NH Resources – July 1–22, 2003
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Alleged Victims Protest Lack of Prosecution of Church Officials in Massachusetts Abuse Cases
By Denise Lavoie
Boston -- Kathleen Dwyer couldn't believe it when news trickled out that the state's attorney general didn't intend to prosecute any high-ranking officials in the abuse scandal engulfing the Boston Archdiocese.
Dwyer was joined by two dozen protesters Tuesday outside Attorney General Tom Reilly's office, angry that church supervisors overseeing abusive priests might not be charged due, in part, to limitations in the law.
"How dare there be no indictments," said Dwyer, 58, who said she was sexually abused by a priest at her church in Braintree in the early 1950s, when she was 7 years old.
Reilly was scheduled to release his report Wednesday detailing the results of a 16-month investigation into the sexual abuse of children by dozens of priests. Word that high-ranking leaders wouldn't be pursued was leaked Monday.
Public outrage over the scandal prompted the state to enact a law making reckless endangerment of children a crime. Under the law, someone who fails to take steps to alleviate a substantial risk of injury or sexual abuse of a child can face criminal charges.
But during the time period when much of the abuse took place - from the 1950s through the 1990s - no such laws were on the books, and Reilly has said that prevented him from prosecuting church supervisors.
Attorney Roderick MacLeish Jr., who represents more than 200 alleged abuse victims in lawsuits against the archdiocese, said he understands why Reilly concluded his hands were tied.
"The problem is that our laws in this state have treated children as second-class citizens for a long, long time," MacLeish said. "The attorney general has to act within the law, and as disappointed as I am, I truly believe he has tried to do his best. The worst thing for victims would be for him to prosecute someone and have that prosecution fail."
Cardinal Bernard F. Law resigned as archbishop in December, after nearly a year of criticism over his role in allowing abusive priests to remain in parish work.
In addition to Law, at least eight other top officials in the Boston Archdiocese were subpoenaed to answer questions about their handling of complaints against priests, including the Rev. Thomas V. Daily, now a bishop in New York City; the Rev. Robert J. Banks, now bishop in Green Bay, Wis.; and the Rev. John B. McCormack, now bishop in Manchester, N.H.
The attorney general's report suggested ways to prevent future abuse, including increasing penalties for failing to report suspected abuse and getting the church and laity to work more closely together to prevent abuse.
The archdiocese is facing about 500 civil suits from alleged victims of clergy sex abuse. Church officials have repeatedly said they remain committed to working toward an out-of-court settlement.
A state law passed last year adds members of the clergy to a list of professionals required to inform state officials of suspected child abuse. Protesters also want the state Legislature to eliminate the statute of limitations for sexual abuse.
AG Report: McCormack Handling of Abusive Priests "Deficient"
Despite some efforts to control priests who molested minors, New Hampshire Bishop John McCormack failed to take steps he knew could help safeguard children, Massachusetts' attorney general said Wednesday.
McCormack was one of several former leaders of the Boston Archdiocese who displayed "an institutional acceptance of abuse and a massive and pervasive failure of leadership," Attorney General Tom Reilly said in a 91-page report.
Reilly said the actions of those leaders enabled the widespread sexual abuse of minors, and called the scandal so massive it "borders on the unbelievable."
McCormack served as a top aide to Cardinal Bernard Law until 1994, including as delegate for sexual misconduct.
In civil lawsuits, Law, McCormack and other officials are accused of shuffling abusive priests from parish to parish. They have acknowledged making mistakes, including being too optimistic that molesters could be rehabilitated.
As bishop of New Hampshire since 1998, McCormack has promoted aggressive policies to protect children.
In a written statement, McCormack did not address the substance of Reilly's report, but said he worked hard in Boston and more recently in New Hampshire to ensure that the protection of children was the church's priority.
"My ministry during the last five years as the Bishop of Manchester (N.H.) has enabled me to implement important new steps to ensure the protection of children and young people, and to respond more effectively to people who make complaints of child sexual abuse in New Hampshire," McCormack said.
Reilly's report was the result of a grand jury investigation that explored whether the church hierarchy should be charged criminally for turning a blind eye to allegations of abuse. Reilly said no charges would be filed because child-protection laws in place while abuses were taking place were too weak.
Reilly credited McCormack with improving the church's handling of abuse allegations, saying he implemented a policy for handling complaints and monitoring accused priests in 1993, and ensured his successor was prepared to handle his duties.
"While the monitoring arrangements did not provide sufficient control over these priests, they at least created some form of supervision that did not exist before Bishop McCormack's tenure," the report said.
But Reilly said McCormack's performance overall was deficient, saying the bishop ignored advice from victims when formulating the 1993 policy, and didn't believe that accused priests lied about their sexual involvement with children.
"Even when confronted with hard evidence that a particular priest falsely denied his conduct, McCormack would find that the priest was 'in denial' rather than actually lying," the report said.
Reilly said McCormack's single greatest failing was his inability to control priests who were diagnosed as abusers.
"Significantly, even after Bishop McCormack realized that the archdiocese was unable to adequately control priests who were diagnosed as pedophiles or ephebophiles, he failed to turn to public authorities for advice or assistance in handling these matters," the report said.
At the time, priests were not among those required to report to civil authorities suspicions or allegations of abuse. But for some of his time in Boston, McCormack also was a licensed social worker, to whom the law did apply.
McCormack has said he did not go to authorities because though he was a social worker, he was not acting in that capacity at the time. On Wednesday, Reilly agreed, saying it was for that reason the bishop would not be charged with failing to report. Massachusetts passed a law last year requiring priests to make such reports.
The report said that in several cases the priests McCormack failed to control later went on to abuse other minors, even while on so-called "restricted ministries" intended to keep them away from children.
Reilly also faulted McCormack for insisting that all information received from victims remain in confidence and not be shared with relevant parishes, despite the objections of the nun charged with working with victims.
