diocese asked to postpone civil discovery until February 2003.

"Although the diocese vigorously denies that it ever engaged in any criminal activity . . . the information brought out in the civil discovery process may unfairly compromise the diocese in the criminal investigation," Quinlan said.

The diocese, she said, continues to offer alleged victims three avenues to pursue claims while keeping their names private. They are: speaking directly to the diocese with their lawyers, mediation, and group settlement discussions. Quinlan said diocesan attorneys still are engaged in group settlement talks with attorneys Peter E. Hutchins and Chuck Douglas, who represent scores of other alleged abuse victims.

Hutchins could not be reached last night for comment.

Settlement talks broke off with the diocese because "they made it clear they had no intentions whatsoever to compensate these victims in any kind of conceivable, reasonable way," Abramson said. He would not elaborate.



McCormack deposition release ahead

Manchester (NH) Union Leader
October 2, 2002

Transcripts and videotapes of Manchester Bishop John B. McCormack's first two days of depositions should be available within days, lawyers suing the Archdiocese of Boston said yesterday.

But a McCormack spokesman yesterday said the deposition should not be released piecemeal. The deposition is ongoing; McCormack finished his fourth day yesterday.

"We still feel this is all one deposition and it should be seen in its entirety," said McCormack spokesman Patrick McGee. "It's important to have the whole story at one time."

Massachusetts lawyer Robert Sherman said McCormack was first deposed for two days in mid-August.

Transcripts were prepared by the end of the month, and McCormack had 30 days to review them and sign off, Sherman said.

New Hampshire residents can make their own judgments about McCormack's testimony once they review the transcripts and see the videotape, Sherman said.

McCormack is named as a defendant in the lawsuit filed by alleged victims of the Rev. Paul R. Shanley against the Archdiocese of Boston.

Yesterday's deposition took place in the downtown Manchester at the law offices of Bradford Cook, who represents the diocese.

"He (McCormack) was cordial and professional, as are we. We have respect for the office he holds," Sherman said. He said at least another day will be needed to complete McCormack's deposition.



Church lawyers contesting MacCormack suit

By Nancy Meersman
Manchester (NH) Union Leader
October 3, 2002

Church lawyers are contesting the Rev. James A. "Seamus" MacCormack's lawsuit by saying he has no basis for alleging the bishop derailed his career to keep him quiet about a scandal he witnessed.

MacCormack, the former pastor of St. Patrick Church in Jaffrey, is suing Bishop John B. McCormack and other church officials for fraud and wrongful termination.

He charges the bishop put him under virtual "house arrest" and tried to damage his credibility by sending him for a psychiatric evaluation to keep him from talking or being believed.

MacCormack alleges that, as the priest sex abuse scandal was breaking last February, the diocese moved to sideline him so he couldn't speak out about a cache of homosexual pornography that was removed surreptitiously from the St. Pius X rectory in Manchester after a priest turned up dead with a leather sexual device tied around his genitals.

Court papers say MacCormack began to have serious misgivings about the church leadership and the kinds of conduct it tolerated and "he began reflecting on whether the diocese was home to a clandestine sexual subculture."

MacCormack says the bishop suggested to people that he was mentally disturbed and threatened to remove him from the parish. He also alleges Bishop McCormack told him he was "not going to make you jump through hoops, I'm going to make you crawl."

Steven M. Gordon, an attorney for the diocese, has notified the Hillsborough County Superior Court that the church will be moving to dismiss the lawsuit within 20 days.

Superior Court Judge James J. Barry Jr., after meeting yesterday morning with MacCormack's lawyer, Robert E. McDaniel of Concord and attorney Arpiar G. Saunders, representing the diocese, scheduled a trial for May of next year.

Afterwards, the lawyers said they had been discussing the case informally, but no settlement was in the offing. They said they could not talk about the case publicly.

Responding to MacCormack's accusations for the first time in filings last week, the diocese asserts the priest has no legal basis for his claims against the church.

After a priest died suddenly under embarrassing circumstances in November 1999, MacCormack was called by police to identify the body. His lawsuit says he was in the rectory when a cleanup crew, led by Msgr. John Quinn, ripped the place apart, peeling back carpets, removing drawers, overturning a mattress and seat covers and searching the pockets of the clothing in the closets.

MacCormack alleges Quinn told him, "Don't worry, we've done this lots of times."

The latest filings say said the search party found hundreds of pornographic videotapes and images "depicting men engaged in sexual activity with each other, and men engaged in sexual activity with boys."

Also uncovered, the court papers say, were sexual paraphernalia and Viagra and Amyl nitrate, drugs used to enhance sexual performance.

