Bishop Accountability
 
  Manchester NH Resources
December 23
–31, 2002

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Alleged victims call out McCormack

By Albert McKeon
Nashua (NH) Telegraph
December 24, 2002

http://www.nashuatelegraph.com/Main.asp?SectionID=25&SubSectionID=354&ArticleID=70156

Manchester -- With Cardinal Bernard Law’s resignation, the alleged sexual abuse victims of a Massachusetts priest have set their sights on Bishop John McCormack.

Five men who held a press conference Friday morning urged McCormack to hold himself accountable for his past handling of sexual abuse complaints for the Archdiocese of Boston. Four of those men allege the Rev. Joseph Birmingham, who died in 1989, molested them while archdiocesan officials, including McCormack, kept the priest in ministry.

They pressed to meet with McCormack, and an hour after the press conference had ended, they received an assurance from the Diocese of Manchester that the bishop would see them in the near future.

“Today, I know that that man knew,” Bernie McDaid said, alleging McCormack had knowledge of Birmingham’s abuse of children when the two clergymen served together at St. James Church in Salem, Mass.

“If we saw it was a gold car, we would dive into the bushes,” McDaid said of when Birmingham drove through his childhood neighborhood. “If he took the corner sharp enough, you were caught. You had to go for a ride.”

Bob Morton, who lives in Newton, said he escaped Birmingham’s advances at St. James, but the other four men claim the priest molested them at different Massachusetts parishes in Salem, Gloucester, Sudbury and Lowell. They are among 53 people suing the Boston archdiocese over Birmingham.

Jamie Hogan, who lives in Delaware, alleges McCormack witnessed Birmingham bringing youths into his St. James rectory bedroom.

McCormack has denied witnessing Birmingham lead children into a bedroom, and his diocesan spokesman, Pat McGee, reiterated that Friday. But the alleged victims believe McCormack knew that Birmingham – his classmate at St. John’s Seminary – had repeatedly abused children and teenagers.

“I saw him with my own eyes as he looked at us,” Hogan said. “There is no way he can deny this. This man’s record speaks for itself. He should resign as the bishop of the Manchester diocese and go with Cardinal Law wherever they want to go.”

When Law stepped down last week, Gary Bergeron of Lowell – an alleged victim of Birmingham – announced at a press conference in Boston, “Bishop McCormack, we’re coming after you.”

Collectively, the men did not call for McCormack’s resignation at Friday’s press conference, held at the Manchester Public Library. Some did individually, while Bergeron said he would leave McCormack’s fate up to New Hampshire Catholics.

“We won’t ask for his resignation. We leave that up to the people of New Hampshire to read the documents,” Bergeron said of Boston archdiocesan records scheduled for release in February.

Since Law’s resignation, McCormack has repeated his intention to stay on as leader of the Manchester diocese, a position he has held since 1998. Before then, McCormack served as secretary of ministerial personnel for the Boston archdiocese, and he has given numerous depositions in civil suits this year about his handling of abusive priests while he was in that position.

McCormack will meet with the victims at an undetermined date after the holidays, said the Rev. Edward Arsenault, the Manchester diocesan chancellor. Arsenault met with the men for nearly an hour after their press conference, and he said the diocese wants to help them in any way possible.

Arsenault apologized for refusing to meet with the men in April, claiming the diocese received advice against it. Arsenault declined to characterize the advice as legal in nature. The diocese contacted the men Thursday, the same day they announced their press conference in Manchester.

The men released a stack of documents Friday, claiming they show McCormack’s knowledge of Birmingham’s behavior. In one letter, McCormack wrote to an unidentified woman that Birmingham had assured him that there was no factual basis to her son’s claim of abuse.

“From my knowledge of Father Birmingham and my relationship with him, I feel he would tell me the truth and I believe he is speaking the truth in this matter,” McCormack wrote in the letter, dated April 1987.

The documents also show a lawyer’s complaint that McCormack – in his archdiocesan post – oversaw Birmingham’s transfer to St. Ann’s parish in Gloucester, despite knowing of complaints against Birmingham years earlier. In documents and interviews, McCormack has said he knew of one abuse complaint against Birmingham, and that he told the pastor of St. James about it and figured the matter had been dealt with.

“Father Birmingham was having a feast on young boys,” alleged victim Larry Sweeney said. “When he finished at one parish and things got a little too hot, they shipped him off to another parish and served up another platter of young boys for him. He was having a banquet and the caterers were McCormack and other higher-ups that knew about Birmingham and what he was doing.”

As the year has progressed, and more details of the church crisis have come to light, McCormack has apologized for not fully grasping the seriousness of clergy abuse. He has said he will remain bishop so he can help in the healing process.

Arsenault on Friday pointed to steps the Manchester diocese has taken this year under McCormack’s leadership to reverse a painful time in the church: creating a policy to banish from ministry priests faced with one credible abuse charge, and a criminal plea deal with the attorney general’s office admitting the state had enough evidence to prosecute on misdemeanor child endangerment charges.



Bishop drew distinction on sex abuse

By J.M. Hirsch, Associated Press
Nashua (NH) Telegraph
December 24, 2002

http://www.nashuatelegraph.com/Main.asp?SectionID=25&SubSectionID=354&ArticleID=70341

Concord, N.H. -- Questioned under oath about the church abuse scandal, New Hampshire’s bishop suggested that it is less serious for a priest to have sex with someone from outside the parish than with a parishioner.

“You know, one is an activity where you have a trusted relationship with a parishioner. The other is an activity where you’re away from the parish and you’re off on your own,” Bishop John B. McCormack said in depositions obtained by The Associated Press on Monday.

McCormack was discussing the Rev. Roland Cote’s relationship with a youth while he was assigned to St. Patrick’s Church in Newport during the 1980s.

“I’m very concerned about that; he was a young person. But it’s quite different from being with a parishioner,” McCormack said.

Asked to comment, McCormack spokesman Patrick McGee said Monday that a priest having sex with a parishioner involves exploitation.