"He held this strong opinion even though he had no training or experience conducting investigations, he had not personally heard from victims that they wanted their information held in complete confidence, and he never explored the option of providing information to the parish without revealing identifying information about the victim," the report said.
Carolyn Disco, a member of New Hampshire Catholics for Moral Leadership, a lay group that has called for McCormack's resignation, said she was disappointed that charges would not be filed.
"There's a grave wound in the moral order," she said. "At least if there can't be legal consequences, there should be career consequences for allowing the rape and molestation of innocent children."
Disco's group planned to announce Thursday that it had collected more than 1,000 signatures on an Internet petition calling on the bishop to step down.
Former Aides to Cardinal Bernard Law Criticized for Inaction on Sex Abuse
By the Associated Press
Among Reilly's conclusions:
-BISHOP THOMAS DAILY, of Brooklyn, N.Y. Daily failed to thoroughly investigate allegations of child sexual abuse and transferred accused priests without supervision or notification to new parishes rather than removing them from pastoral ministry.
"Given the understanding that people had about this issue at that time, 20 years ago, the bishop followed procedures that he believed were appropriate at that time," said Frank DeRosa, spokesman for Brooklyn diocese.
-BISHOP ROBERT BANKS, Green Bay, Wis. Banks did not restrict the duties of priests accused of sexual abuse if they received a positive evaluation by medical personnel, even if other medical experts had warned the archdiocese against returning the priests to ministerial duties. Banks withheld information about the Rev. John Geoghan's history of child sexual abuse when he was interviewed during a criminal investigation of Geoghan in 1989.
"While well-intentioned at the time, I deeply regret that I did not act more decisively in taking out of ministry those who abused our children and young people. For this I am truly sorry," Banks said in a statement Wednesday.
-BISHOP ALFRED HUGHES, New Orleans. Hughes did not tell investigators and prosecutors about a credible allegation of sexual abuse against the Rev. John Hanlon after Hanlon was indicted in another sex abuse case.
"There were a few instances wherein I may not have acted quickly enough," Hughes said in a statement. "The sexual abuse of one child is too many."
-BISHOP WILLIAM MURPHY, Rockville Centre, N.Y. Murphy participated in arranging for the Rev. Melvin Surette, who had already been accused of sexually abusing children, to help arrange job placements for priests found to have sexually abused children.
In a statement released earlier this month, Murphy said that during his tenure in Boston, he was not involved in handling allegations made against priests or in recommending the assignments of any accused priests.
"Cardinal Law did on occasion ask my counsel or gave me some specific tasks that dealt with a few of these priests after they had been removed from pastoral ministry," he said.
In Surette's case, the accused priests proposed working to find other jobs for priests on leave because of allegations of sexual abuse. "The chancellor and I approved an expenditure of about $14,000 for him to set up such an office under the supervision of the delegate. That proposal, to my memory, never materialized and the money was never spent," Murphy said.
-BISHOP JOHN McCORMACK, Manchester, N.H. Reilly praised McCormack for his work on the archdiocese's 1993 policy on handling sexual abuse allegations. But he criticized McCormack for insisting that all information received from victims remain confidential and not be shared with parishes. Reilly said McCormack also failed to establish a system for restricting priests who were diagnosed as child sexual abusers.
McCormack said in a statement released Wednesday that "as I learned more and dealt with an increasing number of accusations, I worked to improve the way such complaints were handled by the archdiocese."
-The REV. BRIAN FLATLEY, now pastor of St. Agnes Parish in Arlington. Flatley recognized that the archdiocese's top "unmet need" was finding secure, supervised housing for the most dangerous priests, but he and others did not adequately supervise priests seen as substantial risks to children.
-The REV. WILLIAM MURPHY, spiritual director at St. John's Seminary. Murphy sought the advice of a priest accused of sexual abuse and employed another priest accused of abuse as his assistant, but did not seek the advice of victims or independent professionals.
-SISTER CATHERINE MULKERRIN, worked as the archdiocese's point person for victims. Reilly called Mulkerrin "a strong and lonely advocate for change" in the archdiocese and praised her for urging church officials to alert parishioners whenever the archdiocese determined that a present or former priest of the parish may have sexually abused a child.
-SISTER RITA MCCARTHY, continued the work done by Mulkerrin. During McCarthy's tenure, the archdiocese adopted several suggestions made by Mulkerrin, including holding healing masses and using the parish bulletin to alert parishioners to Geoghan's history of child abuse.
Report: McCormack Failed To Establish Controls
Manchester (NH) Union Leader
Cardinal Law appointed Bishop McCormack to the position of Secretary for Ministerial Personnel in November 1984. He began working in this position on a part-time basis, taking on full-time responsibilities in February 1985. Bishop McCormack was appointed the Archdiocese's first Delegate in 1993, continuing to serve as both Delegate and Secretary for Ministerial Personnel until 1994. Bishop McCormack was ordained an Auxiliary Bishop in the Archdiocese of Boston in 1995 and was installed as Bishop of the Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire, in 1998.
Bishop McCormack's involvement in handling matters related to sexual abuse of children increased during his tenure as Secretary for Ministerial Personnel as the number of allegations increased. In handling these matters, Bishop McCormack reported both to the Vicar for Administration and Cardinal Law. The Vicars for Administration during his tenure included Bishop Banks, Bishop Hughes and Bishop Murphy.
Prior to 1993, most allegations of clergy sexual abuse of children were referred to Bishop McCormack and he generally would: (1) advise the Cardinal either directly or indirectly through the Vicar for Administration; (2) notify the accused priest and seek to interview him; (3) meet with relevant Chancery staff to discuss the appropriate course of action; and (4) based upon the conclusions reached after the staff meeting, arrange for counseling and pastoral assistance to the victim and most often psychiatric evaluation and treatment of the priest. As part of the procedure, Bishop McCormack also would review the priest's confidential file to determine whether there were previous incidents of sexual abuse of children known by the Archdiocese.
