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Manchester NH Resources
December 9
–11, 2002

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Church official explains Dover priest’s removal

From Staff and Wire reports
Manchester (NH) Union Leader
December 9, 2002

A Roman Catholic church official yesterday explained to parishioners at Dover's St. Charles Borromeo parish why their priest was removed from the parish last week.

Auxiliary Bishop Francis J. Christian said the Rev. Paul L. Gregoire, 73, was placed on administrative leave last Thursday because of allegations that he sexually molested a girl more than two decades ago while serving in a religious order.

The church will continue to support Gregoire financially, but he will not be allowed to act as a priest, according to Patrick McGee, spokesman for the Diocese of Manchester.

The alleged misconduct occurred outside New Hampshire in the 1970s while Gregoire served with the Society of St. Sulpice, McGee said.

The diocese was contacted by the alleged victim a month ago. After interviewing the woman and Gregoire, officials determined the allegation was credible, McGee said. McGee declined to describe the alleged misconduct.

"The person who made the complaint requested that a lot of the details, for her own privacy's sake, be kept confidential," McGee said.

It is the only allegation of sexual misconduct the diocese has received concerning Gregoire, who was assigned to St. Charles in 1993, according to the diocese.

Gregoire is the second Dover priest this year to face allegations of sexual misconduct. At St. Joseph church, the Rev. Joseph Maguire allegedly admitted he had molested a boy at a Hudson parish in 1970s and then admitted to molesting other boys at the Dover parish.

The Manchester diocese revoked his pastoral ministry earlier this year.

McGee told Foster's Sunday Citizen he did not know where Gregoire was staying over weekend, but he had moved out of the parish house and was not staying at a church institution.

"Typically what happens is Bishop (John B.) McCormack or Christian will say Mass and make the announcement that the priest is on leave and the reason why," McGee told The Union Leader last night. "If it's found to be a credible allegation, the priest goes on leave and they announce a temporary minister."

The bishops will usually also try to meet with concerned members of the parish after the service, McGee said.

Officials at the U.S. headquarters of the Society of St. Sulpice in Baltimore did not return a telephone message yesterday afternoon.

According to its Web site, the order helps prepare candidates for the priesthood and trains pastors already serving in parishes. The society runs a number of seminaries.

The Rev. Fritz Cerullo, pastor of St. Mary's, will step in temporarily as administrator at St. Charles until a permanent replacement is appointed, McGee said.

In an interview with Foster's nine months ago about how Catholics are maintaining their faith during the church's sexual abuse crisis, Gregoire said strong Catholics were not focusing on the transgressions of individual priests.

"They're in it for the church," he said. "They know people are weak, they make mistakes -- even priests -- but their faith is in Jesus Christ. That kind of individual is as strongly attached to the church as ever."
The suspension of Gregoire marks the second time St. Charles has been touched by the sexual abuse scandal.

Another priest who served there, the Rev. Hubert Mann, was accused of molesting a teenage boy in the 1960s. Mann's alleged victim was among a group of 16 people who settled sexual abuse cases against the diocese last month. Mann died in 1972.

(Union Leader staff reporter Gary Dennis contributed to this report.)



Voice of the Faithful forms city chapter

By Albert McKeon
Nashua (NH) Telegraph
December 10, 2002

http://www.nashuatelegraph.com/main.asp?ArticleID=69473&SectionID=25&SubSectionID=354&S=1

Nashua -- It has taken a group of Catholics more than six months to organize their first Voice of the Faithful meeting.

But they now think the slow process, albeit unintentional, will actually benefit local Catholics.

The newly formed Nashua chapter of Voice of the Faithful will hold its first meeting Wednesday night – roughly a week after the release of court documents indicated the Archdiocese of Boston had handled abusive priests with even less discretion than many had imagined.

“Our timing to what’s going on is phenomenal,” said Sandy Johnson, a member of the local chapter. “If people aren’t upset now, they’re never going to be upset.”

Voice of the Faithful is a lay organization that was founded in the basement of a Wellesley, Mass., church earlier this year in response to the clergy sexual abuse crisis. The group now claims 25,000 members worldwide.

Aside from supporting abuse victims and priests who have demonstrated integrity, the organization wants to shape structural change in the church, including giving the laity a greater voice.

The organization has earned its share of supporters, who applaud the need for a stronger lay role, and critics, who fear the group will try to usurp the church’s hierarchy and its teachings.

Members deny they aim to strip the church of its foundation. They say they just want to pull the church out of its current abyss, and they believe increased lay participation will help accomplish that.

“It’s not a schism,” Johnson said of Voice of the Faithful. “We’re not a splinter group. We’re loyal Catholics who are concerned about (our) church. The laity has to take responsibility.”

While Massachusetts-based chapters opened rapidly in the immediate wake of the clergy crisis, New Hampshire at first saw relatively little organized action on this front. But the group has slowly made inroads in the Granite State this fall, with chapters forming in Milford, Concord, Durham, Keene and New London.

The Nashua chapter was six months in the making, Johnson said. Organizers thought they would form the chapter much sooner, but various circumstances prevented that, she said.

The meeting, held in the hall of St. Joseph Church, will start with an audience introduction session. Then a listening session will allow Catholics to air their concerns about the abuse crisis and speak about where they think the church should head next.

Also, guest speaker Cheryl Ann Riggs – a Rivier College professor of religious studies – will expound on the crisis.

“The crisis is deepening,” Johnson said. “It’s so severe. It’s distressing to everyone.”

New Hampshire members of the organization have credited Bishop John McCormack with supporting their efforts.

In contrast, the Archdiocese of Boston banned any new chapters from using church properties to meet, and Cardinal Bernard Law finally met last month with the organization’s leaders after battling publicly for some time.

