Victims, Church Healing

By Rochelle Stewart
Portsmouth Herald [Portsmouth NH]
April 12, 2004

PORTSMOUTH - Carolyn Disco, survivor support chairwoman for New Hampshire Voice of the Faithful, said she finds it difficult attending church.

"Itís very difficult when I walk into my parish and on the wall are large color photos of Bishop John McCormack," she said. "Knowing his record of lies and deceit, I find it hard to walk past it in a place where justice should prevail."

Still, Disco attends church regularly and said she participated in church services during Holy Week and on Easter at her parish in Merrimack.

Disco, along with other Catholics and Christians across the world, celebrated Easter on Sunday.

Despite the Easter celebration, Disco said she is not satisfied with the Catholic Churchís attempts to move on from the recent child-abuse scandal. Disco added that many of the victims she has counseled are also still trying to pick up the pieces.

Disco said she wishes the Catholic Church would do more, particularly, she said, in forcing Bishop McCormack to resign.

McCormack, who heads the Manchester Diocese, has been accused of violating Massachusetts law by failing to report allegations of child abuse when he handled clerical personnel problems for the Boston archdiocese.

The pain persists

Albert LaChance, 57, of New Boston, said the abuse he suffered, both physical and sexual, happened when he was in fifth to eighth grade.

LaChance has settled a lawsuit against the Catholic Church, but he said he still finds it hard to overcome the abuse in his childhood, particularly during Holy Week and Easter.

Because of his pain, LaChance, who said he was once a "very devout Catholic," can no longer attend church.

LaChance said his schism with the Catholic Church began when the Boston Globe published its Spotlight Series revealing the scandal in the Boston Archdiocese.

"Seeing what was unraveling in Massachusetts," he said, "made me realize this didnít happen to just me."

It was at that point, said LaChance, that he had a meltdown.

"When you are a little boy being molested and beaten by someone with a cross, you feel as though you are being hurt by an adult and God," he said. "This is the religious official in your life, and this is what they think of you. You think you must be no good in the sight of God."

LaChance said that because of the abuse, he spent his whole life trying to be "good in the sight of God."

When the news of the abuse cover-ups in Boston broke, LaChance, who had a thriving law practice, shut down his office for a few months while he received therapy.

Since then, LaChance has been unable to step foot inside a Catholic Church; he decided to start his own church instead.

LaChance began the Greenspirit Counseling Association, which he said is a synthesis of Buddhist meditation and Christian sacraments.

LaChance said he feels the Catholic Church isnít doing enough to help the victims, adding that he would like to see McCormack resign.

"The church needs go to confession and admit openly that something happened," he said.

Despite his pain, LaChance has made a full recovery, he said, but he still attends regular therapy sessions.

Moving along

The Rev. Michael Kerper, pastor of St. James Church in Portsmouth, agreed that some parishioners are in favor of McCormackís resignation, but he said people have been able to "look beyond the individual bishop."

"What I have found, is people who are coming to church now are able to distinguish between the leadership of the church and the church itself," he said. "They donít come to church because of a bishop or priest, they come because of the Lord."

Even Disco said she is able to separate her faith from the leadership in the church.

"My faith must be independent of these bishops," she said.

Kerper, who has served at St. James since June, said many of the people he has talked with have been supportive of the church.

"Parishes where priests were removed are where I have found people to be angry," he added. "Very few people (at St. James) have said anything about the issue."

Still, Kerper said he has attempted to address the issue during his homilies and in columns in the church bulletin.

Kerper said he has also seen an increase in donations at St. James.

Although he doesnít have specific numbers, he said the last time he reviewed the budget, he noticed an approximately 5 percent increase in the collection.

Kerper said St. James also collects about $250 a week in donations to the "poor box."

"Our parish has always been active," he said.

And he hasnít seen an increase or decrease in attendance, he added.

According to Diane Quinlan, vice chancellor for the Diocese of Manchester, revenue reports for 2004 at the Manchester diocese are not yet available.

However, a report issued by the diocese on Dec. 13, 2003, shows a 5.2 percent decrease in revenues from June 30, 2002, to June 30, 2003.

The report said the decrease in revenue is a result of changes in the economy and people withholding contributions to parishes as a way to express their anger at the church.

The fight continues

As the Catholic Church continues to pick up the broken pieces, Disco said she plans to fight for justice in the church.

She will also continue to work for the resignation of Bishop McCormack, she said. "The life of faith needs to continue. Itís like a low-grade fever with these bishops in charge."