In approximately 1992, Bishop McCormack discussed with Cardinal Law the need for a written policy for handling allegations of sexual abuse of children by members of the clergy. At the request of Cardinal Law, Bishop McCormack prepared a first draft of the new policy and provided it to a committee charged with reviewing and revising it. In addition, Bishop McCormack sent the draft policy to two victims of the Reverend Ernest Tourigney. The two victims provided extensive comments on the policy to Bishop McCormack, including the suggestions that (1) the policy should not propose that offending priests be returned to ministry even under restrictions; (2) the Delegate should not be a member of the clergy; (3) there should be greater training provided to the priests charged with monitoring the offending priests; and (4) the Archdiocese should provide information to law enforcement officials so that they could seek criminal prosecution where appropriate. Significantly, none of these comments were in the policy ultimately adopted in 1993.
Once the 1993 policy was adopted and he was appointed as the first Delegate, Bishop McCormack would, after receiving an allegation: (1) advise the Cardinal either directly or indirectly through the Vicar for Administration; (2) notify the accused priest and seek to interview him; and (3) meet with relevant Chancery staff to discuss the appropriate course of action. This included Diocesan Counsel; Sister Catherine Mulkerrin and thereafter Sister Rita McCarthy, who handled the victim component of the cases; Neil Hegarty, a social worker hired on a part-time basis near the end of Bishop McCormack's tenure; and other clergy members involved in personnel matters.
Typically, once a victim came forward with an allegation of abuse, Bishop McCormack would place the accused priest on administrative leave and send him to a psychiatric institution for evaluation and treatment. After the psychiatric institution had prepared a report with its evaluation, Bishop McCormack would meet with Chancery staff to develop a recommendation for the Review Board. He would then present his recommendation, together with relevant documents, to the Review Board. The Review Board would then either adopt or alter the Delegate's recommendation, which would be forwarded onto Cardinal Law for his approval or disapproval. At the time that this information was passed onto Cardinal Law, Bishop McCormack would provide the Cardinal with relevant information relating to the case.
Bishop McCormack also met with the Regional Bishops two to three times a year to discuss the cases in their particular regions. From time to time, members of the Chancery staff, such as Sister Catherine Mulkerrin, and the Reverends Deeley and Dooher would meet with the pastors in a particular parish affected by a particular case.
Bishop McCormack enhanced the Archdiocese's handling of allegations of sexual abuse of children in several respects. Unlike his predecessors, he sought to have a thorough and comprehensive transition to his replacement. The Reverend Brian Flatley began working part time in the Chancery before Bishop McCormack's departure, creating a period of overlap. In addition, Father Flatley reviewed the confidential files with Bishop McCormack before his departure.
In addition, Bishop McCormack implemented the Cardinal's new 1993 policy on the Archdiocese's handling of allegations. Before the adoption of the written policy, there was no designated person handling child sexual abuse allegations on a full-time basis. By creating the Delegate position, it provided a specific channel through which all allegations against priests were supposed to be funneled from the parish level directly to the Delegate's Office. In addition, the written policy created the Review Board that contained lay members who were available to advise the Delegate. Indeed, Bishop McCormack sought the Review Board's advice on several occasions. Moreover, the written policy laid the groundwork for establishing monitoring of priests on restricted ministries. While the monitoring arrangements did not provide sufficient control over these priests, they at least created some form of supervision that did not exist before Bishop McCormack's tenure.
Overall, however, Bishop McCormack's handling of allegations of sexual misconduct with children was deficient in several respects:
As an initial matter, Bishop McCormack was opposed to finding that accused priests lied about their involvement in sexual misconduct with children.
Even when confronted with hard evidence that a particular priest falsely denied his conduct, McCormack would find that the priest was "in denial" rather than actually lying.
In addition, Bishop McCormack, over the objection of Sister Catherine Mulkerrin, insisted that all information received from victims remain in confidence and not be shared with the relevant parishes. He held this strong opinion even though he had no training or experience conducting investigations, he had not personally heard from victims that they wanted their information held in complete confidence, and he never explored the option of providing information to the parish without revealing identifying information about the victim. In addition, he refused to accept the opinion of Sister Mulkerrin, the person charged with working with victims in the Chancery, that the release of information would provide support to victims and would encourage other victims to come forward.
Arguably, Bishop McCormack's single greatest failing was his inability to establish means for controlling priests who were diagnosed as pedophiles or ephebophiles. Once those priests returned to the Archdiocese from psychiatric treatment, Bishop McCormack put them into "restricted" ministries approved by the Review Board and Cardinal Law. Yet, the Archdiocese lacked any means of preventing these priests from coming into contact with children either during their workday or during evenings and weekends. At best, the Archdiocese appointed priest monitors who would keep in sporadic contact with the priests, although they did not reside with the priest or work with the priest on a daily basis. During Bishop McCormack's tenure, the Archdiocese was in the process of looking for property to create a structured community to house those priests. However, the Archdiocese did not locate such a property by the time Bishop McCormack left the Chancery in 1994.
Significantly, even after Bishop McCormack realized that the Archdiocese was unable to adequately control priests who were diagnosed as pedophiles or ephebophiles, he failed to turn to public authorities for advice or assistance in handling these matters. Indeed, Bishop McCormack insisted on handling such cases as internal matters even though he knew of the availability of outside resources that could help him.
The cases that exemplified Bishop McCormack's inadequate handling of
allegations of sexual abuse are Paul Mahan, Robert Gale, John Geoghan
and Paul Shanley. In each of these cases, Bishop McCormack was aware that
the priest had abused children and yet he failed to take adequate steps
to restrict their ministries or put them under adequate supervision to
prevent them from engaging in further abuse of children. In fact, Robert
Gale and John Geoghan went on to abuse other children while on restricted
Bishop 'In Denial' over Lying Priests (CORRECTION ATTACHED)
By Kathryn Marchocki
While Manchester Bishop John B. McCormack instituted some positive changes to the Boston archdiocese's handling of sexually abusive priests, he didn't grasp the dangers these clerics posed and failed to find ways to control them, the Massachusetts attorney general said yesterday.
