Calls by Laity and Clergy for McCormack's Resignation

[Note: This page gathers several related texts: NH-VOTF's call for Bishop McCormack's and Bishop Christian's resignations, Thomas Doyle's letter on the same topic, NH-VOTF's follow-up letter, and a Declaration by NH Catholics for Moral Leadership. See also McCormack's reply to NH-VOTF's original letter.]

New Hampshire Voice of the Faithful
Call for the Resignations of
Bishop John B. McCormack and Bishop Francis J. Christian

April 6, 2003

Whereas, sexual abuse by some clergy has inflicted immeasurable pain and prolonged suffering on untold numbers of innocent girls, boys, women and men;

Whereas, the Bishop and Auxiliary Bishop of Manchester, NH, have engaged in a pervasive pattern of behavior to conceal and cover up their evil actions;

Whereas, faith-filled Catholics of the Diocese of Manchester are suffering and in a state of spiritual distress;

Whereas, the spiritual suffering has continued unabated since February 15, 2002 with indications of further harmful effect;

Whereas, many faith-filled Catholics in the Diocese of Manchester, NH have lost confidence in the ability of their Bishops to effectively minister to them;

Whereas, the loss of confidence constitutes a crisis of religious and moral leadership in the Diocese of Manchester, NH;

Whereas, the crisis of moral and religious leadership has brought great scandal to the Catholic Church and to the people of the Diocese of Manchester, NH;

Whereas, this great scandal cannot be corrected without the appointment of persons of moral character and pastoral demeanor who inspire confidence among the priests and people of the Diocese of Manchester, NH;

Whereas, the Vatican authorities, who have jurisdiction over these matters, have knowledge of the historic and pandemic sexual abuse problem in the Church;

Whereas, we as laity will pursue with undiminished commitment the exercise of our baptismal right and obligation to participate actively alongside our pastoral and ecclesiastical leadership in the governance and guidance of the Roman Catholic Church;


Motion 1
We call on Bishop John B. McCormack and Bishop Francis J. Christian to resign immediately as bishops of Manchester, NH;

Motion 2
We petition the Holy Father to acknowledge the need for holy, pastoral leadership in the Diocese of Manchester, NH; to acknowledge the urgency of this need; and to appoint, only after meaningful consultation with the Church of New Hampshire, including the laity, the priests and religious, and the hierarchy, suitable persons to the position of bishop and auxiliary bishop; which de facto is functioning in an unacceptable manner;

Motion 3
That VOTF-NH communicate with Bishop Wilton Gregory, President of the USCCB, and request that the bishops, individually and collectively, and in the spirit of their publicly stated commitments, recognize and respond to the moral and pastoral crisis in the Diocese of Manchester, NH.

Letter from Rev. Tom Doyle urging resignations of McCormack and Christian
April 14, 2003

[Doyle’s letter and bio taken from, web site of New Hampshire VOTF]

To all of my friends and fellow Catholics in NH Voice of the Faithful and NH Catholics for Moral Leadership:

I want to offer my support to you in your efforts to urge Bishop John McCormack and Bishop Francis Christian to resign. I do so reluctantly because it saddens me to have been a witness, with all of you, to the erosion of trust in your bishops in New Hampshire. It saddens me because I, like you, have waited for 18 years to see courageous leadership demonstrated by the bishops of our country. Instead we find ourselves calling for the resignations of those who chose to support their careers and their positions rather than step forward to end the nightmare we have endured for so long.

We are all members of the body of Christ. Leadership, we are told in the scriptures, is ordered to service in the community. If these words are to be real, then risky and radical action is often required of the members. The victims and survivors of clergy sexual abuse have risen up and spoken to the entire Catholic community. Many others who are not victims have seen this terrible disaster for what it really is; not a passing annoyance nor an exaggerated creature of the media, but a massive failure of our leadership to respond in a compassionate and caring manner to those whose bodies and souls have been so grievously wounded by the clergy. Together we have demanded accountability, justice and compassion of our bishops. We have not found it.