The Rev. Gerald Desmarais, pastor of St. Joseph Church, will attend the Nashua meeting, Johnson said.

“He’s been very supportive,” she said. Not all pastors have been.”



N.H. settlement averts criminal charge vs. diocese

By J.M. Hirsch, Associated Press
Nashua (NH) Telegraph
December 10, 2002

http://www.nashuatelegraph.com/main.asp?ArticleID=69516&SectionID=25&SubSectionID=354&S=1

Concord, N.H. -- Prosecutors announced a settlement Tuesday that averted unprecedented criminal charges against a Roman Catholic diocese.

The Diocese of Manchester acknowledged that it probably would have been convicted of child endangerment for failing to protect children from sexual abuse by priests for decades, Attorney General Philip McLaughlin said at a news conference.

The settlement has provisions to protect children from abuse in the future and calls for full disclosure of past abuses by priests and officials of the diocese.

The diocese planned its own news conference later Tuesday.

McLaughlin praised victims, mostly men, for coming forward during his 10-month investigation to talk about the “abject humiliation” of being molested by major authority figures in their young lives.

Showing off Bishop John B. McCormack’s signature, McLaughlin said: “The diocese acknowledges the state has evidence likely to sustain a conviction” under the state’s child endangerment statute.

The investigation focused on misdemeanor provisions of the statute punishable, for institutions, by fines of up to $20,000 per violation.

McLaughlin had asked for a special meeting of an investigative grand jury in Manchester on Friday. Sources had said the session was to seek indictments against the diocese.

Individual priests around the country have faced and been convicted of criminal charges, and dioceses have been accused in civil lawsuits of complicity. But experts have said they knew of no criminal charges ever filed against a U.S. diocese.

The diocese, which covers the state, will release thousands of pages of personnel records previously turned over to McLaughlin under court order.

The wide-ranging investigation, which began in February, involved nearly 50 priests and more than 100 alleged victims, and covered conduct back to the 1960s, prosecutors have said.

It was triggered by a flood of sexual abuse charges against Boston-area priests beginning late last year. Some of the alleged abuses occurred in New Hampshire or involved priests or victims who had lived in both states at some point.

McCormack figured prominently because he had been a top aide to Boston’s Cardinal Bernard Law before becoming bishop of Manchester in 1998.



NH AG, bishop cut a deal to end criminal probe

By Kathryn Marchocki
Manchester (NH) Union Leader
December 10, 2002

http://www.theunionleader.com/church_show.html?article=16445

A negotiated agreement will be announced today in the state Attorney General’s criminal investigation of how the Catholic diocese handled clergy sexual abuse of children since the 1960s, sources said yesterday.

Some details of the agreement still have to be finalized today, but its general terms are expected to include public disclosure of some church documents and possible adjustments to the diocese’s sexual misconduct policy, the source said.

The announcement of the negotiated settlement with the Catholic Diocese of Manchester comes four days before a special grand jury session is scheduled to consider bringing an indictment or indictments against the diocese.

An agreement would make it unnecessary for state prosecutors to seek criminal charges.

New Hampshire Senior Assistant Attorney General N. William Delker, who has led the criminal probe into how the diocese as an institution dealt with abusive priests over the past 40 years, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

A diocesan spokesman also would not comment.

“Anything regarding the Attorney General’s investigation has to come from his office,” spokesman Pat McGee said.

Attorney General Philip T. McLaughlin has said he hoped to complete the investigation by time he leaves office Dec. 18.

McLaughlin and Manchester Bishop John B. McCormack will announce the terms of the agreement at separate press conferences today, sources said.

“There are still some things that are not finalized at this moment,” one source said early last night.

The inquiry has focused on whether the diocese’s conduct violated the state’s endangering-the-welfare-of-a-child statute, Delker has said.

The criminal conduct charge is a misdemeanor.

Several of those close to the investigation privately said a major impetus behind the diocese’s decision to reach an agreement was the threat of an indictment and the national scandal this would bring upon the church in New Hampshire.

Only 16 out of 23 grand jurors must find probable cause of a crime — a relatively low standard of proof — to indict, former prosecutors said.

One source familiar with the investigation said the Attorney General did not have the evidence to get a conviction, which must meet the significantly higher standard of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

If indicted, the Manchester diocese would have been the only one in the country to be criminally charged.
McLaughlin’s office around March launched the inquiry into the diocese’s conduct in dealing with about 50 clerics accused of child sexual abuse in New Hampshire.

While the diocese was the prime focus of the probe, individual church leaders also could be targeted, Delker has said.

The investigation took on massive proportions and involved interviewing scores of alleged victims and witnesses.

State prosecutors obtained some church documents through a grand jury subpoena and also have granted immunity to some priests in exchange for their cooperation, sources have said.

The grand jury has actively been investigating the diocese for several months.



N.H. diocese agrees to hand over records on abuse

By Marie Szaniszlo
Boston (MA) Herald
December 11, 2002

Concord, N.H. -- The Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester averted unprecedented criminal charges yesterday by agreeing to disclosure of its clergy sex-abuse records and oversight by the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office.

"Today, the Catholic Church in New Hampshire acknowledges and accepts responsibility for the failures in our system that contributed to the endangerment of children," Bishop John B. McCormack said at a news conference. ". . . We are saying to everyone who has been hurt by the inexcusable and criminal actions of some priests that I and the other leaders of our church in New Hampshire are sincerely sorry for the harm that you have endured."

McCormack's statement followed Attorney General Philip McLaughlin's announcement that his office had sufficient evidence to win an indictment and conviction if it brought criminal charges against the diocese for failing to protect scores of children over the past half-century from abusive priests.

In exchange for avoiding prosecution, the diocese agreed to several conditions, including waiving grand jury confidentiality to allow the release in the coming weeks of some 10,000 pages of records pertaining to nearly 50 priests after victims' names are redacted.

