NH Resources – Editorials
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Cardinal Law Must Resign:
McCormack Must Speak Now Or Step Aside
It has been documented that Law failed to remove priests accused of sexually abusing children, had those priests reassigned to other parishes where they would be free to molest again, and took extraordinary steps to keep the accusations from becoming public. In addition, evidence unveiled this week shows that Law actively encouraged the placement of an accused sexual predator into a position of authority over minors and refused to defrock that priest even after he repeatedly and publicly expressed his support for sex with children.
Cardinal Law personally and willfully violated the trust of those in his care, not just once but many times over many years. His reason for doing so was to protect the reputation and image of the church. This willingness to sacrifice others to protect himself and the church, this sin of pride, has irreparably damaged untold numbers of children and possibly the institution of the church itself.
And inexplicably, the damage and sinful behavior continue as Law hides behind a phalanx of attorneys to shield himself and the church from public scrutiny. Law is not the only church leader who must stop listening to the lawyers and come clean. Manchester Bishop John McCormack also has been tainted by this ugly scandal and has yet to explain his involvement.
While we certainly want to give the bishop the benefit of the doubt, the doubts already raised were very large, and the documents released Monday make them enormous. We are sure that diocese Catholics and the community want to withhold judgment on him until he tells his side. But the problem is that if his side is delayed by years of legal obfuscation, then the diocese suffers in the meantime. For the good of the church and the Manchester Diocese, until McCormack is able to provide credible rebuttal, he should take an immediate leave of absence from his duties.
Last week’s Sunday News carried the news report of a Jesuit priest and psychiatrist who pronounced himself "stupefied" that former Boston church leaders had failed to provide him with key information about abusive priests he was assigned to evaluate.
The Rev. Dr. Edwin Cassem, former chief of psychiatry at Mass. General Hospital, said he would have recommended jail for one such priest.
"He was a notorious, dangerous pedophile," Rev. Cassem said of his fellow priest. "He was a predator. . . castration was too good for him."
He became infuriated, the news report said of Cassem's deposition, when he learned that church officials had apparently repeatedly ignored his advice in another case.
New Hampshire Catholics need not guess who was chief among these church officials. It was none other than the current Bishop of Manchester, John McCormack.
When we called for McCormack to step down, more than a year ago, we noted that, "the continuing revelations about (Bishop McCormack's) actions -- and inaction -- in the Boston cases have further damaged the bishop and now are causing real harm to the church here in New Hampshire."
That harm continues. Church collections are down. Catholic Charities continues to suffer. The Bishop's Fund summer reception was cancelled last year. Under the circumstances, it would be wise not to resurrect it this year.
Talks are under way in Boston to settle hundreds of civil lawsuits pending against the church there. McCormack and his coterie may be hoping against hope that all this will finally blow over. Surely, there will at some point be an end to the Boston stories and revelations. But that will not end the problem here, where the bishop again demonstrated an incredible lack of understanding for parishioners in his handling of suspect priests.
The problem is a lot deeper than dollars and cents. It is one of faith and trust shattered. It is one of good men, good priests, and the church community struggling with an unfair burden placed upon them. The proper role for this bishop in removing that burden is to ask Rome to have him step aside. Unfortunately, while he may understand this, he appears no closer to taking that step.
We're the lucky ones, really. Hard as that may be to imagine looking at those devastating numbers - 237 abusive priests, perhaps 1,000 victims of sexual abuse at their hands.
But the Archdiocese of Boston is poised for a fresh start. The "under new management" sign already tacked up at Lake Street.
Those most responsible for the devastation of so many young lives, as documented in the report released yesterday by Attorney General Tom Reilly, those who knew and did nothing, and those who knew and became conscious enablers - they've moved on.
Bernard Cardinal Law, virtually driven out of town, spends his semi-retirement as chaplain to cloistered nuns in Maryland. And yet when the time comes he still gets to help choose the next pope - no matter how soiled his reputation.
Law "had direct knowledge of the scope, duration and severity of the crisis experienced by children in the archdiocese," Reilly found. "He participated in crucial decisions concerning the assignment of abusive priests, decisions that typically increased the risk to children."
He'll still be welcome at the Vatican.
But the pernicious bureaucracy that served this archdiocese under Law is now scattered. No longer a problem for the Archdiocese of Boston, this cadre of enablers remain bishops in good standing from Manchester, N.H., to Green Bay, Wisc., to New Orleans.
"I have a hard time seeing how someone can be in a position of responsibility and leadership in the church after making choices that put the reputation of the church and abusive priests ahead of the welfare of children," Reilly said in an interview yesterday when asked if those bishops should follow Law into retirement.
