McCormack Admits Knowing Rev. Cote Paid Teen for Sex
By Kathryn Marchocki
Manchester (NH) Union Leader
December 24, 2002
Manchester Bishop John B. McCormack acknowledged in a deposition taken in the church sex abuse scandal this fall that he knew the Rev. Roland P. Cote paid for sex with a youth during the 1980s.
Cote and the youth met when the teen was hitchhiking and Cote offered him a ride, McCormack said.
"Was it brought to your attention that Father Cote had paid for sex with this adolescent?" Boston lawyer Robert Sherman asked McCormack during an Oct. 1 deposition.
"It was not brought to my attention at the time. I think I learned of this later, probably even last week," McCormack replied.
McCormack said he assigned Cote to St. Patrick Parish in Jaffrey in June without informing parishioners of the priest's past because he did not consider Cote a threat, according to the deposition obtained by The Associated Press. Cote, 57, left St. Patrick's last month after revelations of his five- to six-year relationship with the teenage male in the 1980s plunged the parish into turmoil.
Cote became the target of a criminal investigation in April after the teenager, now about 35, told authorities the priest sexually abused him while he was a minor in the 1980s.
No criminal charges were brought because the youth was at least 16� years old when he first met Cote, county and state prosecutors said. The legal age of consent in New Hampshire is 16.
While prosecutors said they could never determine the youth's exact age at the time, Catholic Diocese of Manchester officials said the man told them he was 18 years old when the affair began.
Under diocesan policy, a cleric with a single, credible allegation of sex with a minor is barred permanently from ministry. The policy considers anyone under 18 a minor.
McCormack was questioned in connection with civil lawsuits brought by alleged sexual abuse victims of the Rev. Paul R. Shanley of Massachusetts.
Under questioning by Sherman, McCormack said it is a more serious offense for a priest to have sex with a parishioner than with someone outside the parish.
"You know, one is an activity where you have a trusted relationship with a parishioner. The other is an activity where you're away from the parish and you're off on your own," McCormack said when discussing Cote's relationship with the youth while he was serving at St. Patrick Church in Newport.
"I'm very concerned about that; he was a young person. But it's quite different from being with a parishioner," he said.
Diocesan spokesman Pat McGee yesterday said McCormack was referring to the diocesan policy against exploitation in which someone in a position of authority in the church, such as a priest or lay employee, "uses his office to influence a sexual relationship."
Cote's relationship with the teenager was a consensual one in which the teenager was unaware, at least initially, that Cote was a priest, McGee said.
In the deposition, McCormack initially said the youth was 17, 18 or 19. "I really don't know the actual age that it was finally concluded he was because that was where the discussion was," McCormack said.
Questioned an hour later whether the youth possibly being 17 meant the relationship violated the diocese's policy, McCormack said, "I don't know all the specifics of the age of minority. You said it was age 16. I'm saying no, I think it's higher than that. So then I said it must be 17 or 18, and I checked to see. It's age 18."
McCormack has until Friday to submit a corrected and certified copy of his deposition, which was taken over five days from June through November.
The deposition has not yet been made public and it was not known whether the version obtained yesterday had been certified by McCormack.
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