Protesters Demand Bishop McCormack’s Resignation

By Kate McCann
Foster's Daily Democrat [Manchester NH]
Downloaded September 22, 2003

MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — More than 100 protesters marching outside St. Joseph’s Cathedral on Sunday called on their fellow Roman Catholics to oust two New Hampshire bishops for their roles in the priest sex scandal.

Victims of pedophile priests and groups seeking change within the church rallied outside Bishop John McCormack’s parish church for two hours before and during the 10:30 a.m. Mass.

Jim Sacco, 48, of Amherst, who received a cash settlement from the church for his abuse claims against convicted former priest John Geoghan, called clergy sexual abuse "domestic terrorism against children." Geoghan was killed by another inmate in a Massachusetts prison last month.

"I am a victim of John Geoghan. I am also a victim of his supervisors, the bishops and cardinals, the Vatican, and every man and woman who conspired to cover up sexual abuse against children," Sacco said.

McCormack has been accused in civil lawsuits of helping move abusive priests from parish to parish while serving as a top aide to Cardinal Bernard Law in the Archdiocese of Boston. Law stepped down last December, after similar protests.

Auxiliary Bishop Francis Christian has been accused of knowingly lying about previous sexual misconduct by the Rev. Roger Fortier to New Hampshire corrections officials conducting a presentencing investigation after Fortier was convicted.

While the groups have held protests outside St. Joseph’s before, this was the largest to date, drawing victims from as far away as Kentucky and Colorado.

The protesters have said they will continue their efforts until McCormack and Christian resign. Both bishops have said they have no intention of resigning.

Some who spoke Sunday invoked the words of Jesus, but every speaker conveyed the same message: The church and law enforcement had failed them.

Protesters said that failure is a microcosm of failure at the national level to hold church leaders accountable for clergy abuse.

Now, protesters say only the lay Catholics of New Hampshire can remove the bishops by uniting in larger numbers and coming out to protest every Sunday.

"If McCormack and Christian continue to desecrate this altar six months from now, it’s because you let them," said Rick Webb, of the Speak Truth to Power victim advocacy group.

Organizers said they were heartened by the presence of several nuns, but they were disappointed that no local priests have joined their efforts.

Sister Ellen Mullaley, a former teacher at St. Joseph’s Cathedral, said there are many other clergy members like her who want McCormack gone.

McCormack was out of the state Sunday, but a spokesman for the Diocese of Manchester watched the protest from the nearby church garden.

"Bishop McCormack has worked personally with victims and we have resolved over 200 requests for settlements with victims," Patrick McGee said.

McCormack, who helped settle potential criminal charges against the diocese by admitting the church had harmed children, also has led the diocese in committing tremendous resources to helping victims, McGee said.

"It’s a high priority, if not the highest in the diocese," he said.

Monday is the fifth anniversary of McCormack’s installation as bishop for the diocese, which includes the entire state.

One Colorado man standing on the outskirts of the protest said he became suicidal when the clergy sexual abuse scandal unfolded in Massachusetts 11 years ago with the prosecution of Father James Porter.

The man, who identified himself only as Joe, carried a sign with a black-and-white photo of himself as a smiling sixth-grader in 1952, with the words, "I was first abused Holy Week of 1952. This is how I remember Holy Week ever since."

Joe, who said a priest sodomized him twice a week for three years, believes McCormack’s resignation could help more victims come forward.

"I spent 37 years in total silence, and I don’t want people to go that long," he said.

Parishioners entered and exited the church without confronting the protesters, and several declined comment. But one man said there is a better way to deal with McCormack.

"The first thing they have to do is forgive him. Then they have to start praying the rosary," said Jim McGowan, 60. "He’s a constant reminder that even the high and mighty can fall."

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