"There clearly were improvements under Bishop McCormack," Thomas F. Reilly said of Cardinal Bernard F. Law's former top aide in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston.
"On the other end of it, there seemed to be an inability on the part of Bishop McCormack to appreciate these people for what they are in terms of (being) very dangerous and an inability to realize these are criminal acts," Reilly said.
The Bay State's top lawman commended McCormack for developing and implementing the Boston archdiocese's first written policy to deal with clergy sexual abuse in 1993. The policy laid the groundwork for monitoring abusive priests, which "at least created some form of supervision that did not exist before."
But the arrangements were inadequate, Reilly said.
"Arguably, Bishop McCormack's single greatest failing was his inability to establish means for controlling priests who were diagnosed as pedophiles or ephebophiles," Reilly wrote in his 76-page report summarizing a 16-month criminal investigation into widespread child sexual abuse in the Boston archdiocese.
McCormack, who became bishop of Manchester in 1998, began handling clergy sexual abuse complaints after he joined Law's cabinet as Secretary for Ministerial Personnel in 1984.
He took on the dual role of delegate in charge of sexual misconduct complaints in 1993 and held both positions as a priest until he left the chancery in 1994. He became auxiliary bishop of Boston in 1995.
McCormack also "enhanced the archdiocese's handling" of child sexual abuse by creating a direct channel through which all complaints would be funneled from parishes to his office and by seeking the advice of the review board, which included laity, on several occasions.
"Unlike his predecessors, (McCormack) sought to have a thorough and comprehensive transition to his replacement" and reviewed confidential files of abusive priests with him before he left, the report added.
But Reilly said McCormack's overall performance was deficient in several areas.
He said McCormack "was opposed to finding that accused priests lied about their involvement with children." A dad's question
Reilly cited the 1987 letter a Gloucester father, whose son was an altar boy under the Rev. Joseph E. Birmingham, wrote Law. The father wanted to know if Birmingham was the same priest who had been removed from a previous parish in Salem for sexually molesting young boys.
Even though McCormack knew of Birmingham's earlier abuse, he wrote the parent back saying Birmingham "assured me there is absolutely no factual basis to your concern regarding your son and him. From my knowledge of Father Birmingham and my relationship with him, I feel he would tell me the truth."
Reilly also said McCormack, when confronted with hard evidence that a priest was lying, considered him to be "in denial."
"Generally, he just couldn't deal with it and didn't seem to recognize the wrongfulness of it," he said.
When a victim accused a priest of abuse, McCormack typically would put the priest on leave and send him to a psychiatric institution for treatment and evaluation, the report said.
Once priests returned from treatment, McCormack put them in "restricted" ministries after getting approval from a review board and Law, the report said.
But the archdiocese lacked means to keep these priests from coming into contact with children. Although monitors were assigned to them, they were not in daily contact with abusive priests, the report found.
During McCormack's tenure, the archdiocese looked for property to create a structured community to house abusive priests.
"There was a lot of talk about it, but there wasn't much that was done," Reilly said.
Reilly cited the cases of the Revs. Paul Mahan, Robert Gale, John Geoghan and Paul Shanley as examples of those McCormack inadequately handled.
"In each of these cases, Bishop McCormack was aware that the priest had abused children and yet he failed to take steps to restrict their ministries or put them under adequate supervision to prevent them from engaging in further abuse of children," Reilly said. Ignored call for change
He also faulted McCormack for not heeding Sister Catherine Mulkerrin's repeated urgings to use parish bulletins to alert parishioners that a current or former priest may have abused a child.
Mulkerrin, whom Reilly called "a strong and lonely advocate for change," worked under McCormack in the delegate's office.
"She pointedly warned Bishop McCormack and the delegate's staff about the lack of supervision of Father John Geoghan and Father Robert Gale," Reilly said.
Mulkerrin was particularly troubled to see Geoghan wearing clerical attire at a Christmas party and at a meeting.
"She said as much to Bishop McCormack. Neither Geoghan nor Gale was more closely supervised after she complained and both priests went on to abuse other children," Reilly wrote.
McCormack was part of an institutionalized "culture of secrecy" in which former senior church managers failed "to make a commitment to protect children," Reilly said. He faulted all of them for not notifying law enforcement authorities of child sexual abuse allegations.
"This is the greatest tragedy to befall children ever in the Commonwealth in terms of sexual abuse . . . It is enormous," he said.
Reilly said the church and "everyone who has been involved with this should re-examine" how this has happened.
"I believe every person in a position of authority and responsibility that was any part of the secrecy and in what has occurred in the Archdiocese of Boston should not be in a position of responsibility in the church," Reilly said.
"It certainly is beyond my power to do anything about that. The church will have to face up to that in terms of keeping people in positions of responsibility who didn't do all that they could to protect children," he added. First written policy McCormack, in a written statement, said he worked to improve the way sexual abuse complaints were handled in the archdiocese after he joined the cardinals' cabinet.
"My efforts culminated in 1993 with the implementation of the first comprehensive written policy regarding the handling of complaints and the creation of a Review Board of experts fro the public," he wrote.
During the last five years, McCormack said he instituted new measures to further ensure the protection of young people and children and to better respond to abuse complaints in the Manchester diocese.
"I have sought to do so in collaboration with the laity, religious and clergy of our diocese as well as with law enforcement and child welfare experts," he said.
The Massachusetts Legislature only last year passed a law requiring priests to be mandatory reporters of child sexual abuse.
Reilly said former top church leaders took advantage of the loophole.