Church officials have denied any child pornography was among the items hauled out of St. Pius Rectory, then destroyed. They accuse MacCormack of trying to extort money from the church and exploit the unfortunate death of a priest for his own monetary gain.

Gordon's summary statement says the lawsuit is barred by the state and federal constitutions.

It quotes a May 3 letter from Seamus MacCormack to the bishop asking for a year's leave of absence to deal with his concerns as a parish priest that "have caused me great consternation in how focused I am in my priestly ministry."

MacCormack's letter says the time away from his responsibilities "will enable me to be a more productive priest in the future."

The church's filing says on May 16 Bishop McCormack accepted Father MacCormack's letter resigning as pastor of St. Patrick Parish, after which the bishop granted MacCormack a three-month vacation and assigned him to reside at St. Joseph Cathedral.

After removing MacCormack from the pastorship of St. Patrick, Bishop McCormack installed the Rev. Roland P. Cote to replace him.

The bishop has been under fire for that assignment since it was learned that he knew Cote had had a six-year homosexual relationship with a young man before he placed Cote at St. Patrick.

Parishioner Michael Neyens said yesterday the church's treatment of the parish has been a "travesty."

"Roland Cote doesn't belong here, and I blame the bishop for putting him here. It shows a total lack of regard for the parishioners he's supposed to be shepherding."

He said St. Patrick was a church that welcomed women, families and young adults. He said Seamus MacCormack gave enlightening, uplifting sermons and was involved in the community. "Now he has been replaced by a pastor who is not involved in the community or in the school affiliated with the parish. He's seldom here," Neyens said.



Sytek to head church sex abuse task force

By Kathryn Marchocki
Manchester (NH) Union Leader
October 3, 2002

Former New Hampshire House Speaker Donna Sytek will head a new task force charged with reviewing the Catholic diocese's current sexual misconduct policy against one approved by the nation's bishops in June.

Manchester Bishop John B. McCormack yesterday announced his appointment of Sytek and 11 other task force members.

The group will evaluate both policies for consistency and could suggest stronger measures than those contained in either document, a church official said.

It intends to make its recommendations by Christmas to the bishop, who has the final say on whether to approve them.

McCormack said he will publish the group's findings and also share them with the Diocesan Pastoral Council and Council of Priests before implementing them.

"We want a policy that will prevent what has happened in the past from happening in the future. How can we give people who come to church the confidence they need to know their children are safe?" Sytek, 57, said.

Sytek, who helped recruit members to serve on the task force, said the group will bring a strong lay perspective to the issue. It includes mothers, two non-Catholics and other respected leaders from throughout the state.

Several have been victims of sexual abuse, said Diane Murphy Quinlan, the bishop's delegate for policy administration. Sytek was the state's first woman Speaker of the House. She retired from the Legislature at the end of the 2000 term after serving 12 consecutive two-year terms representing Salem.

McCormack said he is "highly confident she and the task force will help the church develop the best possible policy regarding sexual misconduct."

The task force will review the diocese's current sexual misconduct policy against the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People adopted by the nation's Catholic bishops in Dallas in June.

"Our policy was fairly consistent with the bishop's charter. But we want to make sure the policy was reviewed again in light of the charter to make sure it was entirely consistent and also to make other recommendations for change in the policy," Quinlan explained.

The Vatican has not yet approved the charter adopted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Still, McCormack decided to go forward with this work and could implement the task force's recommendations regardless of what Rome decides, Quinlan said.

"The bishop has some authority in his diocese to create policies in this area," she said.

The group will hold its first meeting tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. at St. Pius X Parish Center, 190 Sarto St., Manchester.

It also will gather public comment during four sessions to be held throughout the state.

Other task force members are: Richard Ashooh, vice president of public affairs, BAE Systems, Nashua; Dr. Marc A. Clement, child psychologist and professor, Colby-Sawyer College, New London; Deborah Jones Cooper, attorney, Lebanon; Manchester Police Chief Mark Driscoll; Robert Goyette, teacher, Bishop Guertin High School, Nashua; Susan Goyette, medical transcriptionist, St. Joseph Family Medical Center, Nashua; Eileen Mullen Kennedy, MSW, state Division for Children, Youth and Families administrator, Pembroke; Robert Mallet, retired vice president of Keene State College, Keene; the Rev. Rick Pennett, pastor, St. Anne Church, Hampstead; Marcia Sink, executive director, Court Appointed Special Advocates; Sr. Lorraine Trottier, P.M., former teacher and principal, Manchester.



Panel begins review of church policy on clergy sexual abuse

By Kathryn Marchocki
Manchester (NH) Union Leader
October 5, 2002

Ten years and three revisions after the nation's Roman Catholic bishops published their first sexual misconduct policy, a new effort to refine it against today's standards and scandals began yesterday.

