Bishop Accountability

Manchester NH Resources
April 15–30, 2002

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Bishop leaves chair of panel on sex abuse

By Ray Henry
Boston (MA) Globe
April 20, 2002

The Catholic bishop of Manchester, N.H., who helped handle three of the Boston Archdiocese's clergy sexual abuse cases, has stepped down as chairman of a national church committee on sexual abuse, according to a statement released yesterday by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Bishop John B. McCormack left his position on the Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse to accommodate "the press of diocesan business," according to the statement. He will remain a committee member.

Before moving to New Hampshire, McCormack was a top aide to Cardinal Bernard Law and monitored abuse allegations against the Revs. Paul R. Shanley and Joseph E. Birmingham and convicted child molester and defrocked priest John G. Geoghan. He has been named as a defendant in a suit against Birmingham filed in March by James M. Hogan of Wilmington, Del.

Archbishop Harry J. Flynn of St. Paul and Minneapolis was appointed to replace McCormack.

More files released in priest abuse case

By Robert O’Neill
Nashua (NH) Telegraph
April 26, 2002

Boston -- Additional documents uncovered by the Boston Archdiocese showing church officials knew the Rev. Paul Shanley advocated sex between men and boys were delivered Thursday to lawyers for one of the priest’s alleged victims.

The documents, which were supposed to have been handed over to the lawyers earlier this month, were discovered by church officials late last week during a review of another priest’s records, said the Rev. Christopher Coyne, an archdiocese spokesman.

Lawyers for Gregory Ford and his parents, who are suing Cardinal Bernard Law and the archdiocese, alleging they failed to protect Ford from Shanley’s abuse, were reviewing the documents. Court officials said the documents were unlikely to be made public in court files Thursday.

Attorney Roderick MacLeish said he was surprised to receive about 800 documents, instead of the approximately 150 documents he was told were uncovered. Coyne said he was told many were duplicates of the previously released documents.

“We are going to take some time looking at them with our clients,” MacLeish said.
Following an April 3 court order, the archdiocese had previously released about 800 pages of church records.

Those documents showed church officials had been told of allegations of abuse against Shanley as early as 1967, and would eventually receive a total of 26 complaints of abuse. Shanley was never charged in any of those cases.

Also included were articles showing the archdiocese knew Shanley had been a vocal proponent of sex between men and boys and correspondence between the archdiocese and the Vatican on Shanley’s troubling views on sex.

Coyne said the discovery of the new documents, which included letters reporting that Shanley approved of man-boy sex, is more evidence officials received and ignored numerous written complaints about Shanley’s behavior.

“It’s terribly embarrassing at this late date to come out and say this,” Coyne said Wednesday. “No one knew these files were around. It wasn’t just one letter that was overlooked. It’s another bad thing. It makes us look like we’re not being honest.”

MacLeish had questioned the timing of the new documents’ release, only after the end of an extraordinary meeting of U.S. cardinals at the Vatican.

But Coyne said an unidentified archdiocesan staff member uncovered the documents Thursday and Ford’s lawyers were told of the discovery on Monday.

McCormack supports Cardinal Law

By Associated Press
Nashua (NH) Telegraph
April 28, 2002

Pelham -- Bishop John McCormack said Saturday that Boston Cardinal Bernard Law should not step down, despite public pressure that he resign for reassigning priests who committed sexual abuse to other parishes.

Law has found himself at the heart of the growing sex abuse scandal that has rocked the Roman Catholic church. He recently traveled to the Vatican to discuss whether he should step down, but since has said he will not.

“I wouldn’t want to get into that. But personally, no, I don’t think he should step down,” McCormack told reporters following an afternoon church service at St. Patrick Church.

McCormack served as Law’s director of ministerial personnel in the Archdiocese of Boston from 1984-1994, and also handled sexual abuse complaints involving priests for several years.

McCormack, who moved to the Diocese of Manchester in 1998, also has been criticized for his role in shuffling Massachusetts priests to new dioceses.

McCormack has said he is sorry for the harm done by abusive priests, and that he never reassigned a priest to ministry whom he thought would harm children.

On April 12, McCormack said he would answer questions about his time in Massachusetts within 10 days. On Saturday he said his answers were coming “soon.”

Kind words, support for Pelham priest

By Anne Lundregan
Nashua (NH) Telegraph
April 28, 2002

Pelham -- Members of St. Patrick Church rallied Saturday around their longtime pastor, the Rev. Edward Richard, who is being investigated by police for alleged sexual misconduct with a minor.