"They knew exactly what they were doing every step of the way. These were deliberate, intentional choices. And the choice was pretty clear. It was between protecting children and protecting the church and the reputation of the church and the clergy who abused children. They made the wrong choice," he said. Other leaders blasted
Other top church officials responsible for handling clergy sexual abuse of children during that time included Bishop Thomas V. Daily of Brooklyn, N.Y., Bishop Robert J. Banks of Green Bay, Wis., Bishop Alfred C. Hughes of New Orleans and Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y.
McCormack worked under the supervision of Banks, Hughes and Murphy when they served as vicars for administration, the second-in-command posts to Law, Reilly said.
Reilly had harsh criticism for Daily, Banks and Hughes. Daily and Banks not only failed to investigate child sexual abuse allegations, but also to order such investigations be done, the report found.
Daily and Banks also preferred to keep abusive priests in pastoral ministry. Daily would transfer priests to new parishes.
Reilly also said Banks and Daily withheld information from law enforcement authorities investigating priests for sexual abuse.
Reilly said he cannot bring criminal charges against former Boston church leaders because the state had weak child protection laws.
The Manchester diocese became the first in the country to admit its failure to protect minors from abusive priests could have resulted in a criminal conviction under the state's child endangerment law.
The admission was part of an agreement the New Hampshire attorney general struck last December under threat of criminal indictments. New Hampshire has broad and long-standing child protection laws.
The agreement instituted public oversight and input into how the diocese handles child sexual abuse complaints.
Yesterday's Page One lead headline described Bishop John McCormack as being "in denial" over lying priests. In the Massachusetts attorney general's report on the Catholic Church scandal, the bishop of Manchester was said to have believed that priests who falsely denied sexual involvement with children were "in denial". The report did not specifically say that McCormack was "in denial" himself.
NH Catholic Group Calls for 'Career Consequences' for Bishop
By Katharine McQuaid with contributions by Associated Press
"The one theme through this whole scandal has been the lack of bishop accountability and the gnawing sense that they've gotten away with it," said Carolyn Disco, a member of New Hampshire Voice of the Faithful, formed as a result of the clergy sexual abuse crisis.
Disco, in charge of survivor support for New Hampshire Voice of the Faithful, joined the group's Massachusetts contingent in Boston yesterday as Bay State Attorney General Tom Reilly released the results of his 16-month investigation of sexual abuse by priests in the Boston Archdiocese.
In his report, Reilly outlined the full extent of the scandal, including the role of McCormack, who once worked under resigned Boston Cardinal Bernard Law.
"I felt today reinforced what we already knew about John McCormack," Disco said.
But, Reilly concluded that state laws in place when the abuse happened over the past six decades didn't allow indictments to be issued against church leaders who failed to stop the abuse.
Still, Disco and others are calling for McCormack, and New Hampshire Auxiliary Bishop Francis Christian, to step down.
"If there are not legal consequences, at least let there be career consequences," said Disco, a Merrimack resident.
Another group she helped found -- New Hampshire Catholics for Moral Leadership -- will present a 1,000 signature petition today that calls for McCormack's and Christian's resignations.
Sharon Shepela, the New England co-coordinator for the Catholic group Call to Action, said Reilly's hands were tied by the laws available to him.
"The people of Massachusetts and their own legislators bear some of the responsibility for not having the necessary laws on the books," she said.
Those laws were available to New Hampshire authorities when they investigated the Catholic Diocese of Manchester's handling of sexually abusive priests.
McCormack was never indicted, but under an agreement with the attorney general the diocese released its files documenting alleged abuse by priests and what the church did about it.
Rose Marie Lanier of Concord said that's the next best thing to holding the church leaders criminally accountable.
"The best you can do in many ways, on the criminal end, for people who allowed these things to happen is put the record out there and expose that," said Lanier, a founding member of Voice of the Faithful in New Hampshire.
Attorney Peter Hutchins who represents 110 victims of clergy abuse in New Hampshire said he won't pass judgment on what McCormack did when he served the Boston Archdiocese.
He said he commends the way the Manchester bishop handled the crisis in the Granite State by admitting his mistakes and working with the victims instead of blaming them.
"Does that justify what occurred? No, but I think that was certainly at least an effort to recognize mistakes that were make," Hutchins said.
"What he has done in New Hampshire with regard to resolving the cases and trying to take care of the victims here is really quite revolutionary," he said.
Hutchins said he's always primarily placed the blame for the Boston problem with Cardinal Law because the Archdiocese is not a democracy.
"What he says goes, period," he said.
By Albert McKeon
The top criminal prosecutor in Massachusetts faulted past Archdiocese of Boston leaders for allowing scores of priests to sexually abuse as many as 1,000 children over six decades.
Despite Attorney General Tom Reilly’s conclusion – released Wednesday in a 76-page report – his office will not prosecute former archdiocesan officials, including Cardinal Bernard Law and John McCormack, the current bishop of the Diocese of Manchester.
Massachusetts child-protection laws did not encompass the actions of priests until last year, so prosecutors have no basis to charge the archdiocese or church leaders, the report said.
Archdiocesan leaders will thus face no penalty for failing to report suspected clergy abuse to authorities, as the report indicates, and for keeping silent about the full extent of the crisis. They also inadequately supervised abusive priests and transferred them to other parishes, the report said.
“The mistreatment of children was so massive and so prolonged that it borders on the unbelievable,” Reilly said. “This report will confirm to all who may read it, now and in the future, that this tragedy was real.”
Church leaders adhered to a “tragically misguided” priority of supporting offending priests over children, the report said. This analysis – protecting the image of the church rather than the safety of children – mirrors the one given by the New Hampshire attorney general’s office in its investigation last year of the Manchester diocese.
But the number of alleged victims and the scope of the Boston archdiocesan scandal far outweighs that seen in the Manchester diocese. In fact, Reilly’s victim estimate greatly surpasses those given by attorneys who have sued the Boston archdiocese.
