Protesters: Audit of Church Must Proceed
Catholics Say Bishop Is Stonewalling

By Anne Saunders
The Associated Press, carried in The Concord Moniter
June 7, 2004

MANCHESTER - Comparing Manchester Bishop John McCormack to an alcoholic in denial and a child making excuses, protesters renewed their call for his removal yesterday.

Among other things, they say McCormack and his deputy bishop, the Rev. Francis Christian, are stonewalling over an audit required under a settlement between the Roman Catholic diocese and the state.

"The audit needs to happen,"said Ann Hagan Webb, who organized the rally in front of St. Joseph's Cathedral. "They made an agreement to get out of indictments."

The deal calls for the state attorney general's office to audit the diocese annually for five years and report how the church has responded to allegations of sexual abuse.

The diocese last month asked a judge to force the state to perform the audit. But Attorney General Peter Heed said the church is causing the problem. At issue is how the audit will be conducted and who will pay for the roughly $200,000 annual cost.

"Two hundred thousand dollars is very little money in the scheme of things for a large diocese. And we're talking about the safety of children," Hagan Webb said.

Heed recently criticized Christian, saying comments he made demonstrate a failure by church leaders to take responsibility. Many of the 75 people attending the rally agreed.

Carolyn Disco described the attitude of Manchester's church leaders as "Forgive me Father for sin has occurred." Others said abusive priests continue to be sheltered by the church. "It's still happening. They're saying children don't count," Hagan Webb said.

Many attending the rally said they'd been abused by priests as children or had family members who'd been sexually abused by priests.

"Stop stonewalling over the terms of the audit," Disco said. "You don't tell the IRS, 'Well, I'll show you this and this and this.'The church is trying to limit who they can talk to."

Phil Cogswell of Concord, Mass., said he was heartened to hear the New Hampshire attorney general say the diocese was not living up to its end of the deal. "They should throw this guy in jail," he said of McCormack.

McCormack, a former top aide to Cardinal Bernard Law when the cardinal was archbishop of Boston, has faced numerous accusations of failing to report abuse claims and helping to cover up molestation cases. McCormack has acknowledged making mistakes, including being too optimistic that molesters could be rehabilitated. As bishop of New Hampshire since 1998, he has instituted aggressive policies to protect children.

Christian has been accused of misleading civil authorities and victims about abusive priests. He has said he never knowingly misrepresented the facts and tried to deal honestly with priests and victims.


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