McCormack Says Others Let Accused Priest Serve

By Kathryn Marchocki
The Union Leader
Downloaded January 24, 2003

Boston, MA - Manchester Bishop John B. McCormack repeatedly said other church officials were responsible for allowing a Boston priest to continue in parish work despite complaints that the priest was sexually abusing children, several alleged victims who heard his testimony said yesterday.

McCormack was questioned under oath in Boston for about five hours by attorneys representing 54 men who say they were sexually abused by the late Rev. Joseph E. Birmingham in four Massachusetts parishes from the 1960s through the 1980s.

" When questioned about things he should have done, he kept referring to Bishop (Robert J.) Banks 'Bishop Banks should have done that,'" said Bernie McDaid of Lynn, Mass., one of Birmingham's alleged victims who sat in on the deposition.

Banks, now bishop of Green Bay, Wis., was vicar for administration in the Boston archdiocese while then Rev. McCormack was secretary for ministerial personnel in the 1980s.

McCormack also served at St. James Parish in Salem, Mass., with Birmingham in the 1960s.

" The church could have taken the extra step, especially with the red flag of child sexual abuse," said McDaid, 46, who said Birmingham abused him at St. James.

McCormack acknowledged a St. James parishioner told him around 1970 that Birmingham molested his son and McDaid, McDaid said.

McCormack, who was then working at the nearby Catholic Charities office, reported the allegation to the pastor, but never told McDaid's parents, McDaid said.

McCormack also said he didn't think of child sexual abuse as a crime at that time, said Paul Ciaramitaro of Gloucester, Mass., who also sat in on the deposition.

" He didn't think of it as a crime. He thought of it as a sin," added Ciaramitaro, 31, who claims Birmingham abused him at St. Ann Parish in Gloucester in the 1980s.

Birmingham died in 1989.

McCormack said in a statement afterward that he remains committed to helping alleged abuse victims.

" I know that moment in their lives and that of their families is painful. I cannot heal victims myself, but I am confident that I can help them," McCormack said.

He said participating in the depositions is part of the healing process, adding he hopes it will bring civil suits filed against him and the Boston archdiocese "closer to resolution."

McCormack will meet in Salem, Mass., Tuesday with about 100 of Birmingham's alleged victims, their families and guests, McDaid said.

" The most effective work that I can do with victims, survivors and their families continues to occur in personal and group meetings," McCormack said.

While McCormack was questioned in one conference room in connection with the lawsuit brought against him and the Boston Archdiocese in the Birmingham case, Cardinal Bernard F. Law was deposed in another.

Law, who resigned last month as Boston archbishop, finished his seventh day of testimony in civil suits filed against the Boston archdiocese for its handling of abuse allegations against the Rev. Paul R. Shanley.

McCormack tentatively is scheduled to be deposed again tomorrow in the Birmingham case.


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