Richard was placed on administrative leave Monday after church officials were informed police were investigating an allegation of misconduct that occurred while he was serving in Merrimack in the 1980s.

The diocese announced Friday that Richard and the Rev. George Robichaud, pastor of St. Cecilia’s in Wolfeboro and St. Joan of Arc in Alton, had been placed on administrative leave. Robichaud was arrested Friday on charges of aggravated felonious sexual assault.

No charges have been filed against Richard.

“I’m just devastated,” said Madeline Cinquegrana, fighting back tears.

“He’s such a big part of the community,” she said. “He does so much, not just for the church but for the town.”

Bishop John McCormack spoke to parishioners at the Saturday afternoon Mass about Richard being placed on leave; he is expected to speak at three Masses at St. Patrick today.

Retired priest the Rev. Wilfred Demeres will be acting pastor while the investigation is occurring, McCormack told the church.

Several hundred people attended Saturday’s service, many of them wearing a “blue ribbon of care” to show support for their priest, whom they call Father Ed.

Richard was transferred to the Pelham church in 1988 after serving for 15 years in Merrimack, where he first was an assistant pastor at Our Lady of Mercy Church, and in 1982 became the founding pastor of St. John Neumann Church.

Richard also served as chaplain to the Merrimack Police and Fire departments and Merrimack Ambulance Rescue Service, taught an eighth-grade religion class at Nashua Catholic Regional Junior High School and ran a youth group at St. John Neumann.

“He’s such a wonderful man, a giving person,” Cinquegrana said.

When the senior citizens’ bus was in an accident last month, Richard picked up the stranded passengers, Cinquegrana said.

“They called Father Ed. He left whatever he was doing (and) picked us all up,” she said.

He also offered the senior citizens use of the church’s bus during the two weeks that the seniors’ bus was being repaired, Cinquegrana said.

Parishioner Joyce McDevitt passed out slips of paper encouraging people to write a personal note for Richard and leave it at the parish office and to wear a blue ribbon to show their support for Richard.

“He has given us 14 years of his life,” the note states. “We need to re-kindle his belief in himself. He has called us his family – now is the time to rally to his side and let him know we truly are family for him.”

The note echoed McCormack’s statement to the church during which he urged members to write to Richard “to let him know how much you care because he needs your support.”

The news of the allegation is “hard to take, hard to accept, hard to believe,” McCormack said.

He reminded parishioners that Richard is presumed innocent and said after Mass that if Richard is cleared in the police investigation and a separate church investigation, he could resume his work in the parish.

“I know that this news is hard for you . . . (you) so love Father Ed,” McCormack said, adding later “to bear his absence isn’t easy.”

While making no specific reference to the alleged victim, McCormack asked the church to pray for him, members of the parish and “for all those involved in this matter.”

Several parishioners said after Mass that the news was hard to take. Some fought back tears as they left church.

“He’s innocent until proven guilty,” said one church member walking quickly out of Mass.

“I was surprised and shocked. I couldn’t believe it,” said Sam Grasso, who has attended St. Patrick for more than 30 years. “I still don’t believe it.”

Richard worked closely with the town, acting as chaplain to the Pelham Police and Fire departments, worked with the parish school, and with parishioners, McDevitt said.

“He’s gone without a paycheck when the church was in debt,” she said.

A member of the church for 31 years, McDevitt said, Richard is “the best thing that happened to Pelham.”

She hopes to hold an interfaith prayer service for Richard sometime next week.

“The church has pulled together because people care . . . people are totally devastated,” McDevitt said, adding later “The whole town is grieving.”

When Sharon Rousseau needed strength, Richard was by her side.

Her son drowned four years ago, and this weekend was his anniversary Mass.

When the police dive team was looking for her son’s body in a pond, Richard stayed with the family.

When the body was found, he performed last rites and later personalized the funeral Mass, Rousseau said.

“He talked me through it,” Rousseau said.

“I hope this all blows over,” she said.

Diocese offers pilot program on ‘Protecting God’s Children’

By David Brooks
Nashua (NH) Telegraph
April 30, 2002

Concord, N.H. -- A message of concern and reaction was given to 270 priests, lay workers and church employees brought together Monday to hear the Diocese of Manchester’s response to the ongoing sex-abuse scandal.