Reilly’s office found that Boston church leaders had an “institutional reluctance” to address a clergy sexual abuse scandal that saw 237 priests and other archdiocesan workers molest at least 789 children since 1940.
Archdiocesan records disclosed the figure of 789 victims, but after considering the amount of people who have claimed abuse, the scandal’s toll likely exceeds 1,000, the report said.
Reilly’s office did not discover any evidence of recent or ongoing sexual abuse by clergy or archdiocesan workers. But given the archdiocese’s inadequate response over the past 18 months, it is too soon to conclude that abuse has stopped or could not reoccur in the future, the report said.
The attorney general’s investigation lasted 16 months, and included criminal grand jury proceedings and a review of archdiocesan documents. Prosecutors studied the actions of top church leaders, including Law, who resigned as leader of the archdiocese last December, and his former aide, McCormack.
Law resigned under the weight of the scandal. His successor, Bishop Sean O’Malley, will be installed as archbishop of Boston next week.
Law knew about the archdiocese’s problem with abuse before he became its leader in 1984, and he and his aides remained actively informed of allegations against priests, the report said.
He “bears ultimate responsibility for the tragic treatment of children that occurred during his tenure. But by no means does he bear sole responsibility,” the report said.
With rare exceptions, none of Law’s senior managers advised him of steps that might have ended the systemic abuse of children, the report said. Instead, they all preserved a culture of acceptance of child abuse, the report said.
Focus on McCormack
McCormack held various jobs under Law before becoming leader of the Manchester diocese in 1998. Reilly’s investigation found that while McCormack enhanced the archdiocese’s handling of abuse allegations in some respects – particularly in forming a written policy and a review board – he was still “deficient” in other respects.
According to the investigation:
- McCormack was opposed to finding that accused priests had lied about their sexual misconduct with children. Even when confronted with evidence that a priest had falsely denied his conduct, McCormack would find the priest was in denial rather than lying.
To illustrate this charge, the report included McCormack’s written response to a father who claimed the Rev. Joseph Birmingham had abused his son. McCormack, a seminary classmate of Birmingham, had knowledge of the priest’s past, but he wrote the father that he believed Birmingham had spoken the truth in denying the allegation.
McCormack insisted all information received from victims remain in confidence and not subject to parish disclosure, even though he had no training in this field and had not received permission from the victims. He rejected his assistant’s opinion that release of information would support victims and encourage others to come forward.
But the report states that McCormack’s “single greatest failing” was his inability to establish means for controlling priests diagnosed with pedophilia – sexual activity involving prepubescent children – and ephebophilia, sexual activity with adolescents.
After those priests returned from psychiatric treatment, McCormack put them into what the archdiocese considered restricted ministries, but the archdiocese lacked the means to prevent those priests from coming into contact with children, the report said.
“Significantly, even after Bishop McCormack realized that the Archdiocese was unable to adequately control priests who were diagnosed as pedophiles or ephebophiles, he failed to turn to public authorities for advice or assistance in handling these matters.
“Indeed, Bishop McCormack insisted on handling such cases as internal matters even though he knew of the availability of outside resources that could help him,” the report said.
McCormack, for instance, knew that priests such as Robert Gale, John Geoghan and Paul Shanley had abused children, yet he did not restrict their ministries or put them under adequate supervision, the report said. Gale has since been indicted on charges of raping a boy, Geoghan was convicted for the same crime and Shanley awaits a trial on charges that he raped four boys.
McCormack, in a statement released by his attorney Wednesday, did not directly address the report, but commented on his tenure in Boston and Manchester. In Boston, as he dealt with an increasing number of abuse allegations, he worked to improve the way the archdiocese handled complaints, McCormack wrote.
“My ministry during the last five years as the Bishop of Manchester has enabled me to implement important new steps to ensure the protection of children and young people and to respond more effectively to people who make complaints of child sexual abuse in New Hampshire,” he wrote.
Many observers of the church in New Hampshire have credited McCormack for improving the Manchester diocese’s handling of abuse complaints. His diocese has settled civil suits with victims faster than other dioceses have, and he signed, on behalf of the diocese, a criminal plea deal with prosecutors giving them oversight of church abuse procedures for the next five years.
The Massachusetts attorney general’s investigation examined the actions of Law; McCormack; Bishop Thomas Daily, now a bishop in New York City; Bishop Robert Banks, now leader of the Green Bay, Wis., diocese; Bishop Alfred Hughes, now leader of the Baton Rouge, La., diocese; and Bishop William Francis Murphy, now leader of the Rockville Centre, N.Y., diocese.
The Boston archdiocese faces more than 500 civil suits from alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse. Church officials have said they want to settle the cases out of court.
Law's Lieutenants Scorned in Report Information Said to Be Concealed from Authorities
By Thomas Farragher
Two months after the Rev. John R. Hanlon was arraigned in 1992 on charges that he raped an altar boy years before at a summer cottage in Scituate, one of Cardinal Bernard F. Law's top lieutenants learned something critical about the case that even police did not know.
And when police appealed directly to Bishop Alfred C. Hughes for help on the case, Hughes withheld the crucial information - about another, more recent sexual allegation against the priest, Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly said in a report released yesterday.
Hughes, then Law's vicar for administration, "became personally aware of another credible, but uncharged allegation of recent sexual abuse against Father Hanlon," Reilly said in the report.
"Moreover, as the case moved through the court system and Father Hanlon vigorously and publicly denied the allegation, Bishop Hughes authorized tens of thousands of dollars in church loans to finance Father Hanlon's defense - a defense which fueled widespread, and ultimately misplaced, public support for Father Hanlon," the report states.
Hanlon's second accuser ultimately contacted authorities. But the information came too late to be used in the priest's first trial in 1993, which ended in a mistrial with a deadlocked jury. In a retrial five months later, at which the second victim testified, Hanlon, the former pastor of St. Paul's Church in Hingham, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
While Reilly reserved particular scorn for Law's role in the mushrooming scandal that forced the cardinal's resignation late last year, his report was nearly as tough yesterday on Law's top lieutenants, prelates who now preside at other US dioceses of their own.
