Parishioners Mixed on Removal of NH Bishops

By Gary Dennis
Union Leader [New Hampshire]
Downloaded November 10, 2003

A brief sent to the Vatican that calls for removing New Hampshire Bishop John McCormack and Auxiliary Bishop Francis Christian is being met with mixed responses from Catholic parishioners.

There's also a strong call from some Catholics to stop the action and let the church heal.

“I think the church is stronger than this,” said Richard Simoneau as he left a morning service at the St. Pius X Catholic Church in Manchester yesterday. “Just think of the history of the church . . . there have been so many crises. We'll get through this. Let's just move on.”

Others also say Catholic leaders have been scolded enough.

“We don't have a lot of leaders, young leaders, coming into the church as it is,” said Lynda Fellows, another Manchester Catholic. “It's time for these groups to let it go.”

The call for removal, penned in large part by members of New Hampshire Catholics for Moral Leadership, charges that the two high-ranking members of the state's Catholic clergy lost their moral authority during the child sexual-abuse scandal.

According to church law, the document submits, McCormack and Christian are unfit to serve and should be removed.

“It's been sent to the office of the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo,” the U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, said James Farrell, a founding member of the moral leadership group. “And it's been sent to a particular office at the Vatican. Essentially, we sent it to the Pope.”

In the correspondence, the group asks the Vatican “for the good of the church in New Hampshire, to remove these bishops as our pastoral leaders.”

Patrick McGee, spokesman for the Diocese of Manchester, which serves all New Hampshire Catholics, said last night the Vatican will do what it thinks is appropriate.

“Bishop McCormack and Bishop Christian have no plan or intent to resign and Bishop McCormack is moving ahead with many plans in the diocese,” he said.

Arthur Lynch, also met as he left a service at St. Pius X yesterday, said his feelings about the formal call for removal are “touch and go.”

“They ought to be heard,” he said with a shrug.

Beatrice McLaughlin, another St. Pius parishioner, agreed with Lynch.

“If they made the effort to get this paperwork all the way to the Vatican, it's worth hearing what they have to say,” she said.

Farrell said his group didn't go public with what he called the “legal brief.” It was sent out to both the U.S.-stationed Vatican ambassador as well as the Vatican on Oct. 28. Someone leaked the news of it to a news agency, he said.

“We didn't really want to release any information on this until we heard back from the Vatican,” he said.

Karen Lennon, another Catholic parishioner at St. Pius, said the response from the Vatican could be interesting.

“I mean, will they actually move to remove these two bishops?” she said. “I don't think so.”

Farrell said the written call for removal was sent with the obvious hope it would shake things.

“We certainly wouldn't have sent it if we didn't think the church would pay attention to it,” Farrell said. “And we haven't said anything we can't support with substantial evidence. They can't take this lightly.”


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