Bishop Accountability
  Manchester NH Resources – August 2002

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Bishop names 6 members to review board

Manchester (NH) Union Leader
August 6, 2002

Bishop John B. McCormack has announced the names of six members he has appointed to a panel charged with reviewing sexual misconduct complaints against the clergy.

The Diocesan Review Board, which has been meeting since early this year, examines the complaints and make recommendations to the bishop. Its members have all had experience dealing with these types of issues, the diocese said.

The board members include J. Michael McDonough, a retired Manchester attorney who serves as chairman; Dr. David Bulmer, a psychiatrist at Catholic Medical Center; retired Manchester Police Chief Peter Favreau; Msgr. Donald J. Gilbert, pastor of St. Matthew Parish in Windham, a canon lawyer and former chief judge of the diocesan tribunal; Christine Tremblay, a member of the St. Matthew Parish Council, and the Rev. Gayle Whittemore, a Congregational minister.

Patrick McGee, spokesman for the Manchester diocese, said the bishop had been an early proponent of a review board. The concept later became one of the recommendations issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops that met in June in Dallas to deal with the sexual abuse crisis in the church.

McGee said the review board is a positive step and part of the diocese's overall program, named "Protecting God's Children." He said the idea was to have a group of people, including several lay members, evaluate accusations against priests. He said all matters are handled confidentially and the board members do not know the names of the priests against whom complaints are made.

Complaints are first lodged with the bishop's delegate for sexual misconduct, the Rev. Edward Arsenault, who determines if they need further review and, if they do, he refers them to the Diocesan Review Board. The board reports its findings to the bishop.

Law resumes deposition amid clash over abuse case

By Robin Washington and Tom Mashberg
Boston (MA) Herald
August 14, 2002

As Bernard Cardinal Law resumed a grueling stretch of depositions in the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal, disagreement broke out yesterday among opposing attorneys over whether there was any chance of settling the cases.

While church lawyers said talks continued as recently as Monday night, counsel for plaintiffs in lawsuits involving a half-dozen priests said they and their clients were gearing up for a "full- blown trial."

"We haven't had any settlement talks with these guys for weeks," attorney Roderick MacLeish Jr. said after deposing Law for about five hours in a case against the Rev. Paul Shanley, accused of raping young boys at a Newton parish nearly two decades ago.

"We never close the door, but our clients are very upset now and they want a jury verdict," MacLeish said.

Minutes earlier, Wilson D. Rogers Jr., chief counsel for the Archdiocese of Boston, said, "The subject of settlement is active and being pursued in this case to the extent it would be in any case.

"I spoke to one of plaintiffs' counsel as recently as last night on the general subject of approaches, strategies with respect to the insurance companies," he said.

As Law spent another day in a sworn deposition, the transcripts and video copies of two days of earlier testimony given in June in the case were released to the public for the first time.

In those seven hours of testimony, released by court order, Law endured about an hour of questions from MacLeish about his dealings with sexual misconduct of priests during the early days of his career as a rising star in the Catholic Church in Mississippi.

But, he said, the issue barely touched him then.

"It wasn't on my radar screen," he said. "I wasn't dealing with the case of - sexual molestation wasn't something that was before me."

But after continued questioning, he said he was aware of child sex allegations against former priest George Broussard, who attended Ohio's Josephinium Seminary with Law and served with him in Mississippi in the 1960s and '70s.

Though Law acknowledged he was aware of the claims, which subsequently resulted in Broussard's removal from a parish in Jackson to Waveland, Miss., and the ultimate end of his priesthood, the prelate said he had nothing to do with Broussard's reassignment.

"I would not have assigned him to Waveland. That would not have been my responsibility. It would have been the bishop's responsibility," Law said. "I was the vicar general, but what I'm saying to you is that the ultimate personnel responsibility is obviously with the bishop."

Yet in the same deposition, Law said as archbishop of Boston, he delegated abuse issues to others, including his personnel chief, the Rev. John B. McCormack, who was not then a bishop. And though repeatedly questioned about other cases in Mississippi, he did not divulge knowledge of allegations against the late Rev. Bernard Haddican, whose alleged molestation of Mark Belenchia of Hattiesburg resulted in a $43,000 settlement two years ago.