"Here we are again restoring trust," Bishop John B. McCormack of Manchester said, referring to the national policy, titled "Restoring Trust," adopted by the bishops in 1992.

"And so the effort goes on. What we need to do is to help people within our church and our society to have a strong sense that we care for our children," he said.

The bishop's words were part of his charge to a 12-member task force he formed to review the Manchester Diocese's existing sexual misconduct policy against the sexual misconduct charter adopted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Dallas in June.

The mostly lay group of parents, grandparents, teachers, child advocates, a psychologist, a police chief, a lawyer and a priest is chaired by former House Speaker Donna P. Sytek.

It met for the first time yesterday at St. Pius X parish center in Manchester. Two members had previous commitments and could not attend.

The group hadn't met for more than an hour when they ventured into some of the delicate terrain that lies ahead, notably the recent, highly publicized revelations that a Jaffrey parish priest had a long-term affair with a young man in his teens.

Although a violation of the priest's promise of celibacy, the offense violated neither the charter nor the diocese's sexual misconduct policy because, according to church officials, the affair was consensual and didn't involve a minor nor someone over whom the priest had authority.

The Rev. Edward J. Arsenault, the diocese's delegate for sexual misconduct, said he expects the group to wrestle with the issue of public versus private behavior and include this in their final recommendations to the bishop.

"Is there such a thing as private behavior for a priest or a religious or a lay person who is employed by the church?" Arsenault asked.

"We restore people all the time who are unfaithful in marriage," he said.

"I think we are very clear about what the standard is on sexual morality. I expect you will hear a lot about how we respond to those people who miss the standard and should our response be private or public," Arsenault said.
The charter adopted by the nation's bishops in June is largely consistent with the diocese's sexual misconduct policy, McCormack said.

Both policies say a single act of child abuse -- past, present or future -- requires that a cleric be permanently removed from active ministry.

The Vatican has yet to rule on the charter. McCormack said he heard the Holy See may decide this month on what norms it will approve. These norms will become "particular law" required of American dioceses to follow.
"Whatever we do, we must at least agree with those laws. It can expand upon them. It can complement them. But it can't contradict them," he said.

The task force's goal is to complete its work by Christmas. Its recommendations will be published and presented to the bishop for final approval, after consulting with the Diocesan Review Board and Council of Priests.

"We should move with all deliberate speed. I don't want to drag this out," the bishop said.

McCormack said he is pleased most task force members are laity.

"I trust a great deal from your own experience, your own investment in children," he said.

The group will meet again Oct. 18. The first of four listening sessions to get public comment will be held in Gorham this month.



Judge’s conversation with NH bishop raises eyebrows

By Associated Press
Manchester (NH) Union Leader
October 5, 2002

A judge handling civil cases alleging that Roman Catholic priests molested children spoke with Bishop John B. McCormack at a reception Thursday, a possible breach of judicial ethics.

Several experts on legal ethics said that because McCormack and the Diocese of Manchester are defendants in the lawsuits, it was inappropriate for Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge James Barry Jr. even to attend the event.

Barry did not return a telephone call yesterday seeking comment. But a spokesman for the diocese said the conversation was strictly social and nothing improper happened.

The code of judicial conduct forbids judges from discussing cases with parties involved in the lawsuit outside the courtroom. But it also requires them to avoid any behavior that, while benign, could appear improper.

Charles Putnam, a former state prosecutor, said Barry's conversation with McCormack raises at least the appearance of possible misconduct. He said if an alleged victim of priest abuse had seen the two talking, he might well question whether his case would be handled fairly.

The reception followed a Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral in honor of the state's lawyers. It was held at the Sheehan, Phinney, Bass and Green law firm, which represents the diocese in the civil cases.

During the event, Barry was seen speaking at length with McCormack.
The Rev. Edward Arsenault, chancellor of the diocese, said nothing improper took place and the conversation was among McCormack, Barry and Barry's daughter.

Arsenault said the bishop told him Barry introduced his daughter to him and the three discussed the event. "I don't think there was any appearance of impropriety," Arsenault said.

The diocese is facing numerous lawsuits by alleged victims of sexual abuse by priests. Barry has had a hand in several of them, including six filed by lawyer Mark Abramson.

On Wednesday, he took part in a planning conference for a case filed by lawyer Robert McDaniel. In that case a priest accuses church officials of covering up a deceased priest's pornography collection.

Neither McDaniel nor Abramson would comment.

Putnam said any conversation between Barry and McCormack was inappropriate, regardless of the subject. He said it could be the basis for a complaint to the Judicial Conduct Committee, which disciplines judges.

Richard Hesse, a retired Franklin Pierce Law Center professor, agreed.