The diocese also agreed to train all of its employees to report any suspicion of child abuse to authorities, even if the victim is no longer a minor, and to submit to annual audits by the office of the attorney general until 2007.

The agreement does not prevent the state from prosecuting individual priests, but in most cases, their crimes ocurred too long ago for them to face criminal charges. Dozens of victims have nevertheless reached civil settlements with the diocese, totaling about $6 million this year.

In announcing the agreement, McLaughlin thanked the victims - mostly men now in their 40s and 50s - for cooperating in his 10- month investigation by revisting a part of their past most would prefer to forget.

"Consider the abject humiliation of people who today are asked to reflect on things done to them as children over which they had no control whatsoever," he said. "And then consider the courage, the moral courage and fortitude of those people."

"Their willingness to assist us here will protect children," he said. "That is a gift they gave us."
McLaughlin said he had confirmed reports of molestation involving more than 40 priests, and was prepared to bring charges based on five or six of them, who allegedly abused a total of roughly 30 children.

Bob Gelinas, 44, one of dozens of alleged victims McLaughlin's office interviewed, applauded the agreement.

"The key thing is to protect children, and I think that is what the state has done," said Gelinas, who was a 14-year-old altar boy when he was allegedly abused by a priest. "It's too late for someone like me and a lot of other victims, but it's not too late to protect today's kids from going through what we did."

Yesterday's announcement came as Massachusetts authorities pursue a similar investigation into the Boston archdiocese, where McCormack had been a top aide to Bernard Cardinal Law before becoming bishop of Manchester in 1998.

A spokeswoman for Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly yesterday said his office is conducting an "active, comprehensive" criminal investigation involving the archdiocese, but said Massachusetts did not have a child-endangerment statute similar to New Hampshire's until recently, and it cannot be applied retroactively.



Reaction lukewarm to deal

By Albert McKeon
Nashua (NH) Telegraph
December 11, 2002

http://www.nashuatelegraph.com/Main.asp?SectionID=25&SubSectionID=354&ArticleID=69520

When Attorney General Philip McLaughlin announced the state’s historic agreement with the Diocese of Manchester, he was flanked at the lectern by a score of prosecutors and criminal investigators.

But in the background, almost consumed by the bustle of several dozen reporters, a handful of clergy abuse victims listened with a mix of resignation, anger, sadness and satisfaction.

One victim, overcome with tears, was unable to identify himself after explaining his view of the agreement. An assistant to McLaughlin put his arm around the man and consoled him.

Before McLaughlin announced the terms of the agreement on Tuesday, the victim said he wished the attorney general had not cut a deal. He wanted to see church leaders face criminal charges.

But McLaughlin soon explained that by accepting blame now for endangering children, the diocese had prevented a protracted court fight that ultimately would have delayed an improved and court-monitored church policy on sexual abuse.

A deal now protects children now; any wait jeopardizes more children, McLaughlin said.

When the press conference ended, the victim no longer displayed anger. He understood McLaughlin’s reasoning.

Instead of making further calls for prosecution, the victim gently described his fear as a father: that his children would face a repeat of the abuse he suffered.

He did not want his children to relive his experience. He started sobbing, and could no longer speak.

His visible reaction differed from that of Bob Gelinas of Farmington, who stood across the room. Gelinas did not cry, but rather credited the state and church for moving ahead.

“They’ve taken the right approach,” Gelinas said. “They’ve moved quickly to protect children.”

Jim Sacco, who did not attend the press conference, learned of the agreement during his workday. Sacco, an Amherst resident, claims that the Rev. John Geoghan molested him when he was a young parishioner at the Blessed Sacrament Church in Saugus, Mass.

Although the diocese’s agreement does not affect him, Sacco closely observes how the Catholic Church is handling the abuse crisis. Sacco could not pursue criminal charges against Geoghan – who is serving a nine- to 10-year prison term for fondling a 10-year-old boy – but settled a civil suit with the Archdiocese of Boston in 1998.

“It’s finally starting to unravel,” Sacco said. “I’m glad it is.”

Sacco sees Bishop John McCormack grasping the severity of the abuse crisis more in New Hampshire than he did as an aide to Cardinal Bernard Law in Boston. Sacco believes Law still has not achieved a proper sense of the problem.

“To me, he just doesn’t get it. Law, he just snuck out of town. There’s so much heat going on here, he just bolted,” Sacco said of the cardinal’s trip this week to the Vatican to reportedly discuss the possibility of the archdiocese filing for bankruptcy and his own resignation.

“McCormack, he seems to be more open than Law,” Sacco said. “He understands it shouldn’t have been handled the way he did. I don’t know if it exempts him from being responsible. But he’s being more outgoing about it now.”

Sacco understands why McLaughlin would want to negotiate a deal now so that the state can start monitoring the diocese’s future handling of abuse.

“I want to see people being more severely punished,” he said, “but if it’s going to protect the kids sooner . . . ”

Sacco also expressed interest in the release next month of thousands of pages of documents detailing the Manchester diocese’s handling of priests charged with abuse.

“It just surprises me to see so much happening this fast,” he said. “Every day in the papers, there’s something. It just keeps snowballing. I had no idea it was as deep as it was. I’m really sad about the things in the past, but it seems a good step forward.”



Old school, new school work together

By Kevin Landrigan
Nashua (NH) Telegraph
December 11, 2002

http://www.nashuatelegraph.com/Main.asp?SectionID=25&SubSectionID=354&ArticleID=69521

Concord, N.H. -- It took an “old-school” Jesuit-trained prosecutor and a “new-school” church administrator to bring about a groundbreaking settlement to criminal charges looming against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester.

New Hampshire’s tradition in mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse – in contrast to Massachusetts – probably helped as well.