Risky and radical action is now required of the bishops of New Hampshire. John McCormack and Francis Christian have failed to recognize the victims and survivors as the most important people in our church because these are the ones most in need of our care. Each bishop has a legacy of pain and soul destruction because of their actions in regard to the perpetrators who ravaged so many. The only way they can effectively show the people of God and especially the victims and survivors that they really mean the words of concern that they speak is by resigning. By remaining, they stand as an ever-present symbol of victimization and re-victimization. The victims and survivors demand accountability and they surely deserve the most preferential treatment the church can extend. For too long the clergy and hierarchy have allowed this vicious travesty to unfold in the midst of our church. Now that it has been revealed to all, too many of our brothers and sisters among the clergy and laity remain in denial, unwilling to believe the breadth of the destruction. We must all wake up and accept the reality before us, painful though it may be. This reality demands action, not the hypocrisy of smooth though empty words of apology and regret.

Thomas Doyle, O.P., J.C.D.

[Rev. Thomas P. Doyle is a Dominican priest and major in the US Air Force serving in Iraq. He is a longtime advocate for survivors of sexual abuse and the only priest to testify in court in over 200 cases as to the legal liability of the Church. He holds a doctorate in canon law and five separate master's degrees. He was honored last summer with the first Voice of the Faithful Priest of Integrity award. A fuller explanation of his remarkable career is given in the award presentation statement read last summer at the Voice of the Faithful conference.]

NH Voice of the Faithful's response to Bishop John McCormack's rejection of its call for his resignation and that of Bishop Francis Christian

May 13, 2003

From: New Hampshire Voice of the Faithful
P.O. Box 423
Concord, NH 03302-0423

To: Most Rev. John B. McCormack, D.D.
Diocese of Manchester
153 Ash St.
P.O. Box 310
Manchester, NH 03105-0310

Dear Bishop McCormack:

We received your letter of April 14, 2003 in which you respond to our call for your resignation and that of Bishop Francis Christian. Thank you for acknowledging both our letter sent the prior week, and our distress at your leadership. These are obviously difficult communications on every count.

We admit surprise that you did not know our sentiments before. From the very first meeting of New Hampshire Voice of the Faithful, which you kindly attended, resignation surfaced as an important issue. Subsequent encounters with various members in several venues reiterated the point. Its expression in our vote on April 6 was a natural progression of deliberations over many months. Certainly, the wide dissemination of polls across the State approving resignation signaled a common opinion from which NH-VOTF is not exempt. Major newspapers repeatedly call for your resignation, websites advocate for it, demonstrators continually mark your public appearances, and negative letters to the editor highlight the obvious disarray and distress in our Diocese.


Our action was premised on the need for accountability on your part for the “willful blindness, flagrant indifference and conscious ignorance” of the dangers abusive priests posed to children, as outlined in the Attorney General’s report. These actions endangered children and subjected them to the molestation of their bodies and souls. Victims' tragic issues with alcohol and drug abuse, suicide attempts, inability to hold jobs, failed marriages, numbing depression, and violent rages are just some of the results of what you failed to do - all compounded by your lies to survivors and their families. Please understand how difficult it is to accept that such a record deserves promotion to episcopal seats of honor. We see nothing in your letter that disputes these facts.

You say your report, Restoring Trust, provides a “clear explanation” of when the Diocese “was inadequate in its response in the past.” We respectfully disagree. While referring generally to disturbing and reprehensible behaviors of abusive priests, and describing the Diocese’s actions in the conditional, benign language of public relations, it refuses to answer directly or comment on the specifics in the Attorney General’s report. Your report claims the Diocese offers no excuses and then justifies its behavior by noting, “the Diocese was not alone in its incomplete understanding” of sexual abuse; society was at fault too.

Restoring Trust further says, “the Diocese complied with the child safety laws of New Hampshire in the past.” This is a statement countered by the Attorney General, who says, “The evidence gathered during the investigation reveals instances where the Diocese ‘had reason to suspect,’ if not direct proof, that a child was being abused by a priest, yet, it did not report the conduct to the Department of Health and Human Services.”

How can we take full comfort that, though you and Bishop Christian did not consciously intend to harm anyone, incalculable and repeated harm followed? In our view, your records point emphatically to a primary concern for scandal over the protection of children. That focus was revealed most sharply in your own case when a woman victim died, and your first notation, even years later, was “1. Scandal.”