“Even if it’s consensual, with a parishioner, there’s probably an exploitation of the office there,” McGee said.

Lawyers Roderick MacLeish Jr. and Robert Sherman questioned McCormack for five days between June and last month. The depositions, part of civil lawsuits in Massachusetts, have not been made public.

In the deposition, McCormack also acknowledged that Cote paid for the sex during the five- to six-year relationship. The two met when the teen was hitchhiking and Cote offered him a ride, McCormack said.

In an Oct. 1 deposition, McCormack said he learned only recently the boy had been paid.

Sherman gave no details of the payment or payments and did not say how he learned about it. McGee also knew no details and did not know how to reach Cote. Cote did not return a telephone message left at his last church.

In June, McCormack assigned Cote to a different St. Patrick’s Church, in Jaffrey, without informing parishioners about Cote’s history. He said kept quiet because he did not consider Cote a threat.

Before being transferred to Jaffrey, Cote served at St. Louis de Gonzague Parish in Nashua.

After the AP reported details of the allegations, Cote acknowledged the affair and resigned last month.

Cote has said the boy was 18 when the relationship began. But prosecutors believed he was either 15 or 16 and conducted a criminal investigation this spring, sources familiar with the case have told the AP. The investigation ended when prosecutors determined the boy was at least 16, New Hampshire’s age of consent, one source said Monday.

McGee said the man, now about 35, told church officials this spring he was 18 when the relationship began. In his deposition, McCormack declined to talk about the conversation, saying it was confidential.

The youth’s age is significant partly because the Diocese of Manchester considers anyone under 18 a minor. McCormack has pledged that a single credible allegation of sex with a minor will bar a priest from active service in New Hampshire.

In the deposition, McCormack initially said the youth was 17, 18 or 19. “I really don’t know the actual age that it was finally concluded he was because that was where the discussion was,” McCormack said.

But when asked an hour later whether that meant the relationship might have violated the diocese’s policy, McCormack said he was certain the youth was at least 18.

“I’m sorry, I thought I heard your testimony earlier to be that he could have been as young as 17?” MacLeish asked.

“I don’t know all the specifics of the age of minority,” McCormack responded. “You said it was age 16. I’m saying no, I think it’s higher than that. So then I said it must be 17 or 18, and I checked to see. It’s age 18.”

McCormack, who became bishop of New Hampshire in 1998, has been dogged for nearly a year by criticism of how he handled allegations of abuse while he was a top aide to Cardinal Bernard Law in Boston. Law’s resignation on Dec. 13 intensified calls for McCormack to step down.

Earlier this month, McCormack averted unprecedented criminal charges against the New Hampshire diocese in a settlement with the state. As part of the agreement, he acknowledged the church’s handing of abuse allegations had harmed children.

Cote’s case apparently prompted a change in diocesan policy. McCormack said all cases of alleged sexual misconduct by priests, including those involving adults, now will be presented to the diocese’s review board. The church’s written policy only requires cases with minors to go before the board.

McCormack said one and possibly two cases of alleged misconduct with adults were before the board. He did not elaborate.



More testimony in Shanley case revealed

By J.M. Hirsch, Associated Press
Nashua (NH) Telegraph
December 24, 2002

http://www.nashuatelegraph.com/Main.asp?SectionID=25&SubSectionID=354&ArticleID=70345

Concord, N.H. -- Previously undisclosed testimony by Bishop John B. McCormack provides fresh ammunition to critics of his response to the growing sexual abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston in the 1980s and 1990s.

McCormack, a top aide to Cardinal Bernard Law from 1984 to 1994, gave the testimony in five closed sessions in civil lawsuits brought by alleged victims of the Rev. Paul Shanley, who is awaiting trial in Massachusetts on charges of child rape.

The Associated Press obtained the hundreds of pages of transcripts, which include McCormack’s testimony about his job as Law’s point man for sexual abuse allegations against priests.

Highlights include:

- When priests admitted sexual misconduct with minors, McCormack did not ask if there were other victims and did not investigate to see if there were.

- McCormack had trouble explaining delays in telling church officials in California about abuse allegations against Shanley in Massachusetts.

- Shanley warned of disclosures that would create “a media whirlwind,” but McCormack did not ask what they were.

- McCormack said he believed a 1970 molestation accusation against the Rev. Joseph Birmingham, but does not recall volunteering the information when Birmingham was being made pastor of a church in Gloucester, Mass.

McCormack spokesman Patrick McGee said he was disappointed the deposition had been disclosed early, and said the AP’s use of it was one-sided and unfair. Among his reasons was that McCormack had not checked it and made any necessary corrections.

McCormack said that in 1993 he was handling about 30 cases of abuse allegations against priests. Asked whether he attempted to determine whether the priests had additional victims who had not come forward, McCormack said he could not recall doing so.

McCormack, who became bishop of New Hampshire in 1998, said one or two priests might have volunteered information suggesting they had additional victims, but McCormack said he did not try to identify them.

He said the church was “trying to deal with this in a pastoral way, and if we started making everything public about what we did, people who were afraid of confidentiality being broken wouldn’t come to us.”

Boston church files released earlier contain molestation allegations against Shanley dating from the 1960s. By 1990, Shanley was on sick leave and living in California.

When he sought work as a priest in the Diocese of San Bernadino, a Boston church official wrote that Shanley was a priest “in good standing.”

Complaints mounted, however, and by 1994 McCormack said he knew Shanley had admitted molesting four boys.

A psychological evaluation warned that Shanley was unlikely to volunteer information about victims, but McCormack said he neither suspected nor asked Shanley whether he had molested other boys.

“He admits to sexual activity with four adolescent males and then talks about sexual activity with men and women over the years,” McCormack said. “So it doesn’t indicate that, you know, it doesn’t indicate that there was sexual activity with other adolescents.”

Questioned by lawyer Roderick MacLeish Jr., McCormack acknowledged there were further communications delays between Boston and San Bernadino in 1994.

The archdiocese “had not come up with a recommendation,” he explained. “We had, we were dealing with a lot of cases at this time, and I think it was probably much more than that and, you know, looking for some kind of final closure of this case before acting on it.”