Attorney General Philip McLaughlin and the Rev. Edward J. Arsenault, diocesan chancellor, became mutual fans after working through 10 months of difficult, private negotiations.

“Father Arsenault and I have developed an ability to speak to one another in a way that bridged cultures,” McLaughlin said.

Arsenault said McLaughlin and his prosecutors have been “very professional” in their dealings since the attorney general’s probe began 10 months ago.

McLaughlin, 56, is the son of a Nashua police officer in a working-class neighborhood. The upbringing was what one would expect in a close-knit, Irish Catholic family.

At a news conference Tuesday, McLaughlin referred to what this sexual abuse would mean to a young Catholic growing up in the post-World War II generation.

“Forget the moment, forget the law and consider the morality of what we are dealing with,” McLaughlin began. “Understand what it would mean to a 10-, 11-, 12-, 13-year-old boy, and sometimes a girl, to be in the presence of a priest who, to them, seemed to have a stature, if anything, beyond that of Mom and Dad.”

As he spoke, tears streaked down the face of a man in his 40s, who confirmed to a reporter that a priest allegedly abused him many years ago. He later declined to give his name.

McLaughlin was blunt about the conduct, even on a day for celebrating compromise, rather than dwelling on the court confrontation that might have been. “We are talking about the rape and molestation of children,” he said.

And McLaughlin refused to publicly ponder how victims would view this agreement.

“These victims are entitled to feel any way they wish. That should be the answer that they have here,” he said.

When McLaughlin first read in February about allegations that Cardinal Bernard Law and the Boston archdiocese transferred abusive priests to unsuspecting parishioners, he reached out to ask someone of trust if this could have been happening here.

Manchester lawyer Ovide Lamontagne said Tuesday that he took that call and credits the McLaughlin-Arsenault relationship with helping to cement this deal.

“As a lawyer, I was impressed by the involvement of this client. Father Ed was very hands-on from day one,” said Lamontagne, the lead lawyer for the diocese.

Arsenault is in his early 40s and has only been an ordained priest since 1991.

He holds a post-graduate degree in finance and began in a pastoral planning job before working his way up to become chancellor and delegate to the bishop for sexual misconduct.

Unlike many church leaders, Arsenault also has media communication skills, which made him a sought-after spokesman before this scandal broke.

“What you see in the statement that has been provided today is the painful truth,” Arsenault told reporters. “This is painful to reveal. This is painful to deal with.”

State prosecutors said Arsenault helped break down traditional church barriers to offering up all information prosecutors wanted about older abuse cases.

“At the end of the day, Father Ed and I agreed that one door had been closed and another door had been opened,” McLaughlin said.

This partnership had its difficult moments, such as in the spring.

“We did have initial difficult dealings with the diocese,” McLaughlin said.

Church leaders had first volunteered in February that 14 New Hampshire priests had engaged in some abuse of children.

Allegations and class-action lawsuits in the months to follow raised the likely number much higher.

“What we knew in February was only a small part of a much larger problem we felt in the church,” Arsenault said. “We had no idea that this many people had been harmed.”

In June, McLaughlin went public with frustration about not getting full access to church files.

This began to fuel media speculation McLaughlin might convene a grand jury, which he later did.

Bishop John McCormack said some “language and conversation” was needed to clarify precisely what prosecutors wanted.

Whatever the obstacle, Lamontagne said McLaughlin’s prosecutors ultimately got access to the church’s secret archives to inspect the old personnel records on all priests.

New Hampshire’s 29-year-old child-abuse reporting law also gave prosecutors an unambiguous weapon in contrast to Massachusetts, where the clergy have no such reporting requirement.

Indeed, McCormack testified in lawsuits about his work under Law in Boston, while he had also been a licensed social worker from 1981-88.

Social workers in that state must report suspected abuse. But McCormack admitted under oath he did not always report abuse suspicions to civil authorities.

“I was not acting as a licensed social worker,” McCormack said in June. “They came to me as a representative of the church.”

For his part, McLaughlin said this agreement in no way compels a priest to reveal what is said in the confessional.

“There is no expectation the Catholic Church has any requirement to break the penitential privilege,” McLaughlin said.



Church, state make a deal

By Albert McKeon
Nashua (NH) Telegraph
December 11, 2002

http://www.nashuatelegraph.com/Main.asp?SectionID=25&SubSectionID=354&ArticleID=69522

Concord, N.H. -- In a historic step for the Roman Catholic Church, the Diocese of Manchester avoided possible criminal prosecution by admitting that it had endangered children by keeping sexually abusive priests in ministry.

The diocese reached an agreement Tuesday with the attorney general’s office, escaping criminal charges but conceding that it likely faced conviction. The deal requires the diocese to follow strict guidelines, under the eyes of the attorney general and the court, for protecting children.

“In acknowledging our failures, we are saying to everyone who has been hurt by the inexcusable and criminal actions of some priests that I and the other leaders of the church in New Hampshire are sincerely sorry for the harm that you have endured,” Bishop John McCormack said.

[Photo caption: Bishop John McCormack answers a question at Tuesday’s press conference at the Grappone Conference Center in Concord. The Diocese of Manchester reached an agreement with the attorney general to avoid criminal prosecution.]

McCormack repeated his prior statements that he would not resign. Instead, the bishop promised he would protect children from further abuse in the church, and would aim to restore the trust of victims and New Hampshire’s Catholics.

At a separate press conference, Attorney General Philip McLaughlin said prosecutors have enough evidence to not only gain indictments from a Hillsborough Superior Court grand jury that was scheduled to meet Friday, but enough to secure a conviction on the misdemeanor charge of child endangerment.

“They didn’t make choices to hurt children,” said McLaughlin, who steps down from his post next week. “They made decisions to protect the institution – risking the safety of children.”