Bishop Thomas Daily, now head of the Brooklyn diocese, "apparently did not believe that a priest who engaged in such [sexual] misconduct was apt to engage in such conduct in the future," the report said. "Accordingly he failed to take any meaningful steps to limit abusive priests' conduct with children in the future."
Bishop Robert Banks, now in Green Bay, appeared in court on behalf of a convicted pedophile, the Rev. Eugene O'Sullivan, arguing successfully that O'Sullivan not be imprisoned "but failed to disclose that O'Sullivan had abused other children."
Bishop Alfred Hughes, last year installed as archbishop in New Orleans, "continued to perpetuate a practice of utmost secrecy and confidentiality with respect to the problem." After the Rev. John Hanlon was charged with child sexual abuse, Hughes knew but never disclosed to law enforcement authorities who questioned him about another credible allegation of abuse.
Bishop William Murphy, now on Long Island, with one exception "did not report to law enforcement any of the numerous allegations of clergy sexual abuse he reviewed."
Bishop John McCormack, now of Manchester, N.H., was blamed for "inadequate handling" of the sexual abuse allegations against Paul Mahan, Paul Shanley, Robert Gale and John Geoghan - the latter two "went on to abuse other children while on restricted ministries."
No, they are no longer Boston's problem. They have moved on, and they moved up in church hierarchy. Tom Reilly can't touch 'em and heaven knows he's tried. But they have committed terrible wrongs and they should be gone.
Rachelle G. Cohen is editor of the editorial pages.
Bishop John McCormack's reputation continues to plummet.
Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly's report on the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal further confirms McCormack's culpability in enabling and prolonging what the attorney general called "the greatest tragedy to befall children ever in the Commonwealth in terms of sexual abuse."
Reilly's report lists how McCormack refused to acknowledge that priests were lying when they denied sexually abusing children, deliberately buried information about abusive priests, and failed to take steps to prevent known sex abusers from harming children in the future.
The picture of McCormack as a man who willingly put children at risk by covering up for people he knew were sex offenders is crystal clear. That he will apparently get away with this deplorable behavior remains one of the most astonishing aspects of the entire scandal.
The Rev. Edward J. Arsenault of the Manchester Diocese says the growing
calls for the resignation of Bishop John McCormack cannot be heeded because
resignation "is just not a tradition of the church."
McCormack's own boss in Boston, Cardinal Law, finally did the right thing when even rank-and-file priests, who feel the pain of this problem more than anyone, demanded he leave.
"Ministry is not a career," Arsenault said last week. "It's a response to a vocation. Accountability is expressed in fidelity."
That is all very noble-sounding. But it rings hollow when stacked against the exhaustive and depressing report of Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Reilly, whose office catalogued years of abuse and the covering up of same within the Boston Archdiocese.
Reilly's view of accountability is more plainly expressed and is certainly shared by millions of Catholics:
"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 authority in the Church."
John McCormack was in just such a position and was a key part of that secrecy.
Last weekend, Bishop McCormack made use of New Hampshire parish bulletins to distribute his written response to the Reilly report. How ironic, considering that among his many failings the report noted that McCormack "wouldn't heed a nun's repeated calls to use parish bulletins to alert parishioners that a current or former priest had abused a child."
Bishops John McCormack, Manchester, N.H.; Thomas Daily, Brooklyn, N.Y.; Robert Banks, Green Bay, Wis.; William Murphy, Rockville Centre, N.Y.; and Archbishop Alfred Hughes, New Orleans, should resign.
Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Reilly’s 76-page report on the Boston archdiocese’s handling of priestly sexual abuse places blame for the crisis in the Boston church squarely where it belongs: with the former archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Law, his predecessors, and the auxiliary bishops responsible for day to day management of the archdiocese.
“The mistreatment of children was so massive and so prolonged that it borders on the unbelievable,” says Reilly’s report. “For decades cardinals, bishops and others in positions of authority within the archdiocese chose to protect the image and reputation of their institution rather than the safety and well-being of children.”
No one will go to jail as a result of Reilly’s 16-month investigation, though his report is scathing. The laws on the books at the time make it impossible to seek indictments, Reilly said.
The aforementioned bishops -- auxiliaries under Law, whose careers benefited from his patronage -- stand accused of stymieing criminal investigations, 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.
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. Enron was a catastrophe, but Ken Lay is now unemployed; Howell Raines no longer edits The New York Times. It’s called accountability.