"I told my mother when it was going on. My mother went to Law. She told him about it but he didn't do anything," Belenchia told the Herald in June.
Nowhere in the deposition does Law say there weren't other cases - only that he could not recall another.

"That narrow answer is safe. But the fact that he cites one case and not the second could damage him in the future," said David Yas, editor in chief of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.

Law's personal attorney, J. Owen Todd, said his client's answers were not evasive. "He's totally forthcoming. Absolutely. He's says everything he has to say," Todd said. Yet, in one instance, Law said that he had "no memory" of Gilbert Gauthe, a convicted pedophile priest in Louisiana whose acts, first chronicled by journalist Jason Berry, broke the church sex abuse story in the media 20 years ago.

Phil Saviano of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests called the statement "astounding."

"Gauthe was the first priest to get national publicity for having been a child molester, the first one known to have been moved around from parish to parish, and he was even here in Massachusetts at the House of Affirmation for treatment. I can't see how he can say even today he never heard of him," Saviano said. "What this tells us about Cardinal Law is that even after the (James) Porter case, he never took the time to learn about this. I don't see any excuse for it."

Also from the June deposition:

** Law stood by his contention that "poor record keeping" at the chancery contributed to the church's negligent supervision of abusers, such as Shanley. "Certainly there was information about Paul Shanley that was not readily available and it would be helpful to have been," Law said.

** Law went back and forth on whether he recalled reading a 1985 letter from Wilma M. Higgs warning that Shanley had said publicly, "When adults have sex with children, the children seduced them." On June 5, during Day 1 of his deposition, Law told MacLeish he did not recall reading the letter. But after he was shown an archdiocesan file in which Law annotated the Higgs letter for McCormack with the phrase "please look into this," he said it was "probable" he had read the letter. And on Day 2 of the deposition, Law said via counsel, "The defendant does not believe he read the `Higgs letter' in 1985."

Law backs McCormack’s response in Shanley case

By J.M. Hirsch, Associated Press
Manchester (NH) Union Leader
August 14, 2002

Concord -- Roman Catholic Bishop John B. McCormack was right to believe the explanation of a Boston priest accused of speaking favorably about sex with children, Cardinal Bernard Law said in testimony made public yesterday.

"There was no reason to suspect," Law testified in June during a deposition in civil lawsuits filed against the Rev. Paul Shanley. "There was no reason for him to be suspicious.

"And as I recall the response of Father McCormack, he felt that the explanation was convincing and that what he (Shanley) had said was misunderstood," Law said, responding to questions by attorney Roderick MacLeish Jr.

In April 1985, a Rochester, N.Y., woman wrote to Law complaining that Shanley in a speech had said: "When adults have sex with children, the children seduced them," and the children "are the guilty ones."

The woman, Wilma Higgs, also said she had some of the comments on audiotape.

In his own deposition in the same case, McCormack said he asked Shanley about the statements and believed the priest's explanation that Higgs had taken his comments out of context.

McCormack was Law's deputy in the Boston Archdiocese from 1984 until becoming bishop of Manchester in 1998.

Blaming poor record-keeping by the archdiocese, Law said that in 1985, McCormack didn't know about earlier allegations of abuse against Shanley. Had he known more, Law said, McCormack would have acted differently.
"Father Shanley had a reputation of speaking to the necessity of dealing in a compassionate way with people who were homosexuals, and very often when someone does that, it can unfortunately create a backlash," Law said. "It's very possible that when Father McCormack read this letter, he read this letter in terms of that context, which is a very understandable context," he said.

Asked by MacLeish whether it would have been "common sense" to check Shanley's file for similar allegations, Law said he wasn't certain. He also said the church at the time lacked that sort of central file, but it would have been good to have.

The cardinal also said bishops get many letters complaining about comments priests make, and church officials would not automatically presume such allegations are true.