"If I were sitting on the committee and were making a judgment, I would find it hard to accept that conduct," he said.

Superior Court Chief Justice Walter Murphy and Judge Kathleen McGuire also attended the event. So did Peter Hutchins, a lawyer representing more than 60 alleged victims.

Murphy said there was nothing wrong with his attending the reception, as he has formally removed himself from church cases, including the assignment of judges.

McGuire apparently is not handling any of the priest abuse cases.



Angry crowd slams bishop
McCormack says in Jaffrey, ‘I’m not lying’

By J.M. Hirsch
Manchester (NH) Union Leader
October 7, 2002

Jaffrey -- Bishop John B. McCormack confronted angry parishioners yesterday as he explained why he assigned to their church a priest who had a sexual relationship with a teenage boy.

"Don't accuse me of lying. I'm not lying," he shouted as many in the crowd of about 200 at St. Patrick Church accused him of withholding information about the Rev. Roland Cote.

"You have no business being in this church," one woman told him. Another woman walked out during the 45-minute question and answer session and muttered, "How can a bishop lie?"

Asked by several people to resign, the bishop responded: "I have no intention of resigning. I am here to serve."

McCormack celebrated Mass and took questions from the congregation to discuss the allegations against Cote, assigned to the church by McCormack in June. Cote greeted McCormack at the church, but did not attend the service or the discussion afterward. Cote performed Mass later in the morning.

In April, Cote was accused of sexual misconduct with a teenage boy during the 1980s. Civil authorities investigated but did not press charges. Cote has acknowledged the relationship, but said the young man was at least 18 at the time.

Several law enforcement authorities, speaking on condition of anonymity, have told the AP they believed the teenager was 15 or 16, though they were unable to make an exact determination of his age when the relationship began. Sixteen is the age when sexual consent can be given legally in New Hampshire.

Reporters were not allowed in the church during the service or discussion, but could hear McCormack and the raised voices of the congregation from outside. The majority of the crowd appeared angry with the bishop.

Prior to Mass, about 40 people picketed in front of the church, carrying signs with messages that included: "Rectify, Redeem, Resign," and "No $$ to diocese until McCormack resigns."

During the discussion after the service, McCormack asked for forgiveness and said he was sorry people were upset. He frequently was drowned him out with either angry yells or applause for those questioning him.

McCormack said that though Cote sinned, he has acknowledged it and sought forgiveness. He also said Cote has been celibate for at least 10 years and is not a threat to anyone at the church.

The bishop was asked why he didn't tell the community about Cote's history. McCormack said it was a private matter that violated neither the law nor church policy.

He said he decided to assign Cote to Jaffrey because "it was not anticipated that this would be public."

McCormack also got into several heated exchanges, including one with a parishioner who accused him of ignoring letters of complaint from Jaffrey parishioners.

"No I didn't. No I didn't," he shouted. "Excuse me. I didn't ignore you."
In addition to Cote, the bishop also was asked about the Rev. James MacCormack, whom Cote replaced.

MacCormack resigned in May. Two months later, he filed a lawsuit accusing the bishop and other church officials of waging a campaign to keep him silent about a pornography collection discovered in the residence of a Manchester priest who died in 1999. The diocese has denied the allegation.

The bishop told parishioners MacCormack was not forced out of Jaffrey, but that he could not say more because of the pending lawsuit. He did say there was additional information about the case that people don't know about.
Many parishioners said after the discussion they don't believe McCormack.

"It's just more of the same. It's the same cowardly attitude he has with all of this," said Michael Neyens. "This guy covers his own backside. He has no concerns for the people he ministers to."

Neyens also said the congregation has lost faith in Cote and he should be replaced.

In a brief interview following the discussion, McCormack said he will visit the community again as part of regaining its trust. He also said he has no regrets about his decision to assign Cote to the parish.

"I think some people do believe me. In fact, some people leaving church said that," McCormack said. "But there are some people in the church who find it hard to believe me. So I have to decide what is the best way to restore their trust.

"Coming here today was the first step."



Diocese of N.H. reaches settlement on 16 abuse claims
Accord divides nearly $1 million

By Stephen Kurkjian
Boston (MA) Globe
October 11, 2002

http://www.boston.com/globe/spotlight/abuse/stories3/101102_nh.htm

The Catholic Diocese of Manchester yesterday announced it had reached a $950,000 settlement with 16 men who said they were abused by priests in New Hampshire over a 25-year period beginning in 1957.