The bishops, while under no legal obligation to report clergy sexual abuse, withheld or minimized or hedged critical information they had about priests' assaults on children even after police and prosecutors made direct appeals to them for help, Reilly said.
"Top archdiocesan officials, in response to reports of sexual abuse of children and aware of the magnitude of the sexual abuse problem, decided that they should conceal - from the parishes, the laity, law enforcement, and the public - their knowledge of individual complaints of abuse and the long history of such complaints within the archdiocese," Reilly said.
Hughes, now archbishop of New Orleans, declined to comment yesterday through his spokesman, the Rev. William F. Maestri. He said Hughes and his staff were still reviewing Reilly's report.
Hughes, Bishop Thomas V. Daily of Brooklyn, N.Y., Bishop John B. McCormack of Manchester, N.H., Bishop Robert J. Banks of Green Bay, Wis., and Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., were subpoenaed before a Massachusetts grand jury late last year.
In his report on the investigation released yesterday, Reilly said the system of secrecy that Law abided was chiefly carried out by his subordinates who remained silent even in the face of pointed questions by investigators trying to determine the extent of the sexual abuse.
"With rare exception, none of the cardinal's senior managers advised him to take any of the steps that might have ended the systemic abuse of children," Reilly asserted in his report.
For example, when authorities opened a criminal investigation in February 1989 into allegations of sexual abuse by the Rev. John J. Geoghan, two therapists told them that they had reported the abuse to Banks. When investigators went to Banks in June 1989, he told them that Geoghan was headed for a six-month treatment program that summer.
But the bishop "did not disclose that he was aware of prior sexual abuse complaints against Father Geoghan, that Geoghan previously had admitted sexually abusing children, and that Geoghan already had received a damning psychiatric evaluation," the report states.
Banks was also involved in the 1985 transfer of the Rev. Eugene M. O'Sullivan to the Metuchen, N.J., diocese after his guilty plea to a rape charge in Middlesex County. Reilly's report says Banks met with Middlesex County prosecutors and argued against his incarceration.
"Bishop Banks argued on O'Sullivan's behalf in these instances even though he knew, but failed to disclose, that O'Sullivan had abused other children and that the court was unaware of these other victims," the attorney general's report states.
Banks, in a statement, said "while well-intentioned at the time, I deeply regret that I did not act more decisively in taking out of ministry those who abused our children and young people."
Reilly said Daily "had a clear preference for keeping priests who sexually abused children in pastoral ministry," transferring offenders from parish to parish."
He criticized Murphy for helping to place the Rev. C. Melvin Surette in a job in the chancery office that supervised sexual offenders. "The archdiocese documents relating to [Surette's] assignment do not show any consideration of the propriety of having a man accused of sexually abusing children significantly involved in finding suitable job placements for other alleged abusers," the report states.
And while he credited McCormack with instituting a new system in 1993 to try to monitor the restricted ministries of abusive priests, Reilly said McCormack blocked a subordinate's suggestion that the abusive priest's history be shared with parishes where they had served.
"There seems to be an inability on the part of Bishop McCormack to appreciate these people for what they are . . . and an inability to realize that these are criminal acts," Reilly told reporters. "One of the most glaring defects was the failure to properly supervise people that he and church officials knew were dangerous and presented a risk to children."
McCormack issued a statement that said he "worked to improve the way complaints were handled by the archdiocese" when he was in Boston. "My desire to help heal everyone affected, and to protect children, continues today," he said.
Frank DeRosa, a spokesman for Daily in Brooklyn, said that when the bishop worked in Boston "he followed procedures that he believed were appropriate."
In Rockville Centre, Murphy's office also issued a statement that said he testified before the Massachusetts grand jury "and answered all questions honestly and to the best of his ability. . . . [He] is determined that issues raised in the Massachusetts grand jury report never be repeated under his jurisdiction."
Reilly, questioned after his press conference yesterday, stopped short of asking for the bishops' resignation.
"I think that every church official that was involved with what has happened here should certainly reexamine the way that they have conducted themselves," he said.
Yes, Somebody Behaved Responsibly in Boston
By Joe Feuerherd
No one will go to jail as a result of Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Reilly's 16-month investigation into the workings of the Boston archdiocese, though it's hard to imagine a more scathing report than the one released yesterday.
"The mistreatment of children was so massive and so prolonged that it borders on the unbelievable," said Reilly.
Boston church officials "chose to protect the image and reputation of their institution rather than the safety and well-being of children," according to Reilly's 76-page report.
That stings -- even for those of us, 19 months into the current scandal, approaching numbness.
Three cardinals (Richard Cushing, Humberto Medeiros, Bernard Law), auxiliary bishops (including Thomas Daily, William Murphy, John McCormack, Robert Banks, Alfred Hughes) and priests assigned to administrative duties in the chancery engaged in a sustained pattern of gross mismanagement. How many of the 1,000-plus victims would not be victims today absent the sins of omission and commission committed by these prelates and clerics? Nobody knows.
In any other institution (government, business, non-profit) these men would be shown the door. Enron was a catastrophe, but Ken Lay is now unemployed; Howell Raines no longer edits the New York Times. It's called accountability.
Did anyone do anything right in the Boston archdiocese?
Sister of St. Joseph Catherine Mulkerrin "was a strong and lonely advocate for change during her tenure" in the office responsible for dealing with priestly predators, says Reilly's report. She told McCormack, her supervisor at the time, that Fathers John Geoghan and Robert Gale were a continuing threat to children. "Neither Geoghan nor Gale was more closely supervised after she complained, and both priests went on to abuse other children."
In addition, McCormack rejected Mulkerrin's suggestion "to use parish bulletins to … alert parishioners whenever the archdiocese determined that a present or former priest of the parish" may have abused a child.