At their June 2002 meeting in Dallas, and their subsequent Washington gathering in November of that year, the U.S. bishops took a number of positive and necessary steps. A national board to investigate the causes of the crisis was established, programs were put into place to protect children, and procedures were promulgated to remove known abusers from the priesthood.
But incomprehensibly the bishops, both individually and collectively, remain loath to take responsibility for their own managerial and pastoral malpractice. Instead, they maintain to the utter disbelief of Catholics throughout the nation, that blame lies solely with the “small percentage” of priests who abused children. And to the degree culpability goes up the chain of command, they tell us, bishops made mistakes of the heart, attending generously to the needs and hurts of their brother priests.
The attorney general’s report puts the lie to this weak defense: “Any claim by the cardinal or the archdiocese’s senior managers that they did not know about the abuse suffered by, or the continuing threat to, children in the archdiocese is simply not credible.”
To regain credibility, leaders of the church must accept responsibility
for their actions. As the good sisters in grade school taught us: Actions
have consequences. Or at least they should.
Only by taking personal accountability for their egregious failures will the bishops, individually and collectively, begin to restore their lost credibility and become worthy pastoral leaders.
No expression of remorse was evident in the resignation announcement of Bishop Thomas Daily yesterday as leader of the Brooklyn, N.Y., diocese. He resigned after reaching the retirement age of 75, as is the usual church practice.
But he is gone, and that can only be good for a church now facing the challenge of rebuilding trust between its shepherds and its followers.
Daily featured prominently in Attorney General Tom Reilly's recent report on the handling of sexually abusive priests by archdiocesan officials. As vicar for administration under Humberto Cardinal Medeiros, holding the same position for a time under Bernard Cardinal Law, Daily had failed to protect children from abuse, Reilly found.
"Bishop Daily had a clear preference for keeping priests who sexually abused children in pastoral ministry and generally followed a practice of transferring those priests without supervision or notification to new parishes rather than removing them from pastoral ministry," the report noted.
When the Reilly report was first released, a Brooklyn diocesan spokesman said Daily felt he had followed appropriate procedures at the time.
Such excuses apparently continue to provide justification for four other bishops who served under Cardinal Law and are now scattered across the country, to continue in their posts.
They are: Bishop Robert Banks of Green Bay, Wisc.; Bishop Alfred Hughes of New Orleans, Bishop William Murphy on Long Island, and Bishop John McCormack, of Manchester, N.H.
All of these men perpetuated the culture of secrecy surrounding the mushrooming sexual abuse scandal. Reilly's report meticulously documents the general and specific hand each had in allowing priests to prey on children.
If their own consciences don't lead them to resign, then other church and community leaders should force them to.
Bishop John McCormack has mishandled yet another allegation of child sexual abuse by a priest. How many more cases will McCormack have to botch before he is removed from a job for which he clearly is not fit?
When an allegation of sexual misconduct arose against Rev. Paul Gregoire of St. Charles parish in Dover, McCormack overreacted in what looks very much like an attempt to protect his reputation by sacrificing Rev. Gregoire.
Gregoire's accuser has a history of mental problems that includes delusions. After she accused Gregoire of touching her breast while hugging her back in 1971 or 1972, her own mother sent a letter defending Gregoire, as did one of her brothers.
Even after substantial evidence had piled up showing that the accusation lacked credibility, Bishop McCormack, who already had put Gregoire on administrative leave and had pressured him to resign, wrote, "The accusation has been determined to be credible by the Diocesan Review Board after a thorough investigation." He claimed that his decision to remove Gregoire was based on "the safety of our children and the credible accusation by a woman harmed as a child."
But the accusation was never credible, and it was not until June, three months after McCormack wrote the letter from which the above quotes were taken, that the review board completed its investigation. Only after the Vatican fully cleared Gregoire in August did McCormack publicly change his story, and he changed it completely.
McCormack claims that after the investigation concluded in June, he urged the Vatican to reinstate Gregoire. But if that is true, why did the Vatican's letter to Gregoire not mention McCormack's intervention, and why did McCormack wait until late August to publicly support Gregoire?
Why would McCormack have pressured Gregoire to resign while evidence supporting Gregoire was piling up and before the investigation had concluded? McCormack's actions make it difficult to conclude that he was doing anything other than trying to make the issue go away by pushing Gregoire out of the church immediately -- without any concern over whether the accused priest was innocent or guilty.
Once again it appears that McCormack acted to defend his and the church's
reputation instead of the innocent. Fr. Gregoire and his parishioners
deserve commendation for not buckling to McCormack's pressure and for
making sure the true story of this allegation was made public.
Bishop Accountability © 2003