The settlement resolves only a fraction of the more than 100 claims pending against priests of the diocese. But the Rev. Edward J. Arsenault, chancellor for the diocese, said the settlements will help in resolving the crisis that clergy abuse has brought to New Hampshire. ''The good news is that 16 people are going to be helped,'' Arsenault said in a telephone interview following a joint news conference in Manchester with Charles Douglas, the lawyer for the 16 victims. ''It shows we recognize the pain associated with the memories which these people carry, that we do care about them, and want to assist them in being healed and restored.''

Arsenault credited Douglas and the victims with accepting the fact that the financial resources of the archdiocese were limited. Although the payments to each individual were not made public, Arsenault said none of the 16 victims received more than $150,000.

The settlement will be paid from the archdiocese's insurance coverage and from church reserve funds, Arsenault said. He stressed that the archdiocese did not have to sell any properties or take money from pastoral or charitable services to pay the settlement.

Peter Hutchins, who represents 58 others who have brought complaints against New Hampshire priests, said he would meet with officials and lawyers for the archdiocese and its principal insurance company in two weeks in hopes of resolving his clients' cases. Hutchins, however, said he was uncertain if some of his clients, who allegedly endured worse abuse than any of those whose cases were settled today, would accept a $150,000 settlement.

Manchester Bishop John B. McCormack did not attend yesterday's news conference, but Arsenault said he had sent letters to each of the 16 victims apologizing for the abuse they suffered.

The claims involved eight priests accused of acts of abuse between 1957 to 1982. Four of the priests have died, two left the priesthood in the 1960s, and two have retired but have been banned from performing as priests. Among the eight sued by Douglas was the Rev. Leo Shea, a retired priest who pleaded guilty in 1994 to assaulting a 14-year old altar boy. Shea could not be reached for comment.



Diocese settles for $950,000

By Kathryn Marchocki
Manchester (NH) Union Leader
October 11, 2002

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester yesterday announced it reached a $950,000 settlement with 16 men who were allegedly sexually abused by priests in New Hampshire.

The settlement brings to a close civil suits the men brought against the diocese this year, claiming they were sexually assaulted while minors by eight priests from 1957 to 1982.

No individual settlement exceeds $150,000, said Diane Murphy Quinlan, the diocese's assistant to the delegate for policy administration.

"Obviously, they are relieved that this is a complete resolution of their case. They are very happy that they didn't have to be in a public forum where they would be grilled and they don't have to explain things that happened to them that are, in many cases, personal," said Concord attorney Charles G. Douglas III, who represented the men.

Douglas called the agreement "very fair, very equitable" and praised the diocese for its "good faith negotiations" and "openness." While church officials did not require any terms of confidentiality in the mutual settlement agreement, Douglas said his clients stipulated they remain anonymous. The diocese also agreed not to reveal amounts each individual received.

None of the men, whose ages now range from the mid-30s to late 50s, attended yesterday's press conference at the Manchester chancery.

The settlement is the first to be reached since negotiations began last summer between diocesan attorneys and three lawyers who brought civil suits on behalf of 130 men and women who accused clerics of sexually abusing them.

"Today is an important event in the lives of 16 people. But I think, too, it's a hopeful sign for all of us. Our ability to . . . work with people well and to care for people who have been harmed," said the Rev. Edward J. Arsenault, chancellor and the bishop's delegate for sexual misconduct.

"In New Hampshire, we enjoy a strong tradition of seeing hopeful signs even in small beginnings. It's my sincere and firm hope that today's achievement will lead us to further healing," he added. Manchester attorney Peter E. Hutchins, who filed a class action suit on behalf of 58 men and women, said he is continuing to negotiate with diocesan attorneys and has a two-day meeting scheduled with them in two weeks.

"It's following essentially the same process as his (Douglas)," Hutchins said.
"We are just two to three weeks behind due to the size of our client base," he added.

Manchester attorney Mark A. Abramson, who represents 55 men and one woman, has said he plans to take his cases to trial after breaking off negotiations several weeks ago.

Quinlan said the diocese will pay for the settlement it reached with Douglas from a "non-restricted insurance fund" that includes proceeds from insurance policies and reserves set aside for unanticipated and uninsured claims. The diocese is insured by Lloyd's of London, said the diocese's attorney, James Higgins of Manchester.

Parishes pay 0.8 percent of their annual income to the insurance fund to buy liability insurance for the church, she said.

No general fund or savings from the diocese were used in the settlement, Quinlan said. Nor were any parish, school or institutional funds used, she added.

"From the inception of these cases, Bishop (John B.) McCormack has insisted that this settlement process be considered a pastoral response that has certain legal dimensions," Quinlan said.

McCormack did not attend the press conference.

The settlement includes a letter from the bishop to each man apologizing for the hurt they suffered and offering to meet with them individually.

The diocese also offered counseling services and pastoral care and will assist the men in notifying civil law enforcement officials.