McCormack also has been criticized for failing to follow up on a 1985 complaint that Shanley, in a speech, said, “When adults have sex with children, the children seduced them,” and the children “are the guilty ones.”

McCormack has said he raised the issue with Shanley, who said he had been talking about his work with child prostitutes and quoted out of context.

MacLeish asked McCormack why he rarely questioned such unusual and surprising remarks and requests by Shanley. For example, MacLeish cited a May 1990 letter to McCormack in which Shanley said: “I would have to explain to any parishioners what has happened and that would precipitate the media whirlwind. I think the best for all concerned is medical retirement and let me do weekend (substitute duty).”

“Does it appear to you that Paul Shanley is making veiled threats in this letter to you?” MacLeish asked.

“No,” McCormack answered.

“Did you ever write back to Paul Shanley and say, ‘What are you talking about?’ ”

“No. I did not.”

McCormack has acknowledged on at least two occasions taking the word of priests over that of alleged victims.

Among the cases he handled in Boston was that of Birmingham, who attended seminary with McCormack and served with him during the 1960s at St. James in Salem, Mass. Birmingham died in 1989.

McCormack said he believed a man who told him in 1970 that his son had been molested by Birmingham at St. James.

McCormack said he reported the allegation to Birmingham’s pastor, and encouraged the father to do the same.

But McCormack said that in 1985, when he was secretary of ministerial personnel for the archdiocese, he does not recall volunteering that information when Birmingham was made pastor at St. Ann’s in Gloucester.

He said he assumed that those making the assignment already knew.

He also remembered confronting Birmingham once, but could not remember what year it was.

“The only step I remember taking is saying to Father Birmingham one time . . . that, you know, ‘I know about your, about some complaints about you in Salem’,” McCormack said.

“And I said, ‘I’m wondering, you know, how you’re handling that. And he said that ‘I’m clean’.”

“Did you believe him?” asked lawyer Robert Sherman.

“Yes,” McCormack said.



McCormack admits knowing Rev. Cote paid teen for sex

By Kathryn Marchocki
Manchester (NH) Union Leader
December 24, 2002

Manchester Bishop John B. McCormack acknowledged in a deposition taken in the church sex abuse scandal this fall that he knew the Rev. Roland P. Cote paid for sex with a youth during the 1980s.

Cote and the youth met when the teen was hitchhiking and Cote offered him a ride, McCormack said.

"Was it brought to your attention that Father Cote had paid for sex with this adolescent?" Boston lawyer Robert Sherman asked McCormack during an Oct. 1 deposition.

"It was not brought to my attention at the time. I think I learned of this later, probably even last week," McCormack replied.

McCormack said he assigned Cote to St. Patrick Parish in Jaffrey in June without informing parishioners of the priest's past because he did not consider Cote a threat, according to the deposition obtained by The Associated Press. Cote, 57, left St. Patrick's last month after revelations of his five- to six-year relationship with the teenage male in the 1980s plunged the parish into turmoil.

Cote became the target of a criminal investigation in April after the teenager, now about 35, told authorities the priest sexually abused him while he was a minor in the 1980s.

No criminal charges were brought because the youth was at least 16½ years old when he first met Cote, county and state prosecutors said. The legal age of consent in New Hampshire is 16.

While prosecutors said they could never determine the youth's exact age at the time, Catholic Diocese of Manchester officials said the man told them he was 18 years old when the affair began.

Under diocesan policy, a cleric with a single, credible allegation of sex with a minor is barred permanently from ministry. The policy considers anyone under 18 a minor.

McCormack was questioned in connection with civil lawsuits brought by alleged sexual abuse victims of the Rev. Paul R. Shanley of Massachusetts.

Under questioning by Sherman, McCormack said it is a more serious offense for a priest to have sex with a parishioner than with someone outside the parish.

"You know, one is an activity where you have a trusted relationship with a parishioner. The other is an activity where you're away from the parish and you're off on your own," McCormack said when discussing Cote's relationship with the youth while he was serving at St. Patrick Church in Newport.

"I'm very concerned about that; he was a young person. But it's quite different from being with a parishioner," he said.

Diocesan spokesman Pat McGee yesterday said McCormack was referring to the diocesan policy against exploitation in which someone in a position of authority in the church, such as a priest or lay employee, "uses his office to influence a sexual relationship."

Cote's relationship with the teenager was a consensual one in which the teenager was unaware, at least initially, that Cote was a priest, McGee said.

In the deposition, McCormack initially said the youth was 17, 18 or 19. "I really don't know the actual age that it was finally concluded he was because that was where the discussion was," McCormack said.

Questioned an hour later whether the youth possibly being 17 meant the relationship violated the diocese's policy, McCormack said, "I don't know all the specifics of the age of minority. You said it was age 16. I'm saying no, I think it's higher than that. So then I said it must be 17 or 18, and I checked to see. It's age 18."

McCormack has until Friday to submit a corrected and certified copy of his deposition, which was taken over five days from June through November.

The deposition has not yet been made public and it was not known whether the version obtained yesterday had been certified by McCormack.



McCormack testimony: Questions unasked, details ignored

By J.M. Hirsch, Associated Press
Manchester (NH) Union Leader
December 24, 2002

Concord -- Previously undisclosed testimony by Bishop John B. McCormack provides fresh ammunition to critics of his response to the growing sexual abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston in the 1980s and 1990s.

McCormack, a top aide to Cardinal Bernard Law from 1984 to 1994, gave the testimony in five closed sessions in civil lawsuits brought by alleged victims of the Rev. Paul Shanley, who is awaiting trial in Massachusetts on charges of child rape.

The Associated Press obtained the hundreds of pages of transcripts, which include McCormack's testimony about his job as Law's point man for sexual abuse allegations against priests.
Highlights include:

* When priests admitted sexual misconduct with minors, McCormack did not ask if there were other victims and did not investigate to see if there were.

* McCormack had trouble explaining delays in telling church officials in California about abuse allegations against Shanley in Massachusetts.