But he acknowledged not knowing what McCormack did to investigate Higgs' complaint, including whether he ever requested to hear what the woman claimed to have recorded on audiotape.

In a televised statement in May, McCormack said he recalled receiving Higgs' letter, but for some reason didn't "focus" on the references to sex with children. He apologized for not following up on that.

But in his June deposition, McCormack said he now recalls taking up the issue with Shanley, who said he had been talking about his work with child prostitutes and his comments had been misunderstood.

In his testimony, McCormack said he was inclined to believe Shanley, who is jailed awaiting trial on charges he raped a boy over a six-year period in the 1980s.

"I saw Paul as a person who was an honest guy, who was always trying to help the church reach out to the alienated, the marginalized," McCormack said. "I had no reason to think that he was, when he reported to me, that he was being dishonest. In hindsight I do, but then I didn't."

McCormack questioning continues in lawsuit

By Kathryn Marchocki
Manchester (NH) Union Leader
August 15, 2002

Manchester Bishop John B. McCormack today faces a second day of questioning about his handling of Boston archdiocesan priests accused of child sexual abuse, specifically a retired priest charged with child rape.

The deposition is part of a Massachusetts lawsuit brought by three men who say there were molested by the Rev. Paul R. Shanley in the 1980s.

McCormack, 67, was questioned under oath June 3 by the attorney representing the three alleged victims. The men, all now in their mid-20s, accuse Shanley of molesting them when he served at St. Jean Church in Newton, Mass.

Shanley also faces criminal charges for allegedly raping one of the boys. He was arrested May 2 in San Diego.

McCormack was a top deputy to Cardinal Bernard F. Law of Boston from 1984 to 1998, when he became bishop of Manchester.

He began handling some clerical sexual misconduct cases for the Boston archdiocese as secretary for ministerial personnel in 1985 and was charged with exclusively overseeing these cases from 1992 to 1995 as Law's delegate for sexual misconduct. McCormack took over Shanley's case in 1990 when Shanley, who graduated from St. John's Seminary with McCormack in 1960, went on sick leave from St. Jean parish.

Under questioning by Boston attorney Roderick MacLeish Jr. on June 3, McCormack said he dismissed suspicions of abuse a parent raised about a Boston priest based on the priest's denial, according to a transcript of the deposition reviewed by The Associated Press.

McCormack also said he didn't report a new allegation against another priest to child welfare authorities because that priest denied it.

McCormack, who was a licensed social worker, said he didn't always report suspicions of abuse to authorities because he was acting as a priest and wasn't legally bound to do so.

MacLeish told reporters June 3 that the case involves a "pattern of conduct" and that he questioned McCormack about Shanley and at least 14 other Boston archdiocesan priests.

Today's deposition begins at 10 a.m. at the Manchester law offices of Sheehan Phinney Bass & Green.

McCormack recounts Shanley case

By Kathryn Marchocki
Manchester (NH) Union Leader
August 16, 2002

Manchester Bishop John B. McCormack underwent hours of intense questioning yesterday about how the top echelon of the Boston archdiocese dealt with Catholic priests accused of molesting children.

McCormack's four-to-five hours of testimony centered on his involvement with retired priest Paul R. Shanley, one of the most notorious clerics in the Boston archdiocese accused of molesting children.

The 67-year-old bishop was Shanley's handler when the priest went on sick leave in California in 1990 and is one of several former top aides to Law to be deposed as part of lawsuits brought by alleged victims of priests.

"This is the hierarchy of the archdiocese. And, again, what they knew and when they knew it is something . . . that is a central theme to our case," said attorney Robert Sherman, who questioned McCormack under oath yesterday.

It was the second day of a continued deposition that began June 3 and is expected to last several more days. "We intend to continue the questioning up until we make sure a full and complete recitation of the facts concerning Paul Shanley comes out," Sherman added.

The deposition will resume after Labor Day.

Sherman's law firm represents four men, all now in their mid-20s, who say they were molested by Shanley in the 1980s while Shanley served at St. Jean parish in Newton, Mass.

Shanley also faces a criminal child rape charge involving one of the boys.