Monday’s event, held at the Marriott Hotel, is the first of five such training conferences throughout New Hampshire this week.

The Manchester diocese, which covers all of New Hampshire, is one of four in the country to be part of the pilot program, called “Protecting God’s Children.” It is designed to educate parish officials in how to spot possible child abuse, reduce opportunities for sexual predators and react to suspicions or reports of abuse.

“We know it is hard to express concerns, but if we don’t do this well, people will not trust us with their children,” said the Rev. Ed Arsenault, the bishop’s delegate on sexual misconduct and one of the officials who looks into reports of pedophilia and sex abuse. “Think how much more painful it is for the victims.”

Monday’s session for priests as well as full-time and part-time employees of parishes was originally scheduled to be held in September 2001, well before the current publicity arose about child-abuse cases among Catholic priests, but was postponed following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

The church invited the media to Monday’s gathering, and at one point, five different television cameras were filming in the large conference room at the Marriott.

“This being a public process is the best remedy to false accusations,” Arsenault said, responding to audience concerns about false accusations ruining reputations.

“We have not had the experience of an accusation that did not turn out to be credible,” he said later. “ ‘Credible’ means we believe it.”

Similar sessions are slated to take place this week in Waterville Valley, Portsmouth, Manchester and Bedford. Attendance is mandatory.

The sessions follow a similar training program for Catholic school workers that took place in the fall. About 2,500 people will have attended the various sessions by the end of this week, said Patrick McGee, diocese spokesman, and the diocese is developing a similar program for church volunteers.

The program was put together over the past two years at a cost of $2 million by National Catholic Services, a national self-insurance program put together by a number of dioceses.

The many questions from Monday’s audience made it obvious that along with strong concern about the victims of sex abuse was concern the scandal would made it impossible for youth ministries to function.

“I was fearful coming in . . . that it had reached a point where we’re going to have to keep 500 feet away from every kid,” said the Rev. Raymond Gagnon, pastor of Infant Jesus Church in Nashua, after the four-hour event.

Gagnon said he was relieved that he was already following the recommended practices, such as not allowing adults to be alone with a child in a closed room.

“It was better than I feared,” he said. “I’m looking forward to implementing it into the parish.”

Gagnon noted, however, that providing similar training for volunteers will be logistically difficult.

“We have eight or 10 employees, but more than 300 volunteers,” he said. “It’s going to be a long process.”

Monday’s session included “Guidelines for expressing affection in pastoral ministry.” They include lists of “appropriate” actions such as “pats on the shoulder or back” and “touching hands, faces, shoulders and arms of minors,” as well as “inappropriate” actions such as “holding minors over 2 years old on the lap,” wrestling or tickling minors or giving piggyback rides.

Other information given Monday ranged from the pragmatic, such as how to institute background checks on workers, to the horrific, including videotaped discussions by two convicted sex offenders about how they lured and manipulated children.

Much of it centered on a five-point program for preventing and reacting to abuse:

- Knowing the warning signs of abusers, such as adults who spent too much time exclusively in the company of children.

- Controlling access to church programs which involve children, including instituting background checks on workers.

- Monitoring programs, which also involved such things as locking doors of unused rooms to limit unnecessary privacy.

- Being aware of signs of abuse, such as youngsters whose behavior suddenly changes for the worse.

- Communicating concerns, which included a session on New Hampshire’s mandatory reporting requirements.

Church officials are among those, like medical professionals, who are required by state law to report child-abuse suspicions to police or state agencies like the Division of Children, Youth and Families, and the relationship between secular and church authorities in this case was a topic of frequent discussion.

“The civil and church authorities . . . have remained cooperative at this point,” Arsenault said. “We have a good relationship.”

New Hampshire is one of the rare states that does not consider information gleaned in the confessional to be privileged information, meaning that it is supposed to be divulged to police and prosecutors. The church maintains that the U.S. Constitution upholds the sanctity of the sacramental seal of confession.

The church has a process of examining abuse claims that starts with Arsenault or other officials, including examination by a review board that includes lay professionals, but Arsenault said secular criminal investigations takes precedence.

In the end, church officials left with the message of hope.

“Nothing I have done in my ministry . . . is more heart-wrenching than to listen to the story of a victim,” said the Most Rev. Francis J. Christian, auxiliary bishop for the diocese, in closing remarks. “We need to make sure there are no more victims . . . which is why you must take this policy seriously, and implement it as well as you can.”


Bishop Accountability © 2003