The attorney general’s office possesses 10,000 pages of documents – including diocesan files and victim statements – that it will release publicly in a month. The documents represent the fruit of an investigation that began in February, when McLaughlin expressed concern about revelations that the Archdiocese of Boston had kept abusive priests in active ministry.

The agreement with the Manchester diocese comes a week after the release of more documents showing the Boston archdiocese had handled abusive priests with even less discretion than many had imagined. McCormack served as an aide to Cardinal Bernard Law, and handled the archdiocese’s sexual abuse cases before his appointment as bishop of the Manchester diocese in 1998.

No Catholic diocese in America has been criminally indicted, but several state prosecutors are pursuing charges. The Manchester diocese is the first to reach a deal with prosecutors under threat of such indictment.

The state focused on cases in which numerous allegations of sexual misconduct were lodged against a priest, and the diocese appeared to have some knowledge of the wrongdoing, McLaughlin said. In some instances, the diocese had knowledge of the threat posed by a priest, failed to respond, and other children were subsequently victimized, McLaughlin said.

Echoing the statements of two attorneys who have recently settled lawsuits totaling more than $6 million against the diocese, McLaughlin said he considered the implications of a court fight.

A trial would have consumed time and presented the possibility of an acquittal, McLaughlin said. By striking a deal and agreeing to several conditions, the diocese will help ensure the safety of children, accountability and transparency of past and future conduct, he said.

Those conditions include:

*The diocese must comply with mandatory reporting requirements for child abuse above what state law requires. The diocese must report abuse even if the alleged victim is no longer a child or is unidentified.

*The attorney general’s office will issue a report next month on its investigative findings. This report will include diocesan documents and victim interviews.

* The diocese will undergo an annual audit by the attorney general’s office, focusing on the manner in which it responds to abuse complaints. A Hillsborough Superior Court judge will enforce the agreement, which will expire in seven years.

“It was a matter of my discretion, a balance,” McLaughlin said of the decision to reach an agreement. “It’s a misdemeanor issue in the letter of the law, but a heinous crime to the victims.”

McLaughlin asked the public to look beyond the criminal case and focus on the shattered lives of victims. Those victims, as children, once held priests in a stature above their own parents, but they had that holy bond broken when abused by clergy, McLaughlin said.

“Consider the abject humiliation of people who today are asked to reflect on things done to them as children over which they had no control whatsoever,” McLaughlin said. “Their willingness to assist us here will protect children. That is a gift they gave to us.”

The state sought misdemeanors under its child endangerment law; felony provisions encompass sexual assault and child pornography. Institutions convicted of child endangerment face fines of up to $20,000.

County prosecutors still seek criminal charges against individual priests, but McLaughlin would not detail those investigations. Prosecutors have indicated in the past that the statute of limitations has expired on most cases.

The attorney general’s investigation involved more than 50 priests and 100 victims, and stretched back to the 1960s. The potential charges would have involved only about five or six priests and 30 victims.

McLaughlin and McCormack did not converse about the pending case. “I would rather have his signature (on the agreement) than have 1,000 conversations,” McLaughlin said.

Instead, McLaughlin negotiated with the diocese’s attorney, Ovide Lamontagne, and the bishop’s chancellor, the Rev. Edward Arsenault.

The agreement does not allow diocesan leaders to pin the crisis solely on abusive priests, McLaughlin said. Rather, it shows church leaders were also complicit, by keeping the priests in ministry and continuing a culture in which the institution took precedence over victims, he said. The agreement does not, however, single out any church leader for responsibility.

“The priests did what they did, but in my sense they were scapegoat(s) of this diocese and dioceses around the country,” McLaughlin said.

He characterized the diocese as initially uncooperative by declining to provide complete records. A court order in June reversed that trend, and thereafter the diocese exceeded prosecutors’ requests by allowing access to its entire archives, McLaughlin said.

McCormack and Arsenault said the diocese was not refusing to cooperate. Rather, the attorney general approached the issue differently from the church, and only by June did both sides reach a balance, McCormack said.

According to the diocese, 196 charges of abuse were lodged this year – with 58 and 87 accusations, respectively, stemming from alleged incidents in the 1960s and 1970s, and none in the 1990s.

In February, the diocese removed from the ministry priests – 14 in all – who faced single, credible charges of abuse. The diocese made their names public and has since removed several other priests from ministerial duties.

“I know there are many hearing my words who ask if we can be trusted to act to protect children in the future given the sad history of abuse by some priests, and the inadequate response of our church at times,” McCormack said.

“To them, I point to our commitment in this formal agreement. We intend to take quick, clear and consistent action on every single allegation of abuse of a minor.”

The diocese has had perhaps one conversation with the Vatican on the settlement, but it did not need papal approval, Arsenault said.



N.H. diocese admits likely violations; Signs agreement with AG’s office

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

http://www.boston.com/globe/spotlight/abuse/stories3/121102_nh.htm

The Roman Catholic Diocese of New Hampshire yesterday became the first diocese in the country to admit it may have violated criminal law by failing to protect children from sexually abusive priests.

Facing the likelihood that the diocese would be indicted Friday on multiple counts of violating New Hampshire's child endangerment statute, Bishop John B. McCormack signed a legal agreement with the state acknowledging that the attorney general's office had accumulated sufficient evidence to secure convictions.

''The church in New Hampshire fully acknowledges and accepts responsibility for failures in our system that contributed to the endangerment of children,'' McCormack said in a statement. ''We commit ourselves in a public and binding way to address every weakness in our structure.''

In the agreement he signed yesterday, McCormack acknowledged that the state has ''evidence likely to sustain a conviction of a charge ... against the diocese.''

The agreement was reached after months of difficult and, at times, hostile negotiations between attorneys for the diocese and state prosecutors.