McCormack began handling some clergy sexual misconduct cases in 1985 when he became Law's secretary for ministerial personnel and exclusively was charged with overseeing these cases from 1992 to 1995 as Law's delegate for sexual misconduct.

He became the ninth bishop of Manchester in 1998.

McCormack's testimony yesterday focused on his involvement with Shanley detailed in about 1,000 pages of church documents, Sherman said, adding he could not comment on the substance of what was said in the closed-door deposition.

Those documents, made public under court order in April, contain numerous correspondences between the bishop and Shanley, abuse allegations against the priest dating back to the 1960s and Shanley's public advocacy of sex between men and boys.

Sherman said his firm still is seeking church records for about 80 other Boston archdiocesan priests whose names were turned over to law enforcement authorities earlier this year. The records of 10 to 12 priests have been released so far, he said.

"We expect when those records are turned over, the whole pattern of dealing with priests will come to light and the American people will have a chance to make their own judgment on how the archdiocese handled these matters," he said.

In his brief statement to reporters afterwards, McCormack apologized to victims of clergy abuse. "I'm sorry for all that has taken place. I regret the hurt and the deep scars that many victims have," McCormack said.

"This is a difficult time for everyone, particularly for the victims. I just want to assure everybody in New Hampshire that I'm doing all I can to make sure that the church will help victims in every that we can and to protect children in every way that we can," he added.

McCormack entered the law offices of Sheehan Phinney Bass & Green, which represents the Manchester diocese, an hour before the 10 a.m. deposition.

He said he tried to answer questions "as truthfully, as completely, and as honestly as I could."

While there were "glimmers" of tension among the seven attorneys present, Sherman said none were serious.

"The bishop was cordial. His demeanor was professional the whole time. We have enormous respect for the office of the bishop," Sherman said.

Sherman said he would let the public judge how forthcoming McCormack's answers were after the court releases the videotape and written transcript of the deposition.

"At some point, this is going to be released . . . and the people of New Hampshire will have the ability to make their own determination," he said.

Sherman did not know when a Boston judge will order the documents to be made public, but said the fact that seven hours of Law's deposition in June were released Tuesday is reason to expect McCormack's deposition will not be held up much longer.

Boston scrutinizes Law deposition

By Chuck Colbert
National Catholic Reporter
August 30, 2003

Dog days in August are not supposed to generate banner headlines in New England; unless, of course, they pertain to heat waves and baseball. But even eight straight days of 90 degree temperatures and the Red Sox could not compete for ink and air time with the release of two-days worth of transcripts, several hundred pages long, from Cardinal Bernard Law’s continuing depositions, and yet more allegations of sex abuse by archdiocesan priests.

Like Law’s depositions, the new allegations raise concerns not only about Law’s handling of allegations of sex abuse during his tenure, but also about those advising him. For example, a Boston Globe “Spotlight Report” found that “three days after Bernard F. Law became archbishop of Boston in March 1984, an anguished parishioner from Franklin [Mass.] wrote Law a detailed letter alleging that a parish priest had twice sexually molested his wife and that the parish’s pastor and the local auxiliary bishop treated the couple with hostility.”

That letter written by Gregory B. Nash asked Law to meet with the couple and “open his shepherd’s heart” to them. But Law neither met with nor helped the couple. Instead, he wrote back to Nash on April 3, 1984, saying: “After some consultation, I find that this matter is something that is personal to Fr. [Anthony J.] Rebeiro and must be considered such.” The letter was marked “Confidential,” according to the Globe report.

Doubts about charges

WHDH-TV, the local NBC affiliate, reported on a lawsuit, filed by a man alleging abuse for several years during the 1980s by Fr. Michael Smith Foster, then a newly ordained priest at Sacred Heart Church in Newton, Mass. Paul R. Edwards, 35, alleges that Foster began molesting him when Edwards was 15 years old, the Globe reported.