As priests were surreptitiously shuffled about, Mulkerrin recalled in an April 2003 deposition, she asked McCormack: "What are we thinking of? What are you thinking of?"
She left the job after just two years. "Spiritually, psychologically and physically I could no longer do it."
Cushing and Medeiros are dead. The auxiliaries all got promotions. McCormack is bishop of Manchester, N.H.; Daily leads the Brooklyn diocese, neighbor to Long Island's Rockville Centre diocese, headed by Murphy. Banks is bishop of Green Bay, Wis., Hughes the Archbishop of New Orleans.
Law lives on the grounds of a convent in Maryland and last month attended the semi-annual meeting of the U.S. Bishops Conference in St. Louis.
Mulkerrin, a nun of nearly 50 years, former president of her 1,300-member order, holder of two advanced degrees, "lives in Massachusetts and leads spiritual retreats for parish groups," according to the Concord Monitor.
Next week, Sean O'Malley becomes the Archbishop of Boston. Maybe he should look her up.
McCormack Defends His Role in Written Statement
By Katharine McQuaid
Catholic Bishop John B. McCormack distributed a statement through the state's Catholic parishes this week responding to the Massachusetts Attorney General's recent report on widespread child sexual abuse in the Boston Archdiocese, including McCormack's former role as auxiliary bishop there.
Catholic Diocese of Manchester spokesman Patrick McGee said it was the same statement released by McCormack's Boston attorney and distributed to media last week. Not all of it was printed in the newspapers.
"He felt it was right the people should have the opportunity to see what he said in its entirety," McGee said.
In Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly's report, released last Wednesday, he credited McCormack with instituting some positive changes in the Boston archdiocese's handling of sexually abusive priests. But the report said, overall, McCormack's handling of such allegations against priests was deficient in several areas.
McGee said McCormack sent a copy of the statement to all the churches in the diocese and asked that it be made available to parishioners. He said Manchester's St. Catherine Church distributed the statement with the weekly bulletin, but he did not know how many other churches complied with the request.
In his statement, McCormack said as he, "learned more and dealt with an increasing number of accusations, I worked to improve the way such complaints were handled by the Archdiocese.
"My efforts culminated in 1993 with the implementation of the first comprehensive written policy regarding the handling of complaints and the creation of a Review Board of experts from the public. My desire to help heal everyone affected and to protect children continues today as the diocesan Bishop of Manchester."
In a press release from the lay group New Hampshire Catholics for Moral Leadership, founding member Carolyn Disco called McCormack's statement, "a classic example of half-truths that ignore the record of the bishop as a person intimately involved in sexual abuse investigations from 1984 to 1994, with particular authority the last two years."
The group has gathered more than 1,100 signatures seeking for the resignations of McCormack and New Hampshire Auxiliary Bishop Francis Christian.
National Catholic Magazine Calls for Banks' Resignation
By Jean Peerenboom
The editorial chastised the auxiliary bishops for "shuffling known predators to child-rich environments, demonstrating undue respect for the rights of molesters over the kids they abused, failing to inform parishes of the predators in their midst, transferring abusers out of Boston and accepting non-Boston abusive priests into the archdiocese.
Banks did not specifically address the request for his resignation but issued a statement Monday saying, "The way church leaders, including myself, handled abusive priests has changed. I want to assure people that in the diocese of Green Bay we have taken steps since the early 1980s to address child sexual abuse. And, in the last year, we have taken additional measures to strengthen existing policies, which is evident in our compliance with the policies set forth by the U.S. Bishops in 2002,"
Paul Wadell, a religious studies professor at St. Norbert College in De Pere, said the resignations of the five bishops -- if they came to be -- would "symbolically say a lot about the leadership of the Catholic Church recognizing the serious impact this has had on the church."
"It would send the signal that significant changes will come and that they realize the depth of the problem and moral implications," he said. "It would signal a clear acceptance of responsibility."
The National Catholic Reporter editorial appears in this week's edition of the newsweekly and is posted online at NCROnline.org. It is in response to the release of the Massachusetts attorney general's 76-page report on the archdiocese's handling of the priests' sex abuse cases there.
The report "places the blame for the crisis in the Boston church squarely where it belongs: with the former archbishop of Boston, Cardinal (Bernard) Law, his predecessors and the auxiliary bishops responsible for day-to-day management of the archdiocese."
Banks submitted his request to resign on Feb. 26 when he turned 75 and is awaiting acceptance by the Vatican. Church law requires bishops to send a retirement request on their 75th birthday.
Banks has been bishop in Green Bay since 1990. Before that, he was deputy bishop in the Archdiocese of Boston. He has returned to Boston several times since last summer to give depositions in the investigation. Law resigned in December.
In the past, Banks has publicly admitted his involvement in reassigning some of the priests but said it was a well-intentioned mistake that he is sorry for.
The National Catholic Reporter's editorial chastised the five auxiliary bishops saying, "Somehow, it never occurred to these men that child rape is a crime that should be reported to the police whether or not members of the clergy were 'mandatory reporters' under the law. That loophole became a noose for the 1,000-plus children abused by Boston priests.
"Any other institution in this society -- government, business, nonprofit -- would rightly show these men the door ..."
Gerald Mattern, a De Pere Catholic and subscriber to the National Catholic Reporter, was critical of the bishops' actions but stopped short of calling for their resignations. "I think they should have been more honest about (the sex abuse) and they haven't taken the proper blame."
He said the bishops have shown more interest in protecting their power. "I don't think this will change until they begin sharing power with lay people," Mattern said.
"The report from Boston was staggering for some people," Wadell said. "It shows how far back this went and how it was kept secret."
The other four former Boston bishops are John McCormack, Manchester,
N.H.; Thomas Daily, Brooklyn, N.Y.; William Murphy, Rockville Centre,
N.Y.; and Archbishop Alfred Hughes, New Orleans.
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