Under the agreement, the diocese pledged to report all suspicions and accusations of abuse to the state and submit to an annual compliance audit by the attorney general's office. In addition, the diocese agreed to the release of thousands of pages of church documents, including some personnel records, gathered in the investigation.

McCormack, who had been a top aide to Cardinal Bernard Law in Boston, has headed the New Hampshire diocese since 1998.

Attorney General Philip T. McLaughlin said he decided to focus his office's 10-month investigation on the diocese rather than individual church leaders after determining that the wrongs stemmed from an ''institutional attitude'' on the part of the church and not individuals.

No other diocese has reached a settlement under threat of imminent criminal indictment. Grand juries across the country have indicted priests during a sexual abuse scandal that first exploded nearly a year ago in Boston.

But, McLaughlin said, the failings by New Hampshire church leaders paralleled those in other dioceses.

''From what I've read about what went on elsewhere, there is nothing to separate how these cases were handled in New Hampshire than anyplace else in the country,'' McLaughlin said in a telephone interview, suggesting that other state attorneys general could pursue similar avenues.

Violations of New Hampshire's child endangerment law carry fines of up to $20,000 per offense for institutional offenders.

While his investigation had not found any ''smoking gun'' documents that would explain why the Manchester diocese - like others - had allowed abusing priests to remain in service, McLaughlin said he believed the diocese's decision to settle resulted from a desire to avoid scandal and not because the investigation had uncovered clear evidence that diocesan leaders had allowed abusive priests to remain in ministry.

''It's part of canon law,'' McLaughlin said. ''Scandal brings bad publicity, which undermines the position of the church in the community.''

In a statement following the settlement's announcement, Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, denied that other dioceses may have intentionally protected abusive priests. Instead, Gregory said, such priests were allowed to remain in service because of the mistaken belief that sexual abuse of children could be treated with therapy.

''The errors of specific persons, at specific times and places, which may have endangered children, cannot be attributed to the `church' as a whole without overlooking the lives of integrity and good works of ministers of the church in our country throughout history,'' Gregory said.

Although Gregory did not address the admission by the Manchester diocese, Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokeswoman for the bishops, said it was the first time a diocese or archdiocese in the United States had acknowledged possible criminal wrongdoing in its supervision of priests.

David Clohessy, national director of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, a victims' advocacy group, praised McLaughlin for pursuing the investigation and securing the agreement. ''It's an important symbol to the public and certainly to the victims to see a diocese acknowledging that it broke the law,'' Clohessy said.

A similar prosecution is not possible in Massachusetts, however, because until this year, the state lacked a criminal child endangerment statute covering clergy.

Previously, the clergy was exempted from a group - including teachers, foster parents, and others who work with children - that must report suspicions of child abuse to the Department of Social Services if the alleged victim is under 18, or to district attorneys if the victim is 18 or over.

McLaughlin's investigation found that the Manchester diocese, by allowing priests who had been accused of sexual misconduct to remain in service - some for decades - it made other children vulnerable to abuse.

According to Assistant Attorney General N. William Delker, head of McLaughlin's criminal division, prosecutors were prepared, if the diocese had not settled, to present documents and witnesses to the grand jury showing that as many as six priests had abused about 30 children since the 1970s. These, he said, were priests who church officials knew posed a sexual threat to minors.

The investigation found that the Manchester diocese had received sexual misconduct complaints involving at least 40 priests since the 1960s, McLaughlin said. In a few cases, the diocese had removed the priests from active service. But the vast majority of priests had been given some psychological evaluation and transferred to other parishes. In about 10 cases, Delker said, state investigators found that the priests had gone on to abuse other children in their new parishes.

''Our plan was to present those cases that had the witnesses with the best memories to the grand jury,'' Delker said.

McLaughlin, who leaves office next week after five years as attorney general, said he was pleased to close the case. ''The agreement closes the door on an era of secrecy in the handling of allegations of sexual abuse lodged against priests, and it opens a new door to diocesan accountability and greater protection for children.''



NH diocese says conduct was likely to sustain a conviction

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

Concord -- The Catholic Diocese of Manchester yesterday avoided prosecution by striking an agreement that admits its past handling of abusive priests could have resulted in a criminal conviction.

The unprecedented agreement with the state "closes the door on an era of secrecy" in the church's handling of clergy sexual abuse of children over the past 40 years, Attorney General Philip T. McLaughlin said.

"It demonstrates there are no institutions and no organizations beyond the scope of the law," said McLaughlin, who agreed not to seek indictments as a result of the negotiated agreement.

McLaughlin said the agreement was struck with the diocese -- rather than with individual offending priests or bishops who reassigned them -- to highlight the institutional culture that allowed the abuses to occur.

"One of the reasons we chose to enter into this agreement with the Diocese of Manchester . . . was so there would be no opportunity to scapegoat and suggest these difficulties were the result of the indiscretion or the bad judgment of one or another priest or one or another diocesan bishop," said McLaughlin, who leaves office next Wednesday.

"It is our belief these crimes occurred in the context of a culture, and we needed an acknowledgment of that," he said. "None of those particular bishops ever perceived themselves as operating beyond the policy of their diocese."

Manchester Bishop John B. McCormack, who signed the agreement filed in Hillsborough County Superior Court yesterday morning, acknowledged the church failed to protect children.

"Today, the Catholic Church in New Hampshire acknowledges and accepts responsibility for the failures in our system that contributed to the endangerment of children," McCormack said at a news conference in Concord shortly after McLaughlin announced the agreement.

"We commit ourselves in a public and binding way to address the weaknesses in our structure," he said.
The bishop also apologized to "everyone who has been hurt by the inexcusable and criminal actions of some priests."

The agreement concludes the attorney general's intensive 10-month criminal inquiry into the diocese's conduct in handling abusive priests over the past 40 years.