* Shanley warned of disclosures that would create "a media whirlwind," but McCormack did not ask what they were.

* McCormack said he believed a 1970 molestation accusation against the Rev. Joseph Birmingham, but does not recall volunteering the information when Birmingham was being made pastor of a church in Gloucester, Mass.

McCormack spokesman Patrick McGee said he was disappointed the deposition had been disclosed early, and said the AP's use of it was one-sided and unfair. Among his reasons was that McCormack had not checked it and made any necessary corrections.

McCormack said that in 1993 he was handling about 30 cases of abuse allegations against priests. Asked whether he attempted to determine whether the priests had additional victims who had not come forward, McCormack said he could not recall doing so.

McCormack, who became bishop of New Hampshire in 1998, said one or two priests may have volunteered information suggesting they had additional victims, but McCormack said he did not try to identify them.

He said the church was "trying to deal with this on a pastoral way, and if we started making everything public about what we did, people who were afraid of confidentiality being broken wouldn't come to us."

Boston church files released earlier contain molestation allegations against Shanley dating from the 1960s. By 1990, he was on sick leave and living in California.

When he sought work as a priest in the Diocese of San Bernadino, a Boston church official wrote that Shanley was a priest "in good standing."

Complaints mounted, however, and by 1994, McCormack said he knew Shanley had admitted to molesting four boys. A psychological evaluation warned that Shanley was unlikely to volunteer information about victims, but McCormack said he neither suspected nor asked Shanley whether he had molested other boys.

"He admits to sexual activity with four adolescent males and then talks about sexual activity with men and women over the years," McCormack said. "So it doesn't indicate that, you know, it doesn't indicate that there was sexual activity with other adolescents."

Questioned by lawyer Roderick MacLeish Jr., McCormack acknowledged there were further communications delays between Boston and San Bernadino in 1994.

The archdiocese "had not come up with a recommendation," he explained. "We had, we were dealing with a lot of cases at this time, and I think it was probably much more than that and, you know, looking for some kind of final closure of this case before acting on it."

McCormack also has been criticized for failing to follow up on a 1985 complaint that Shanley, in a speech, said, "When adults have sex with children, the children seduced them," and the children "are the guilty ones."

McCormack has said he raised the issue with Shanley, who said he had been talking about his work with child prostitutes and quoted out of context.

MacLeish asked McCormack why he rarely questioned such unusual and surprising remarks and requests by Shanley. For example, MacLeish cited a May 1990 letter to McCormack in which Shanley said: "I would have to explain to any parishioners what has happened and that would precipitate the media whirlwind. I think the best for all concerned is medical retirement and let me do weekend (substitute duty)."

"Does it appear to you that Paul Shanley is making veiled threats in this letter to you?" MacLeish asked.
"No," McCormack answered.
"Did you ever write back to Paul Shanley and say, 'What are you talking about?' "
"No. I did not."

McCormack has acknowledged on at least two occasions taking the word of priests over that of alleged victims.

Among the cases he handled in Boston was that of Birmingham, who attended seminary with McCormack and served with him during the 1960s at St. James in Salem, Mass. Birmingham died in 1989.

McCormack said he believed a man who told him in 1970 that his son had been molested by Birmingham at St. James. McCormack said he reported the allegation to Birmingham's pastor, and encouraged the father to do the same.



Clerics weigh in on McCormack

By Kathryn Marchocki
Manchester (NH) Union Leader
December 27, 2002

Manchester Bishop John B. McCormack has been trying to draw a line at the state border, asking New Hampshire Catholics to judge him not just on how he handled clergy sexual abuse in Massachusetts, but by what he has done well here.

While many of the state's Catholics have criticized his performance as one of Cardinal Bernard F. Law's former top aides in the Boston archdiocese, others agree McCormack deserves credit for his work since he became bishop of Manchester in 1998.

Meanwhile, lay groups representing alleged victims and their supporters -- many demanding McCormack's resignation -- threaten to shift their protests from Boston to Manchester.
Several Granite Staters said out-of-town protesters may spark a backlash in a state known for its flinty, independent streak.

"We didn't go to Boston . . . I don't think they should get involved in what's happening in New Hampshire. We're capable of handling whatever problems we may or may not have here," said former Manchester aldermanic dean Bill Cashin.

After striking an unprecedented agreement with the state attorney general this month in which he admitted the Manchester diocese likely would have been criminally convicted for failing to protect children from abusive priests, McCormack still faces tumultuous times ahead.

He must testify before a criminal grand jury in Massachusetts investigating the Boston archdiocese's handling of clergy sexual abuse.

And he will continue to give depositions in civil lawsuits brought by alleged victims of Massachusetts priests whose cases he handled.

Still, McCormack said he intends to continue to lead New Hampshire's estimated 336,803 Catholics.

"The guy has done a tremendous job since he's come here. I have tremendous respect for him and he has my total support," Cashin said of McCormack when contacted by a reporter.

A retired Catholic Medical Center administrator, Cashin said the bishop deserves credit for turning the hospital into a viable institution following the breakup of the hospital's merger with Elliot Hospital.

"I don't know anyone who could have taken CMC and done the job he has," Cashin said.

While the sexual abuse scandal has devastated Catholics, Cashin said it's time to move forward.
"Together we can survive this," he said. "Let he who has not sinned cast the first stone. And I'm certainly not going to throw it."

But the Rev. Msgr. Wilfrid H. Paradis, a retired cleric and author of "Upon This Granite: Catholicism in New Hampshire 1647-1997," said McCormack cannot divorce himself from his past.

"Here he really has tried very hard and I think very sincerely to come to a resolution in all of these cases," Paradis said.

Still, McCormack must be judged on his entire performance.

"I'm sure what he did there, he did in good faith. I doubt very much there was any malice. Nevertheless, he came with this baggage. You have to look at the whole thing. You can't say there are two men," said Paradis, who served as an official expert at the Second Vatican Council.