In an apology last May, you restated you never intended ''a priest be placed in an assignment where he could be in contact with children if he had an allegation of sexual abuse.'' How then to account for your reply to the father of a 13-year old altar boy in contact with Joseph Birmingham, who had been treated for abuse, that “There is absolutely no factual basis to your concern.” Asked about your inadequate reply, you said, “I can’t explain that.” (Globe 1/9/03)

You are also accountable for a lack of pastoral care for your clergy, failing to respond effectively to deeply troubled individuals in need of close supervision and support. Survivors often reserve their greater anger for bishops like yourselves who enabled abusers by their incompetence.

This is painful to write, given the anguished revelations in the documentary record; but it underlines why there is little trust in your or Bishop Christian’s word. He is cited prominently in the Attorney General’s report, including in the context of “perjury, false swearing, or unsworn falsification.”

No concealment or coverup?

Your letter to NH-VOTF continues: “I want you to know that there has been no pervasive pattern of behavior on my part or that of Bishop Christian to conceal or to cover up the actions of sexual abuse by priests.”

By contrast, the Boston Globe reported on 4/8/03: “(Sr. Catherine) Mulkerrin, who worked for McCormack from 1992 to 1994, said she had suggested repeatedly to McCormack that parishes where allegedly abusive priests had served should be notified about the allegations in the church bulletin. She also suggested that Law should visit some of those parishes, perhaps leading Masses of reconciliation.

‘My first thought was adults, young or older, some very elderly, who had kept their secret for years, that they might be freed,’ she said. ‘I met so frequently with adults who hadn't broken their silence for years.’

But neither McCormack nor the archdiocese acted on either suggestion.”

Furthermore, your own deposition when questioned by Attorney Roderick MacLeish, Jr. reads:

“MacLeish: Sister Catherine was telling you in this memorandum, as she had told you before, that in light of everything that was happening with the priests being reported for sexual abuse that there was a need to put something in the various parish bulletins where these priests had been, correct?
McCormack: Yes.
MacLeish: And it was not done, was it?
McCormack: Correct”

The most direct statement on your actions comes from survivor Peter Pollard: “I believe McCormack was and is a major coverup artist…His manner toward me was clearly manipulative. It was clear to me from the first moment there was going to be stone wall there.''

In another report, “McCormack told Pollard he had found nothing to justify removing the priest (George Rosenkranz) from ministry. McCormack said Rosenkranz merely had "sexual issues," adding that what Pollard viewed as abuse - acts that included kissing and Rosenkranz's request that he masturbate in front of him - may simply have been expressions of affection, according to Pollard. "I was stunned," Pollard recalled.” (Globe 1/26/03)

We are confused how even in light of this, you say you attempted to respond appropriately to charges of abuse.

In summary, we stand by and repeat our charge sent to the Holy Father that you and Bishop Christian engaged in a pervasive pattern of behavior to conceal and cover up evil actions.

Why confidentiality?

Your letter to NH-VOTF also states: “The response of the diocese to reports of sexual misconduct of minors in the past often times relied too much upon the confidentiality requested by adults who reported being abused as minors.”

Once again, by contrast, the Attorney General’s report says: “The Task Force obtained information that Diocesan officials may have secured confidentiality agreements from victims of sexual assaults in return for civil settlements and other benefits such as providing counseling to victims. This evidence demonstrates that the Diocese required confidentiality in return for remuneration. In at least one instance, the investigation revealed that one of the reasons for the Diocese’s insistence on a confidentiality agreement was to prevent the victim from speaking with law enforcement about the sexual offenses of the priest.” Moreover, the Attorney General concludes the Diocese “acted purposely” with evidence of “its consciousness of guilt.” Bishop Christian played a key role in many of these settlements.

Relationship with the faithful basically good and effective?

You claim in your letter to us that your relationship with pastors and New Hampshire Catholics is “basically a good and effective one.” We see a different reality. Donations have dropped across the State, beginning last April, often in the 15-20 percent range, even to the point of more than half in one parish decimated by your mismanagement. The reasons for the decline invariably cite the bishops, scandal, and loss of trust as the main factors, with the economy lagging far behind.