As a result of documents and testimony obtained during the probe, "the diocese acknowledges that the state has evidence likely to sustain a conviction of a charge" under the state's child endangerment statute, the 10-page agreement said.

McLaughlin said his office had planned to seek one or more criminal indictments against the diocese. A special session of the grand jury was scheduled for Friday.

"The state believes that the grand jury would have returned indictments and the state would have been successful in obtaining convictions after trial," McLaughlin said.

But he said his goals were better achieved by reaching an agreement.

First, the agreement extracted from the diocese its acknowledgment "that certain of its decisions concerning the assignment of priests to ministry who had abused minors in the past resulted in other minors being victimized."

A second condition was the diocese's agreement to disclose about 10,000 pages of church documents and to comply with stricter child reporting requirements than those mandated by law.

The diocese also agreed to submit to annual audits by the Attorney General's Office to ensure its compliance with the agreement.

The church documents, obtained by state investigators through a grand jury subpoena and court order, would not "get viewed at all if you're in a trial," McLaughlin said.

The agreement allows county prosecutors to continue their active investigations of individual priests accused of child sexual abuse and bring them to trial if possible.

McLaughlin's office in February launched its investigation into how the diocese as an institution handled abusive priests since the 1960s.

Its probe involved nearly 50 clerics accused of past sexual misconduct and more than 100 victims, said Senior Assistant Attorney General N. William Delker, who spearheaded the inquiry.

McLaughlin said his office lacked the resources to investigate all cases and narrowed its focus to eight to 10 priests.

Prosecutors were prepared to seek indictments pertaining to how the diocese managed five to six of these priests based in part on information provided them by 25 to 30 of their victims, he said.

"We had a sufficient number of individuals who were willing to testify before a grand jury," he said.

McLaughlin praised the courage of the victims who came forward to recount to investigators the "abject humiliation" they suffered as children.

"In weighing the question of obligation to children against the question of preserving the reputation of the diocese, the children weighed very little," McLaughlin said.

"Many of the decisions were made for the purpose of protecting the diocese against what it perceived as scandal," he added.

But the Rev. Edward J. Arsenault, chancellor of the diocese and the bishop's delegate for sexual misconduct, said, "We learned in the last 10 months that the problem which the church thought was addressed adequately was not handled as well as it could have been."

McLaughlin said his office first met "some stumbling blocks" in obtaining documents from the diocese.

His office obtained a court order in June to force the diocese to turn over its documents. After that, Arsenault "went beyond complying with the orders of the court."

"It would be unclear to me how Father Arsenault might more fully have cooperated after that particular event," McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin said he is fully confident that Arsenault and his associates can be "relied upon to enforce this agreement with integrity."

McCormack, who has been bishop of Manchester since 1998, said the agreement "signifies that a new day has dawned for the church in New Hampshire, one that is marked by cooperation with civil authorities for the betterment and safety of our society."

Diocesan attorney Ovide M. Lamontagne, who negotiated the agreement with the state, agreed it marks the creation of a "partnership" with the state that is "unprecedented" in ensuring the protection of children.
"Whatever else can be said about the Catholic Church in this country, what I can tell you as a witness . . . to these past 10 months is that the church in New Hampshire gets it," Lamontagne said.

New Hampshire's progressive child protection statutes were key elements in enabling the state investigators to reach the agreement, Delker said.

The state has had a child endangerment statute -- which applies to individuals and organizations -- since 1973 and a broad mandatory child abuse reporting statute since 1979.

Even though many of these abuse cases are decades old, an exception to the state's statute of limitations allows the state to prosecute an offense up to a year after the crime was discovered if a material element of the offense is breach of fiduciary duty, or duty of care.

The state was prepared to argue that the diocese breached the duty of care it owed children by reassigning abusive priests and ineffectively responding to their complaints.

The state was prepared to argue the clock didn't begin ticking on the one-year statute of limitations until February, when the pattern of conduct of reassigning abusive priests was discovered.

The child endangerment charge is a criminal conduct misdemeanor.

The Attorney General's Office argued the theory of collective corporate knowledge, often used in prosecuting white-collar crimes, would have applied.

Under the theory, a corporation is considered to have acquired the collective knowledge of its employees and is held responsible for their failure to act accordingly.

Both McLaughlin and McCormack said they do not believe any individual bishop intended to harm children.

"Since February of this year, we have learned that there have been more priests who abused children than we knew and the measures that we used were not adequate," McCormack said.

"However, I do not believe that any past bishop or member of the administration of the Diocese of Manchester ever intended to place children in harm's way," he added.

Lamontagne said a distinction was drawn between "the state of mind of any individual in the church and the state of mind of the institution of the church, the corporation of the church, over time."



Settlement brings mixed reaction in Granite State

By Mark Hayward
Manchester (NH) Union Leader
December 11, 2002

To some Catholics, yesterday represented an opportunity to put the priest sex abuse scandal behind them. For others, it was a beginning.

Most interviewed yesterday welcomed the agreement between the Diocese of Manchester and the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office, which forestalled criminal prosecution of the diocese.
But not everyone was pleased.

"Basically, the bishop copped a plea," said James Farrell, a Somersworth resident who, early on, called for the resignation of Manchester Bishop John B. McCormack.

While priests who molested children are being prosecuted or lost their privileges, bishops who kept them in ministry remain in office, Farrell said.

"What about the people who decided it was better to cover up these crimes than protect children? When are they going to be held accountable?" Farrell said.

He acknowledged that McCormack's questionable decisions took place while serving in the Archdiocese of Boston, where he was in charge of assigning priests and handling sexual abuse complaints.

McCormack was named bishop of Manchester four years ago.

Manchester Catholic Siobhan Tautkus supported the agreement, but the problems in the Catholic Church go deeper than the attorney general can reach, she said.

For example, seminaries, where priests are trained, should be investigated, she said.