Douglas said some of his clients already are in counseling and others have indicated they will seek counseling. "I have clients where I am the only person they ever told what happened to them," Douglas said, adding they never even discussed it with their families.

"For some of these folks, I'm still the only one who knows," he added.
While two met Wednesday with Arsenault, Douglas said he could not predict how others will react to the bishop's invitation to meet.

"Everyone is in different places. Some have different attitudes towards the church than others. Some actually attend Mass regularly and others have not been in church for decades," he explained.

Of the eight priests accused by the men, six are from the Manchester diocese and two from other dioceses. Four are dead.

The settlements include cases brought against priests from other dioceses. Arsenault said he is responsible for the people who bring sexual abuse complaints.

"It's not important where the priest came from," he said. In its desire to reach a mutual settlement, the diocese told its attorneys to not raise such legal issues as statute of limitations and requiring plaintiffs to publicly disclose their names, Quinlan said.



NH clergy welcome new policy on abuse

By Kathryn Marchocki
Manchester (NH) Union Leader
October 19, 2002

While a special commission reviews the U.S. Catholic bishops' new sexual abuse policy to ensure it conforms with universal church law, New Hampshire church leaders said their policy will remain in full effect.

The two documents already are largely in agreement, although Manchester diocesan officials yesterday said its "one-strike-you're-out" policy complies with church law.

Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, yesterday announced a "mixed commission" with four U.S. bishops and representatives from four Vatican offices is being established to revise the sexual abuse charter and norms U.S. bishops adopted in Dallas in June.

Manchester Bishop John B. McCormack said he looks forward to the commission's recommendations.

"The church must speak with a clear and singular voice to this critical crisis in our church and society," he said in a statement.

The commission is expected to complete its work before next month's annual meeting of the U.S. bishops.

"This mixed commission is an example of the fact that the Holy Father and the bishops who work with him understand the gravity of this pastoral crisis in the United States," said the Rev. Edward J. Arsenault, diocesan chancellor and the bishop's delegate for sexual misconduct.

"They literally have created a structure to facilitate this last stage of dialogue to conclude the charter and the norms that is appropriate to the United States and yet conforms to the universal church," he added.

The Vatican wants clarification on the charter's due process provisions and its definition of sexual abuse, the Rev. John J. Mahoney Jr. told a Manchester diocesan task force that is reviewing both policies.

"There was a concern about the due process section of the Dallas norms and how they stood in conflict with universal laws. But the Pope, as the supreme legislator, can change universal laws in disciplinary areas," Mahoney, a canon lawyer and diocesan judicial vicar, explained.

The charter requires permanent removal of a cleric for a single act of child sexual abuse -- past, present or future.

While church law currently calls for removal of a cleric for a single instance of child sexual abuse, its statute of limitations expires when a victim turns 28, Arsenault said.

"The reality of this pastoral problem is the vast majority of people come to us well after that," he added.

"That is the gap that has to be closed," Arsenault explained.

One possible outcome is Pope John Paul II could adapt universal law to the Dallas norms, Mahoney and Arsenault said.

Gregory also said the Vatican believes some charter provisions could be a "source of confusion and ambiguity," such as those dealing with diocesan review boards.

"There is a fear that accusations are not being investigated properly and that too much power has been given to diocesan review boards instead of escalating . . . to the judicial process," Mahoney said.

The diocesan task force is charged with reviewing its sexual misconduct policy against the charter adopted in Dallas.

Since its final recommendations cannot contradict church laws, members said they would have to wait until the Vatican approves the revisions recommended by the mixed commission.



N.H. near decision on charging diocese

By Stephen Kurkjian
Boston (MA) Globe
October 21, 2002

http://www.boston.com/globe/spotlight/abuse/stories3/102102_nh.htm

Manchester, N.H. - New Hampshire state prosecutors are close to deciding whether to bring criminal charges against the Diocese of Manchester for allegedly violating the state's endangerment of children law by transferring priests known to face complaints of sexual abuse to new parishes, according to the chief of the attorney general's criminal division.

If Attorney General Philip T. McLaughlin brings criminal charges, it would mark the first criminal charge against the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy in any state for effectively enabling sexual abuses. If a charge is brought, it would be against the diocese, not any individual bishop, said the official, N. William Delker.

The investigators are reviewing how the diocese handled the cases of more than 40 priests who have been accused in recent civil suits, as well as complaints about priests abusing youths in New Hampshire between the early 1960s and the mid-1980s.

The principal question facing McLaughlin's office is whether the Manchester diocese, which includes the entire state, placed children at risk by transferring priests to their parishes after receiving complaints about the priests' alleged sexual misconduct.