Monsignor Thomas J. Hannigan, pastor at St. Catherine of Siena parish in Manchester, received an ovation at one of last Sunday's Masses when he took issue with media efforts "to dictate the solution to the problem" by calling for McCormack's resignation.

"We are not a political entity. We are a church and we're a family. And even though we right now may be a bit dysfunctional . . . we'll take care of the problem," Hannigan said.

He said he supports McCormack and the work he has done in New Hampshire, noting there is no organized effort among diocesan clergy to seek his resignation.

"In no way does any one of us minimize the hurt that was done to the victims . . . We're not just defending the bishop. We feel for them, too," Hannigan added.

Hannigan also expects Granite Staters may resent out-of-state efforts to push for McCormack's resignation.

"I think there will be a backlash. It's the old New Hampshire-Massachusetts thing. Let them stay home. Mind their own business. We understand they have an ax to grind, but how far are they going to carry this thing?" Hannigan asked.

But McCormack's record remains tarnished by his assignment in June of the Rev. Roland Cote to a Jaffrey parish without informing parishioners the priest had a sexual relationship with a teenage male in the 1980s, said Bob Morton, who represents a Massachusetts-based group of alleged abuse victims, called Survivors of Joseph Birmingham.

Former New Hampshire House Speaker Donna Sytek credits the bishop for the non-adversarial approach he took in settling lawsuits involving 84 victims, a stance endorsed by the attorney representing most victims.

Sytek also said McCormack is receptive to the laity, evidenced most recently by his appointment of 10 lay men and women to the 12-member task force she heads that is developing a new sexual misconduct policy.

Sytek is among several Catholics who commend the bishop for reaching the agreement with the attorney general, one which Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, wouldn't endorse.

"That was a big step. Bishop Gregory put some distance between the rest of the bishops and Manchester and said this is just a local thing. It took some courage for him (McCormack) to do it because he believed it was the best for everyone concerned," Sytek said.

Others noted that McCormack last February became the first bishop to publicly release the names of priests accused of past sexual misconduct and one of the first to bar priests with any credible abuse from serving in ministry.

They also said he enhanced the diocese's sexual misconduct policy when he arrived, adding a diocesan review board and delegate for sexual misconduct.

How effective McCormack's handling of clergy sexual abuse has been will be seen in February when the attorney general releases about 10,000 pages of diocesan church files detailing how church leaders handled clergy sexual abuse here since the 1960s.

State prosecutor N. William Delker said McCormack was never a target of his office's 10-month criminal probe because "the few" abuse cases that arose during his tenure were handled appropriately.



A ‘classic misuse of power’; Children of woman who died in affair with priest speak out

By Stephen Kurkjian and Walter V. Robinson
Boston (MA) Globe
December 29, 2002

http://www.boston.com/globe/spotlight/abuse/stories4/122902_folo.htm [photo of priest]

She was just a 3-year-old, asleep in her crib on a clear August night in 1973 when her mother took an overdose of barbiturates. By the time Needham police arrived at the modest split-level home at about 5 a.m., the 41-year-old woman was dead.

Her daughter, now 32, remembers nothing of that night. Even the lack of memory has haunted her: How, she has long wondered, could a mother who loved her four children take her life and leave her youngest alone and unattended?

On Dec. 5, to the shock of her and her three older brothers, some of those answers were unearthed in the archives of the Archdiocese of Boston.

Now, the four siblings know from church records that their mother, who was severely depressed, was a victim of yet another priest whose sexual misconduct was overlooked by his superiors. They know that the Rev. James D. Foley began a long and destructive affair with her after she went to him for counseling in the early 1960s.

They also know that Foley was with their mother that night in 1973, that he put his clothes on and left when she passed out from the pills, and that she died naked and without help -- just a mile and a half from Glover Memorial Hospital.

And they read Foley's account in the records that the daughter and the brother closest in age to her are the products of Foley's secret, decade-long affair with their mother.

They are convinced that their mother's clandestine affair aggravated her depression. She became obsessed with Foley, even to the point of visiting him in Calgary, Alberta, in 1966 and traveling with him to San Francisco, according to the records.

At the least, her children now say, Foley might have prevented her death had he not fled her home. If in fact his mother did commit suicide, says her oldest son, who was 16 when she died, it would be "assisted suicide."

The release of Foley's personnel file was the last in a series of disclosures about clergy sexual misconduct that prompted Cardinal Bernard F. Law's resignation a week later. At the time, it appeared to be a long-ago account without obvious victims: a priest who had an affair with a nameless woman, fathered two children, and fled in fear when she took a fatal overdose.

But within hours, her four children knew from television news reports that the account was about their family. The youngest son, who saw the report on Foley, said, "I was blown away, and I called my wife and told her, and I said, `I think this is my Mom."'

Before Christmas, the four -- who are now 32, 37, 43, and 45 years old -- discussed their bewilderment and anger in an interview with the Globe at the office of their attorney, Roderick MacLeish Jr. To protect their mother's memory and their father's privacy, they asked that their names not be used.

Much like those who were sexually abused by priests, they cannot understand why their church did nothing to put a stop to Foley's well-documented womanizing before it became too late for their mother.

Church reports about Foley's "double life" with women -- including their mother -- date to 1962, and made their way to Cardinal Richard J. Cushing in 1968 when Foley was banished from the Calgary diocese for his publicly known affairs with women. Nevertheless, the archdiocese that year gave Foley another parish assignment in Haverhill, where he began a long affair with another woman.

"Had the archdiocese acted more decisively with the information they had on Foley in the 1960s," said the second oldest son, who was 14 in 1973, "things might have worked out differently for my mother, and all of us."

The siblings, who remain Catholics, said they also cannot comprehend why Cardinal Bernard F. Law and Bishop John B. McCormack decided to keep Foley's secret and return him to a parish after they learned in 1993 how their mother died. The bishops' principal concern, according to the documents: That Foley's misconduct might become public.

"Criminal activity?" McCormack wrote in a note to himself recounting Foley's Dec. 23, 1993, admission to Law about the circumstances of the woman's death.