She also said she believes Bishop McCormack should resign. "Trust has been violated and you're not going to get that back," she said.

A top church leader in the United States was critical of the agreement, in which the diocese admitted it likely would be found guilty of endangering children.

Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that no other diocese, or the bishops' conference, agrees with the legal analysis the attorney general acted on.

"The errors of specific persons at specific times and places, which may have endangered children, cannot be attributed to the church as a whole," he said. "As church leaders, we are willing to own up to our mistakes.

"However, except for those very few who personally have also been perpetrators, church leaders have not intentionally endangered the welfare of children," Gregory said.

Other Catholics were supportive of McCormack.

In the Manchester diocese, McCormack has acted appropriately, said Sister Maureen Sullivan, a Dominican nun who teaches theology at St. Anselm College.

"I really do think that Bishop McCormack, based on my dealings with him, has a basic decency and he's troubled by this," Sullivan said.

Former Manchester Mayor Sylvio Dupuis said yesterday was an opportunity for closure.

"You move on. It's time for us as a society to move on," Dupuis said.

Parents, he said, need to be move involved in their children's lives to prevent abuse from happening, he said.

The scandal does not just touch Catholics; other religious leaders have kept an eye on the scandal.

"The reality is, what happened in the Catholic church is not only a black mark against the Catholic church but against all clergy. People look at all clergy differently now," said Rabbi Jacob Rosner, head of Temple Israel, a conservative Jewish synagogue in Manchester.

It bothers him, he said, that church officials who did nothing about abuse complaints remain in power.
"Any future events demand nothing less than an indictment and trial," Rosner said.

Legally speaking, the deal seems fair, said the Rev. Christopher Emerson, pastor of the First Congregational Church in Manchester. Now, it falls to the Catholic laity and priests to restore trust and integrity to their church, he said.

He is encouraged to see Boston priests take action and the formation of groups such as Voice of the Faithful.

"The best reforms would be those willingly chosen inside the institution, not coming from without," Emerson said.

The Rev. Richard Kelley, of St. Christopher Parish in Nashua, said New Hampshire priests were not consulted by the diocese about the agreement.

"I just read about it," Kelley said. "From just reading it, I don't know what to say."

In six weeks, the attorney general will release most of the files uncovered during the investigation of the diocese. And for five years, authorities will monitor diocesan compliance with a tough new set of reporting requirements.

"Everything will be out in the open, and that has to be a first step," Sullivan said.

(The Associated Press and Union Leader Correspondent Kate Munro contributed to this report.)



Reaction: Diocese, A.G. deal serves both interests

By Katharine McQuaid
Manchester (NH) Union Leader
December 11, 2002

Former New Hampshire Attorney General Steve Merrill said the state's case against the Catholic Diocese of Manchester was strengthened when documents were released last week in Massachusetts.

"The recent documents released by the Diocese of Massachusetts suggests that vigorous prosecution was not only warranted but called for," said Merrill, of yesterday's settlement with the New Hampshire diocese.

Those documents showed New Hampshire Bishop John B. McCormack may have ignored some abuse allegations against priests when he served under Cardinal Bernard Law in Massachusetts.

An agreement reached yesterday says New Hampshire Attorney General Philip McLaughlin's office will not prosecute the Catholic Diocese of Manchester for its past handling of sexual abuse allegations against the clergy.

Merrill, who served as attorney general from 1985 to 1989, said convicting the diocese would have been difficult.

"There are only losers in this case . . . the church loses, the victims lose, and even the attorney general loses for not seeking a prosecution, although it would have been very, very, difficult," he said.

Merrill, who also served as New Hampshire governor, said prosecutors likely had not gathered enough documents to prosecute the diocese yet, but they were clearly very close when the settlement was announced yesterday.

"The more documents that are released, the more prosecutors have to use against clear wrongdoing, including Bishop McCormack," he said.

But prosecuting an institution is difficult, Merrill said, "because there is no single wrongdoer that you can demonize."

It is also difficult to prosecute someone for failing to report abuse, he added.

Former state prosecutor Charles Putnam said McLaughlin's effort to charge the diocese under the state's endangering the welfare of a child statute "ground breaking."

"For a person to violate that statute they have to break a duty of care owed to a child -- more traditionally applied to parents and custodial guardians of child," he said.

But in this instance, prosecutors have broadened the scope of that statute by applying it to an institution.
"The legal theory was that the church broke trust with the children that its priests regularly came in contact with," he said.

He said, "It's really not practically possible to put an institution in jail."

Putnam was a prosecutor with the Attorney General's Office from 1986 to 2001, and a member of the criminal justice bureau from 1996 to 2001.

He said that while McLaughlin may have been confident in securing a conviction, he was still aware of the risks of going to trial.

"As professionals, (prosecutors) have to perform pretty complicated balancing acts, and assessments of what the risks are. And my own view of it is that no intelligent lawyer overlooks the possibility that they might lose and doesn't actively plan for that possibility."

Under yesterday's agreement, the Manchester diocese admitted some of its decisions resulted in the abuse of minors. It also agreed to release thousands of its personnel records and to report future abuse to law enforcement.

"When there is a non-litigated resolution that is going to get you 80 or 90 percent of what you could get through litigation, that's going to be attractive to a prosecutor," Putnam said.

Putnam said the release of the church personnel files will help everyone move forward. The church did not receive leniency from the attorney general's office, he said.

"Given the possibly ground-breaking nature of the investigation, and the legal theories involved in the investigation, and ultimately the plea, I don't think it would be correct to say the church received lenient treatment . . . I'm not aware of a similar acknowledgment of responsibility," he said.

". . .What I do think is the resolution of this investigation through this plea sends an important message that prosecutors will vigorously pursue new legal theories if they believe it's in the public interest," he said.

 
 

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