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  Survivors Pressure McCormack; Granite State Bishop Clings to Job

By Tom Mashberg and Franci Richardson
Boston Herald
December 21, 2002

As a first step in calling for New Hampshire Bishop John B. McCormack's resignation, several men sexually abused by his now-deceased roommate yesterday received promise of a meeting with the diocesan head to quiz him about what he knew.

"I just feel that he had knowledge of what was happening, and yet he did not do anything to stop it," said Jamie Hogan, 47, a member of the Survivors of Joseph Birmingham, after he and a dozen other men gathered at a press conference in Manchester, N.H., yesterday.

"Personally, I don't think he deserves to be a bishop in any state. I don't think he can be an effective leader where trust is the most important thing," said Hogan.

Survivors at the press conference were among 53 suing officials at the Archdiocese of Boston, claiming Birmingham, who died in 1989, molested them while he served at parishes in Sudbury, Salem, Lowell and Gloucester.

McCormack, a top aide from 1984 to 1994 to Bernard Cardinal Law, who resigned last week, has denied knowledge of Birmingham's alleged serial attacks despite bunking with him while the two were placed at Salem's St. James in the 1960s.

McCormack also denied Hogan's assertion that he saw Birmingham frequently take him into his bedroom.

"I can tell you as God is my witness, Bishop McCormack knew in the 1960s what was going on with Father Birmingham and all of us," said Hogan. "I saw him with my own eyes as he looked at us."

Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly has subpoenaed McCormack, six other bishops and a nun before a grand jury, hoping to uncover a church culture of secrecy that allowed sexual perpetrators to thrive.

McCormack, however, has refused to follow in Law's footsteps.

"The bishop has been very clear in the last few weeks that his intention is to stay here in Manchester," said spokesman Patrick McGee. "It's his goal to work as hard as he can to be a shepherd to the people here . . . especially to protect the children."

But among the documents released yesterday linking McCormack and Birmingham is a March 1987 report from the Institute of Living, a Hartford treatment center for sexual abusers.

Written to McCormack, the letter makes clear that Birmingham admitted to molesting young men and expressed "great shame and remorse." The three-page letter adds: "It would be unwise to say with 100 percent certainty that it (abuse) will not happen again."

But McCormack intervened with Law to get a new post for Birmingham as parochial vicar of St. Brigid's in Lexington.

The files next include an April 1987 letter to McCormack from a North Shore parishioner asking if Birmingham was in fact dismissed from a previous posting in Gloucester amid abuse allegations.

Despite knowing to the contrary, McCormack wrote back: "I contacted Father Birmingham. . . . He assured me there is absolutely no factual basis for your concern. . . . From my knowledge of Father Birmingham . . . I believe he is speaking the truth in this matter."

In a 1995 document, a Birmingham accuser who settled with the archdiocese for $ 60,000 says McCormack was present on multiple occasions when Birmingham took boys up to his room at St. James Church.

Other files released yesterday:

** In the mid-1990s, several abuse charges arose against the Rev. John K. Connell, including allegations he slept with a 13-year-old boy while visiting with the boy's family on Cape Cod in the 1970s.

Connell was yanked from his post as chaplain of St. John's Prep School in Danvers, and the case was settled for $ 45,000. Connell was barred from ministry with children, but when St. John's officials called to find out why Connell was leaving, they received a letter stating his departure was part of routine clergy transfers.

** Files on the Rev. Edward T. Kelley show a cleric with a known history of sexually aberrant behavior dating to the late 1960s who was nonetheless assigned to parishes in Lynn, Brighton and Medford until "unassigned" in 1993.

The Herald reported in October that Bishop Thomas V. Daily, now of Brooklyn, intervened while a bishop in Boston in 1977 with Nahant police after Kelley was spotted with a teenager in his car.

Kelley's file includes the police report from that Aug. 4, 1977, arrest. In it, the two arresting officers wrote: "We observed a person jump from the seat of the car. This individual had his pants and underwear wrapped around his ankles." The report also indicated that Kelley had his pants off.

The file shows that after Daily visited Nahant police, the matter was dropped. But Kelley remained in ministry.

** The Rev. Raymond C. Plourde admitted in 1993 to sexually abusing a boy who was 12 about eight times over two years while he was pastor at St. Joseph's in Salem in 1976.

The victim settled with the priest for $ 38,000, but then wrote to Law of the psychological damages he suffered.

In February 1993, the review board recommended he be removed from the parish, but noted he "should also be commended for his efforts to control his problems."

** The Rev. David Murphy, now 72, was the object of three sexual abuse claims while he was pastor at Sts. Peter and Paul of South Boston.

 
 

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