The impact on diocesan finances is severe, with the Diocesan Finance Council recommending a cut of $500,000, or 20 percent, out of an annual operating budget of $2.5 million. Stringent financial measures, layoffs as part of a 25 percent workforce reduction, and major program closures mark a budget crisis still being sorted out. Landmark programs in youth ministry and spiritual renewal services are eliminated.

In addition, twenty-two percent of Catholics report attending church less frequently, according to a scientific statewide poll, and informal surveys at various parishes confirm these results. While we know the hierarchy pays little heed to public opinion polls, they still indicate a widespread discontent that mars your and Bishop Christian’s roles as pastors. Many priests are frustrated and perplexed in this unsettled climate. Certainly, the sad requests that neither of you preside at confirmations reflect the spiritual distress we alluded to in our call for your resignations. The current state of affairs is as relevant as past abuses in dislocating our communal life. How can all these be signs of an effective pastoral relationship?

Resignation ineffective solution?

You are quite right when you state that resignation is not a decision you make alone. That is why we wrote the Holy Father, who is the key person responsible for episcopal appointments and resignations. We have a right and obligation to inform His Holiness of situations deleterious to the communion and mission of the Church in New Hampshire. We have never posited that resignation is a simple resolution, as your statements erroneously imply.

We do propose, however, that there will be a significant sigh of relief if you and Bishop Christian, as emblematic figures in the sexual abuse crisis, no longer remain as constant reminders of your part in this terrible scandal. Healing and moving forward are predicated on cleansing the wound of what we consider criminal behavior that maimed the very heart of our beloved Church. The salutary principle that one must be accountable for one’s actions, as well as forgiven, is worth upholding as an example of justice for all to see. Survivors deserve to know at the least that the enablers of their abuse are not rewarded with even greater power and prestige.

Contrary to your assertion that resignations are not in the tradition of the Church, we find resignations a well-known feature in the sexual abuse scandal. Five bishops have resigned for the mishandling of allegations, some with less culpability in terms of the numbers of priests and survivors involved. Sadly, at least a dozen more bishops have resigned for their own involvement in sexual allegations, so the scandal in general is rife with removal from office as a remedy. We determine that you and Bishop Christian failed to follow the strong example set by your predecessor, Bishop Matthew Brady, who acted forcefully to protect survivors.

Certainly, your tutelage for many years as a key aide under Cardinal Bernard Law, involved deeply in the morass in the Archdiocese of Boston, does not recommend itself well for continued appointment here. His graced example of stepping aside for the good of the Church is a healing one to follow. Bishop Christian’s responsibilities in New Hampshire were corollaries to your own in Boston, marked by the same patterns of conduct that brought so much disgrace to our Diocese, as detailed in the Attorney General’s report.

We have had ample opportunity to hear and read your explanations in interviews, meetings, written reports, depositions and homilies. If there is something new for us to reflect upon, please let us know and we will consider it carefully. We genuinely appreciate having Sr. Rosemary Crowley as a liaison to facilitate communication, and have always welcomed her at our meetings.

Let us conclude that we find this a grave, demanding experience. It would be so much easier to stay silent and accept the status quo. We remain Catholics brought up in a firm tradition of respect for the office of bishop, so we recognize the serious, unprecedented nature of our actions. We do not take them lightly, and know we too are accountable before God and our fellow Church community. Our search is genuinely to do His will as we discern it in our hearts in prayer.

On a personal level, we wish you both much peace and brotherhood in the Lord, recognizing our common vocation of loving service to all in His name.

NH VOTF Steering Committee

Declaration by NH Catholics for Moral Leadership

To the people of faith in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester,

Brothers and Sisters: As Catholics from parishes throughout the Diocese, we call on our fellow Catholics in the spirit of faith, hope, and charity, to seek truth and justice, and to work for the cleansing of our Church. As people of faith we have been shamed by those priests who sexually abused children, and betrayed by the bishops who covered up that abuse. As parishioners, we have watched the undeserved humiliation of good priests, and witnessed the rapid erosion of the moral authority of our Church. As committed members of the laity, we have been astonished by the arrogance and duplicity of our bishops, and remain today mortified and outraged by the ongoing scandal of injustice.