Now, that same question is being asked by investigators from the office of Norfolk District Attorney William F. Keating, who have opened an investigation into her death.

The children, meanwhile, are seeking their own answers. Recently, for instance, the youngest son was knocking on doors in the Needham neighborhood where the family lived in 1973, seeking anyone who might have seen something the night his mother died. No one did.

"My mother was a victim," said her second oldest son, who is a financial planner. "And she never had the ability to stand up for herself."

"And I think it's important we do that for her," added her youngest son.

The two youngest children said Foley's acknowledgment of paternity in the records is the least of their concerns. "My father is the man who raised us," said the brother who was born in 1965.

Their principal quest, they said, is to learn how -- and if possible, why -- their mother died.

But even as they seek more answers, the children are grief-stricken by such an unexpected turn of events. The youngest son is seeking counseling from his own pastor. The oldest, who has been active in his suburban parish, said that his own son refused to go to Sunday school when he was told. "He doesn't know how the church can hide all these facts and not care for the victims," the oldest son said.

On Friday, after learning about the family's anguish, Bishop Richard G. Lennon, who as the apostolic administrator has taken over from Law, said through a spokesman that he is willing to meet with them. "The archdiocese has a pastoral responsibility to this family, and we will not walk away from it," said the spokesman, the Rev. Christopher J. Coyne.

Foley, in an interview yesterday, said he is willing to share with the family -- through church officials -- details about his relationship with their mother and her death. The 69-year-old priest, who was placed on leave when the records became public, declined to answer questions from a Globe reporter.

The church records are perhaps most disturbing to the daughter. Unlike her brothers, she has no memories of her mother or that morning when Needham police officer Kevin R. Bolio, alerted to an emergency at the house by an anonymous call, found her mother dead and her crying in her crib.

In the church records of Foley's account, the priest returned to the house, found the woman dead, made the anonymous call, and apparently left before police arrived.

"I've asked myself so many times, `How could she do that to herself with her little girl in the crib?"' the daughter said.

Her parents had separated about a month before the death. Her youngest brother, then 8, was visiting his father at an apartment he had taken in Lynn. The two older brothers, 14 and 16, were at an overnight basketball camp in Wenham when their father drove there to tell them their mother had "killed herself," the oldest brother recalls.

Soon, the sons said they came to understand why their mother, who was a nurse, may have taken her life, even though she had never attempted suicide before. She had battled depression for many years. She saw psychiatrists, took medication, tried yoga, and even had surgery -- a lobotomy.
And she sought out Foley for counseling.

The children said that until Dec. 5, they had no inkling about her affair with Foley.

The records, however, hint that their father knew something. He declined to be interviewed, but the youngest son said he has told them that he "always had suspicions. ... Dad thought it was too friendly." But he said his father insists he had no knowledge that Foley and his wife were having an affair, or even why she wanted the separation.

"It brings up a lot of pain for him. He is dealing with this in his own way," said the youngest son.
Last summer, the daughter recalled, her father told her that he thought his wife named the youngest son after Foley when he was born in 1965.

In recent years, it has been the daughter who has pressed hardest to unlock details about the past. About four years ago, she said, she contacted Bolio, the police officer.

Bolio, she said, recalled that night. "And he asked me straight out, `Did your mother have a boyfriend?' I said, `No, I don't think so.' He indicated he thought there were some circumstances there. I have always wondered why did he say that," she said.

Citing the investigation, Bolio declined to be interviewed.

The 160-page church file on Foley leaves no doubt that he maintained a romantic relationship with their mother for years. It includes a 1995 letter in which Foley -- described by a friend and former priest last week as "film star handsome" -- spells out the steps he took to "create a sense of intimacy" with women who came to him for counseling.

The affair appears to have begun during Foley's first assignment at St. Bartholomew Church in Needham in the early 1960s. After serving less than two years at the church, Foley abruptly sought a transfer out of the area "on the advice of his confessor," according to a 1962 memo from a church official.

Foley, in an interview with the Globe on Dec. 5, confirmed that he had maintained a relationship with the woman for several years but said that he had tried to break it off numerous times. "I admit that I did not handle myself properly but she became obsessed with me and wouldn't let it end," he said.

But her children are skeptical about Foley's explanation.

"We're appalled that [she] reached out to a priest because she had some issues and he took advantage of her," said her second oldest son.

"He befriended her. Here was someone who was vulnerable," he said. "It was classic misuse of power. She had free will but it wasn't a clear playing field.

"My mother struggled with clinical depression for many years and during that time she had this illicit relationship with a priest," he said. "It doesn't do your mental health any good. ... How much of her problems were caused by this ongoing illicit relationship? We really don't know. But it couldn't have helped her recovery in dealing with it."

Foley's sexual misdeeds, so well documented by the archdiocese in the 1960s, appear from the records to have gone unnoticed until 1993, when he sought reappointment to another term as pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Church in Sudbury.

That is when McCormack wrote a memo about the Calgary incidents, which he dismissed as "growing up issues" for his seminary classmate.

But two days before Christmas in 1993, Foley met with Law and McCormack and told them about the circumstances of the Needham woman's death and that he had fathered her two youngest children. Earlier this month, Foley said in the interview that he was uncertain about the paternity issue.

"I can't say for sure. There was never any paternity tests done, of course," the priest said. However, he acknowledged that he resumed his relationship with her after returning from Calgary in 1968.

Foley was removed from his parish in 1994, and sent for residential treatment to a church-run facility in Ontario. And despite warnings from his therapists -- including one assessment that Foley was unstable and "highly charged sexually" -- Law approved his return to full ministry in late 1995.

The cardinal, the woman's children said, should have taken an entirely different tack.

"They should have called the authorities," said the second oldest son. "It was not their place to decide whether it was criminal or not. They decided to take it on themselves and not give us any chance to know the truth."

"We've lived for 29 years, ducking behind windows and doors because our mother, to our knowledge, committed suicide with no explanation," said his older brother, who helped care for his siblings afterward. "All we knew is that she died under weird circumstances."