Bishop John B. McCormack, who has headed the diocese since 1998, is not a target of the investigation. However, McCormack has been under fire in New Hampshire for failing to crack down on the clergy abuse problem. He also is being criticized in Massachusetts for not seeking tough sanctions against abusive priests during the seven years he handled such cases as a deputy to Cardinal Bernard F. Law.

In other states, prosecutors have so far been unable to bring charges against a diocese, or against supervisory bishops, because those states - Massachusetts among them - do not have child endangerment statutes. Prosecutors also have been unable to build a case under other laws, including statutes aimed at accessories to crimes.

The New Hampshire criminal statute, a misdemeanor that carries a fine and jail term if there is a conviction, was enacted by the state Legislature in 1971. Under it, a person or entity can be prosecuted if there was a willful violation of a duty to care for, protect, and support children, and as a result the children's welfare was endangered.

McLaughlin has had six investigators and two prosecutors, including Delker, assigned to the probe since June. The investigation is scheduled to conclude within two months, when a recommendation on whether charges should be brought will be presented to McLaughlin. ''We're trying to understand how and why (the abuse) happened, to prevent it from happening again,'' Delker, the head of the attorney general's criminal division, said in an interview last week.

McLaughlin declined to comment on the investigation. However, in an interview in June, when asked his reaction to a meeting of US bishops on the clergy abuse problem, he disclosed that his office was examining how the Manchester diocese had handled priests after they were accused of misconduct.

At the time, McLaughlin told the Manchester Union Leader that he was ''absolutely convinced'' church leaders in some dioceses, including Manchester, had broken the law by knowingly reassigning abusive priests. What remained to be seen, he said, was whether a legal theory could be developed that would allow prosecutors to bypass the one-year statute of limitations on the child endangerment law.

On Friday, McLaughlin said he was surprised by the Vatican's statement that only ''a very small number'' of priests had been accused of sexual abuse. ''We've had more than 40 here,'' McLaughlin said. ''That to me is not a very small number.''

McLaughlin also noted that the statement from the Vatican made no mention of the role of the bishops responsible for moving offending priests from parish to parish. ''That is the issue that this office is focused on, and it's a vital one,'' McLaughlin said.

Last week, Delker said the office was considering several theories that would expand the statute of limitations beyond one year. He declined to detail the theories.

If a case can be made, the charges would be filed against the diocese, and not any current or past members of the Manchester diocese since the transfers of the priests with the worst records of misconduct took place many years ago and those responsible for the transfers are either deceased or too old to prosecute, officials said.

While individuals have been charged under the endangerment of children law in New Hampshire, it has not been used in recent memory to prosecute an organization, according to state officials who are responsible for the protection of children and youths.

However, Nancy Rollins, director of the New Hampshire division of Children, Youth and Families, said the intent of the law is to ensure that institutions entrusted with the care of children show they have policies in place to accomplish that goal.

The Rev. Edward J. Arsenault, chancellor for the Manchester diocese, said he was not familiar enough with the child endangerment statute to comment on the investigation. However, he said, the diocese is cooperating and has turned over all church records that prosecutors have sought.

David Clohessy, national director of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, a victims' advocacy group, praised McLaughlin's inquiry into the Manchester diocese's practices. Clohessy said that since a review commission appointed by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops has said it will not review the past performance of bishops, the obligation rests with prosecutors.

''We will never know why this became the major problem it did until we understand fully the role of the dioceses and the bishops that controlled them,'' Clohessy said. ''No matter how many individual priests are charged now, the people who are really responsible for this scandal are the bishops and their vicar generals who handled the cases inside the dioceses.''



N.H. bishop reportedly coached priest on abuse reply

By Stephen Kurkjian
Boston (MA) Globe
October 30, 2002

http://www.boston.com/globe/spotlight/abuse/stories3/103002_bishop.htm

Jaffrey, NH -- Before becoming bishop of the Manchester Diocese, John B. McCormack spent much of the 1980s and 1990s as the aide to Cardinal Bernard F. Law who dealt with - and according to records, often coddled - priests accused of molesting children.

In April, a flood tide of documents showed how McCormack threw a protective blanket over the Rev. Paul R. Shanley when others complained about Shanley's public support for men having sex with boys. Two weeks after the Shanley disclosures, McCormack resigned as chairman of a US bishops' committee on sexual abuse.

In June, McCormack decided it was appropriate to reassign the Rev. Ronald P. Cote, 57, to St. Patrick's Church here, even though Cote had admitted to McCormack that he'd had sex with a teenage boy and that the diocese was arranging a secret and pricey settlement of a legal claim against the priest.

After Cote's secret was disclosed by a local newspaper in September, McCormack stated in a sworn deposition that has yet to be made public that he instructed Cote in May to tell parishioners that he had been subject to an investigation that concluded he had done nothing wrong, but to say nothing else, according to a parent of a victim of Shanley present at the deposition.