Consistent with Canon Law and the teaching of the Church, we understand that the laity “have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful.” We are moved by conscience to speak out on matters essential to the good of the Catholic Church in our Diocese. In the belief that silence and inaction implicate those who do not oppose deceit and corruption, we beseech our fellow Catholics to search their hearts to discover the truth, and to find within themselves the courage to defend the Church we all love. In this effort, we ask the protection of our Blessed Mother, and of St. Joseph, patron of our Diocese. In all we undertake, we seek only the greater glory of God, and pray constantly to do only the will of our Blessed Savior.

Witnessing an ongoing scandal in our Diocese, we behold especially a crisis of moral leadership. In suffering through our pain and revulsion at the horrible accounts of sexual abuse, we have come to see clearly a systematic conspiracy by patronizing bishops to cover up crimes against children and the Church. In reply to our cries and gasps of astonishment we hear hollow words uttered by deceitful men, who say just the right things only after being caught. Amidst the maneuvers of lawyers and the tortured language of public relations, we still discern a grave injustice. The people of our Diocese cry out for a moral leadership, yet the occupants of the Chancery, promising a recent conversion, cling stubbornly to power.

We believe our Church can be better than this. We believe that Catholics of good conscience know the source of our current distress. We believe our diocese is endangered by its current leadership. We believe that truth has been a casualty of this scandal, sacrificed on the altar of episcopal power. We believe that a grave injustice continues in this crisis, perpetrated by those who have not answered for their misconduct. We believe that abusive priests and deceitful bishops both must be held accountable. We believe the people of faith deserve new, moral, leaders. We believe that John McCormack and Francis Christian must resign as bishops, or be removed by Rome. Not without sadness do we rebuke these failed prelates.

Not without hesitation do we embark on a mission to rid our Diocese of the deceitful men who endangered children and damaged the Church. Still, we go forward on this day, convinced of the righteousness of our cause, having come to the awful conclusions that:

John McCormack and Francis Christian protected known abusers.

John McCormack and Francis Christian assigned abusers to parish work.

John McCormack and Francis Christian mistreated and deceived those who reported abuse.

John McCormack and Francis Christian failed to warn parishioners about abusers.

John McCormack and Francis Christian failed to report child abuse to civil authorities.

John McCormack and Francis Christian lied to abuse survivors and their families.

John McCormack and Francis Christian lied to concerned parents and civil authorities.

John McCormack and Francis Christian knowingly endangered innocent children.

John McCormack and Francis Christian misled the people of faith in this Diocese.

John McCormack and Francis Christian have failed to forthrightly acknowledge their sins.

John McCormack and Francis Christian are stumbling blocks in the path to healing.

John McCormack and Francis Christian have humiliated good priests.

John McCormack and Francis Christian have scandalized the faithful.

John McCormack and Francis Christian have brought disgrace upon the Church.

John McCormack and Francis Christian have abandoned principles of truth and justice.

John McCormack and Francis Christian have endangered souls.

John McCormack and Francis Christian must resign.

In the name of a just and merciful God, we call on John McCormack and Francis Christian to resign immediately for the good of the Church. In the name of Christ our Savior, we call on the priests of this Diocese to step into the light and defend, with courage, His Holy Church. In the Name of the Holy Spirit, we call on all the people of faith in this Diocese, to demand that these bishops be held accountable and resign.

In Christ we sign our names, and to His Church we pledge our devotion:

Steve Banester, St. Theresa, Rye
Joannie Barrett, St. Joseph Cathedral, Manchester
Peg Boucher, St. Thomas More, Durham
Anne Coughlin, St. John the Evangelist, Concord
Carolyn Disco, St. John Neumann, Merrimack
James Farrell, St. Mary, Dover
Maggie Fogarty, St. Thomas More, Durham
Tyler Foss, St. Mary, Dover
John Grimes, St. Mary, Dover
Ed Kirby, St. John Neumann, Merrimack
John Miskus, St. Thomas More, Durham
Rose Miskus, St. Thomas More, Durham
Bob Morton, Mary Mother of the Church, Newton
James P. Nadeau, Jr., St. George, Dover
Mike Neyens, St. Patrick, Jaffrey


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.