His sister, who lay crying in her crib when Bolio arrived that morning 29 years ago, still yearns to know more. But she said she thinks she knows enough to reach a conclusion about Foley: "He could have prevented her death."



N.H. bishop, protestors have ‘angry’ discussion

By Robin Washington
Boston (MA) Herald
December 30, 2002

Manchester, N.H. -- Regular Sunday protesters at Boston's Cathedral of the Holy Cross took their demonstration across the border yesterday to call for the ouster of Bishop John B. McCormack, a former aide to Bernard Cardinal Law and a key figure in numerous Boston archdiocese clergy sex abuse cases.

Their protest, outside Mass at St. Joseph's Cathedral, culminated in an unprecedented meeting with the embattled Manchester Diocese leader, an encounter both sides characterized as contentious.

"I'd say it was an entirely unsatisfactory conversation," Joseph Gallagher of the Coalition of Catholics and Survivors said of the dialogue with McCormack, whose signature is on scores of documents involving alleged molester priests.

"He would have us believe he was totally responsible for the movement of priests for a nanosecond," Gallagher said.

While disagreeing that McCormack evaded responsibility, the bishop's aides called the meeting "difficult."

"It was a group of people who were very angry and upset," the Rev. Edward J. Arsenault, chancellor of the diocese, said of the meeting, which was closed to the press.

"The bishop apologized clearly and forthrightly to them for anyone who's ever been harmed as a child. Some of them don't believe Bishop McCormack, and we have to live with that consequence. But we're willing to listen to anyone who was harmed," Arsenault said.

One who said she didn't believe him was Hull's Laura Breault, who said the group of about a dozen peppered McCormack with questions about his role in the supervision and reassignment of the Revs. Paul R. Shanley and the late Joseph Birmingham and defrocked priest John J. Geoghan.

"We called him a bold-faced liar and said we're not leaving here until he resigns," she said, vowing to return until McCormack leaves.

Arsenault said the protesters - whom McCormack termed "members of the family of God" and asked parishioners to "pray for" - are welcome to return, but that the bishop has no plans to meet with them again.

"They can come as often as they like (but) Bishop McCormack's responsibility is to shepherd the people of New Hampshire," he said.

Not all of that flock showed support for the bishop, however.

"We worship because we're Catholic, in spite of him," said one parishioner attending Mass with his wife and three children who declined to give his name.

Ann Marie St. Germain, worshiping with her husband and small children, said she found the protests divisive.

"I don't think that's very nice out there. I don't think it builds the spirit of unity," she said.

Along with his role in shielding alleged abusers in Boston, McCormack has been criticized for his June assignment of the Rev. Roland Cote to a Jaffrey, N.H., church without telling parishioners of an affair Cote had years ago.

Though The Associated Press reported prosecutors believe Cote's lover to have been 15 or 16, Patrick McGee, a diocese spokesman, said the youth was 18 when the affair began. "It was also a situation where the person was not aware that Father Cote was a priest, so (Cote) was not also abusing his office," McGee said, adding, "It's (still) not acceptable."

Carolyn Disco of New Hampshire, a member of Voice of the Faithful, joined the protesters and said she would do so again. "I certainly will," she said. "The goal is accountability and justice."

At the Boston cathedral, interim archdiocese leader Bishop Richard G. Lennon did not attend Mass.



Protesters picket St. Joseph Cathedral

By Benjamin Kepple
Manchester (NH) Union Leader
December 30, 2002

Some parishioners at St. Joseph Cathedral's 10:30 a.m. Mass yesterday told a small group of protesters outside the church to "go back to Massachusetts."

It was the first time protesters, spurred by the Catholic Church's sex-abuse crisis, had picketed the cathedral. The church is the home base of -- and a bulwark of support for -- Diocese of Manchester Bishop John B. McCormack.

Some of the 15 protesters, who demanded McCormack resign his position, met after worship with McCormack in the cathedral's basement parish hall. They weren't pleased at how the meeting went.

And they weren't the only ones not happy.

"I think they should go back to Massachusetts where they came from," said parishioner Dave Campbell, of Manchester, as he left Mass yesterday morning.

"I don't think they belong here. They got Cardinal Law to resign," Campbell added.

That sentiment wasn't restricted to parishioners.

One man driving past the church in a truck screamed, "Go home! Go home to Massachusetts!" at the protesters, who were standing on the sidewalk opposite the cathedral.

The demonstrators also gave a bit of guff.

"Did you kiss the bishop's ring? Did you kiss it?" one man said through a megaphone in the direction of one parishioner leaving the church.

And later in the protest, McCormack was referred to as a "charlatan," a "hypocrite," a "liar" and a "reprobate."

Nearly all of those protesting were from Massachusetts, where Cardinal Bernard Law resigned following months of revelations about how the Archdiocese of Boston handled allegations of abuse involving priests.|

Their message to McCormack was simple.

"We've decided his fate should be the same as Bernard Law's. His name is on as many documents, if not more, than Bernard Law's name," said Jeff Powers, a protester from Charlestown, Mass.

"He's as guilty as Law was. We managed to oust Law, and McCormack's next," Powers said.
However, New Hampshire protesters were also on scene.

"I wanted to come out to protest not only his record in Massachusetts, but also his record in New Hampshire," said Carolyn Disco of Merrimack.

"Despite the support of institutional, political, legal and business leaders in the state, I believe the actions he has taken in Manchester have been entirely self-serving," Disco said.

McCormack made note of the protesters outside during the Mass, although he did not deliver the homily.

He asked parishioners to be respectful of the protesters, and noted that he had invited them to meet with him afterwards. And during the Mass' Prayer of the Faithful, he asked for families not to turn on one another, but rather work out their differences.

McCormack did so behind closed doors yesterday. The meeting between the bishop and the protesters was off-limits to the press. It lasted for about an hour.

A diocese spokesman said that McCormack believed a one-on-one approach was preferable.

"He feels it's best on a personal (basis) and to meet with them without cameras," Patrick McGee said yesterday.

McGee also reiterated that McCormack had no intention of resigning his post, noting that McCormack was here at the appointment of Pope John Paul II.