But when Cote said nothing at all, McCormack also kept his public silence. What's more, according to his Sept. 27 deposition, McCormack reasoned that the assignment was justified because the legal settlement stipulated that the youth was 18 when the sexual relations began. In fact, he might have been as young as 16 - which would have qualified as sexual abuse of a minor under church rules.

To many of New Hampshire's 325,000 Catholics, the damage to McCormack, from his assignments in Boston and in Manchester, has been serious. And the disclosures from his deposition are likely to further erode McCormack's credibility. Even before the Cote disclosures, the state's largest newspaper, the Union Leader of Manchester, had called for McCormack to resign.

St. Patrick's parishioners have also denounced their bishop and demanded his resignation, with many calling McCormack a liar for withholding details about Cote's past. Cote remains at the parish, but Mass attendance at the century-old, stone church has dropped by at least a third.

To some, McCormack's recent behavior suggests that he remains overly protective of abusive priests.

''Sadly for the people of the Diocese of Manchester, Bishop McCormack brought his same regrettable lessons he learned about dealing with sexual abuse in Boston to New Hampshire,'' said the Rev. Thomas P. Doyle, who has been a strong advocate for changing the church's sexual abuse policies, and is assisting in a class-action lawsuit on behalf of 50 alleged New Hampshire victims.

When Cote's background became known last month, it touched off an angry confrontation with McCormack at St. Patrick's, as parishioners accused the state's bishop of hiding the details of Cote's past to facilitate the transfer.

McCormack denied the charge and rejected parishioners' calls for his resignation, saying, ''I have no intention of resigning. I am here to serve.''

During the deposition last month, McCormack made several assertions that left the impression that both he and Cote had intended to provide adequate information about Cote's past to parishioners when he was transferred to St. Patrick's.

Among those who attended the closed-door deposition was Rodney Ford, a Boston College police officer whose son was allegedly raped by Shanley. Ford provided the Globe a detailed account of McCormack's testimony.

According to Ford's recollection, McCormack said he sent Cote to St. Patrick's with instructions to inform parishioners that he had been investigated but that the probe had found no wrongdoing. Cote was told he did not need to provide any specifics, including any disclosure of his five-year relationship with the youth - unless he was specifically asked.

The bishop also testified that Cote agreed before the assignment to undergo psychological testing. But when Roderick MacLeish Jr., a Boston attorney representing Shanley victims, pressed McCormack for the results of the examination, McCormack said it had not been completed.

Neither Cote nor McCormack would agree to be interviewed.

According to Ford, McCormack testified that church law did not prevent him from reassigning Cote, because the diocese's review of the case had determined the youth was 18 when the affair began. While McCormack stressed that such a sexual encounter is a pastoral offense, he asserted that canon law allows priests to be forgiven and to continue as priests as long as the sexual partner was 18 years or older.

Yet the age of Cote's former sexual partner when the relationship began has not been precisely determined, according to Marc Hathaway, prosecutor for Sullivan County, where the sexual relationship occurred.

Hathaway said in an interview that the youth - who is now 36 - was uncertain when he first had sex with Cote, but the earliest it could have been was 1983, when he was 16. But as part of the settlement the man received, he had to stipulate that the sexual relationship did not start until he was 18. The amount of the settlement is not known.

Cote arrived in Jaffrey in June. Although McCormack testified that he had told Cote to disclose the investigation and apologize for bringing embarrassment to the parish, Cote said nothing about the case for nearly three months.

The first indication of a problem in Cote's past came in mid-September when a reporter from the Monadnock Ledger, tipped off by a lawsuit seeking the results of the probe, asked Cote if he had been investigated by local prosecutors for sexual misconduct with a minor.

''There were no findings. There was nothing to find. There was no truth to the allegation. It never amounted to anything because there was nothing there,'' Cote told the newspaper.
A few days later, Cote issued a written statement acknowledging that he had engaged in a five-year sexual relationship with the youth and apologizing for it.

McCormack visited St. Patrick and also apologized to parishioners for the embarrassment caused by the scandal, but he continued to maintain that his transfer of Cote - and his silence about it - were justified because no crime had been committed.

Many parishioners, however, remain upset over McCormack's moves. Sunday attendance, which had been more than 250 on average for the four weekend Masses before Cote's arrival, is now significantly lower. The budget, which had been operating in the black, is now said to be more than $30,000 in the red.

The seven-member advisory board that oversees the operation of the parish school also sees Cote's resignation as the only way to resolve the crisis. According to one former member, it recently voted no confidence in Cote's continued operation of the school and asked McCormack to remove him.

 



 
 

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