"He intends to stay to move the church forward," McGee said.

Picketers attending the meeting said they brought up issues ranging from cases of abuse by priests in Massachusetts to the bishop's resignation, but that they weren't pleased with how the meeting went.

"I called him a bold-faced liar and (said) we will not leave here until he resigns," said Laura Breault of Hull, Mass.

"He looked us in the eye and said, 'I am not a bold-faced liar,' " Breault said.

The protests came on the same day The Boston Globe published a detailed expose on the case of the Rev. James D. Foley, a former priest who admitted to multiple affairs with women.

The Globe interviewed the children of one woman with whom Foley carried on a long-term affair. The paper said Foley left the woman unattended in 1973 after she overdosed on pills and later, died.

The newspaper wrote that the woman's four children could not understand how Law and McCormack could decide to let Foley return to a parish when they learned, 20 years later, of what happened.



Accused N.H. priest a presumed suicide

By Walter V. Robinson and Matt Carroll
Boston (MA) Globe
December 31, 2002

http://www.boston.com/globe/spotlight/abuse/stories4/123102_lower.htm

The body of a New London, N.H., priest was found Sunday in a wilderness area in nearby Enfield after he learned that he had been accused of molesting a minor in 1973 and was likely to be publicly removed from his parish during an investigation.

The Very Rev. Richard T. Lower, 57, pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Church, is believed to have committed suicide, Patrick McGee, a Manchester Diocese spokesman, said last night.

The Rev. Edward J. Arsenault, the diocesan chancellor and a friend of Lower, said last night that when he informed Lower of the allegation late on Thursday, he asked Lower if there was any chance he might harm himself.

''He was adamant he was going to be fine,'' Arsenault said.

Enfield Police Captain Richard Crate said a hiker found Lower's body at about 10 a.m. Sunday on a trail not far from where his car was parked - about 24 hours after the diocese and Lower's relatives alerted police that he was missing.

Lower's body was found dressed in street clothes and there was no visible sign of trauma, according to Crate. He said the cause of death has not been determined. Crate and Arsenault declined to say whether the pastor left a note.

Arsenault said he tried unsuccessfully late Friday afternoon and again on Saturday to reach Lower to inform him that the diocesan review board had decided he would have to take an administrative leave while the allegation was being investigated.

Under the diocesan policy, the reason for the leave would have been made public.

If Lower's death is ruled a suicide, he would be the third Catholic priest known to have taken his own life this year after facing charges of sexually molesting a minor.

In April, the Rev. Donald A. Rooney, 48, shot himself in Hinckley Township, Ohio, after learning that he had been accused of sexually abusing a young girl in 1980. In May, the Rev. Alfred J. Bietighofer, 64, of the Bridgeport, Conn., Diocese, hanged himself at the St. Luke Institute in Maryland, where he had been sent for evaluation after his diocese was informed of accusations that he sexually abused boys during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The allegation against Lower was the first accusing him of sexually abusing a minor, according to McGee. However, in 1989, when Lower was pastor of St. John Neumann Church in Merrimack, N.H., an adult male accused Lower of ''inappropriate sexual conduct'' in a complaint to the diocese, McGee said.

He said diocesan records show that Lower acknowledged knowing the man, but denied the allegation. At the time, McGee said the records show, Lower resigned from the parish for unrelated health reasons and underwent a psychiatric evaluation.

The following year, then-New Hampshire Bishop Odore Gendron appointed Lower to be pastor in New London.

Arsenault, along with Manchester Bishop John B. McCormack and Auxiliary Bishop Francis J. Christian, met with about 100 parishioners on Sunday night at Our Lady of Fatima Church to inform them about Lower's death and about the allegation against him.

Carl Fitzgerald, a parish member for 20 years, described the general mood as ''shock.'' Before the meeting, he said, several parishioners were aware that Lower had died, but few knew his death may have been linked to a sexual misconduct complaint.

''People were basically kind of floored,'' he said.

''He's been a good pastor for the past 12 years,'' added Fitzgerald, whose wife, Cheryl, is the parish's pastoral associate and religious educator. ''He was an outgoing, gregarious guy.''

In addition to being pastor, Lower was also an episcopal vicar with the title of ''Very Reverend,'' one of several senior pastors in the diocese who have some oversight over other parishes in their surrounding area.

McGee and Arsenault, in separate interviews, said a man from out-of-state contacted Arsenault on Thursday to accuse Lower of molesting him in 1973 in Littleton, N.H., where Lower was assigned to St. Rose of Lima Church. The diocesan officials said Lower's accuser was a minor at the time.

Arsenault said he informed Lower of the accusation in a Thursday meeting at the chancery in Manchester. Lower, he said, was upset at the allegation. According to McGee, the priest neither confirmed nor denied the charge.

In addition to seeking assurances from Lower that he did not intend to harm himself, Arsenault said he urged Lower to have someone accompany him home, an offer the priest declined. But he said Lower heeded his recommendation that he contact a priest friend and his physician. ''We were all pretty confident he was not suicidal,'' Arsenault said.

Lower had had health problems recently, including spinal surgery and a serious blood infection, McGee said. And last month, his mother died.

Arsenault said he last talked with Lower about midday Friday, and told him that after consulting with McCormack, he was going to recommend to the review board that Lower take administrative leave until the charge against him could be examined.

But after the board agreed, he said, he was unable to contact the priest. ''When I could not reach him Saturday morning, I became very concerned,'' Arsenault said. According to Arsenault and police, Lower was last seen calling on a hospital patient on Saturday.

McCormack, in a letter to Lower's parish, wrote that the ''anguish, loss and fear that Fr. Lower most likely was dealing with must have diminished his capacity to recognize the inestimable value of his own personal dignity and the pain that his suicide would bring to many....''

The bishop also asked the parishioners to ''pray for and continue to offer to assist the man who made this accusation.''

McCormack, Christian, and other priests will concelebrate a funeral Mass for Lower at his parish on Friday morning.



 
 

Bishop Accountability © 2003
     
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