Foster, now a monsignor, is the archdiocese’s primary canon lawyer and has advised the cardinal on aspects of canon law pertaining to the sex abuse scandal. He is also the author of Annulment: The Wedding that Was: How the Church Can Declare a Marriage Null, and serves as presiding judge of the Metropolitan Tribunal, which handles annulment cases. Foster is the highest ranking archdiocesan official to be charged in the sex abuse scandal. He has denied the allegations, but pending an investigation and resolution to the charges, he has requested to be placed on administrative leave. Law granted the request. At the same time, Foster has become a focus of a group of priests and lay people who have expressed strong doubts about the charges against him and have raised the issue of what can be done when a priest is falsely accused.

Those new allegations and Law’s testimony generated a variety of responses and concerns. Interviews with a dozen people, including priests, a nun, members of the laity, abuse survivors, and spokespersons from the two major church-reform and victim-survivor advocacy groups, indicate that the scandal in the Boston archdiocese continues to take a pastoral, financial and spiritual toll.

On Aug. 13, the day the written transcripts were released to the public, New England Cable News broadcast more than five hours of videotapes of Law’s deposition taken on June 5 and 7. He was questioned then by Roderick MacLeish, a Boston attorney who represents Gregory Ford and his parents, Paula and Rodney Ford, among others, in a civil negligence lawsuit against the cardinal. The case stems from alleged sexual misconduct by Fr. Paul R. Shanley, who also faces criminal proceedings in the rape of four boys and who has denied the charges.

Although Law through his attorneys requested that the depositions not be released until the cardinal had completed his testimony, a judge denied the request, citing widespread public interest as a reason for her decision.
A major portion of the deposition focused on the cardinal’s handling of priests accused of sexual misconduct and their reassignment to parish ministry, without notifying parishioners. Both his policy and practice, Law testified, had been to reassign the alleged offenders.

As a matter of policy

As MacLeish pressed Law on that point during questioning, the cardinal said, “I did not, as a matter of policy in 1984, ’85, ’86, ’87, ’88, ’89, ’90, ’91, ’92, ’93, ’94, ’95, ’96, ’97, ’98, ’99, 2000, 2001, go to parishes on the occasion of dealing with a priest against whom an allegation of sexual abuse of a child had been made.” He added, “Did I think that I should have informed the parish and then done it? No. I simply didn’t have that as part of our response to these cases.”

That policy remained in effect until this year when the clerical sex abuse scandal exploded here, and the archdiocese adopted a “zero-tolerance” policy including the notification of and cooperation with civil authorities. “No priest against whom a credible allegation of sexual abuse of a minor has been made may hold any assignment whatsoever,” Law said during his testimony.

Still, the prevailing pattern over Law’s tenure as head of the Boston archdiocese since 1984 was to reassign priests accused of sexual misconduct. In at least one case, moreover, Law not only reassigned, but also later promoted to pastor and area vicar a priest who had admitted to charges of sexual misconduct.

Law said that he was aware of a 1988 allegation of sexual misconduct against Fr. David Graham, who admitted molesting an altar boy. The incident took place 10 to 20 years earlier. Parishioners were not told about Graham’s admission, and Law permitted Graham to continue with parish ministry at St. Joseph’s Church in Quincy, Mass. “He was allowed to continue, yes, after intervention by a medical source,” Law said under oath.

By 1990 Law had promoted Graham to pastor. By 1992 another allegation surfaced, what archdiocesan records refer to as “a vague second-hand complaint.” The report of the second allegation made its way to Law’s delegate handling the case and a review board, appointed by the cardinal. In 1995 Law’s delegate recommended that Graham not be involved with parish or youth ministry and that he be engaged in therapy.

But within seven or eight months the board recommended that Graham be engaged in ministry without limitations or restriction and full access to minors. In 1996 Law promoted Graham to area vicar with oversight responsibilities in more than a dozen parishes in Braintree, Quincy, Milton and Randolph, Mass.

MacLeish also questioned Law extensively about his handling of the Shanley case. Despite learning of allegations against Shanley in 1993, Law said that he did not inform St. Jean’s parishioners of them. The cardinal testified that he had appointed Shanley as pastor there, without asking to see his personnel files. Those files, kept under lock and key by senior archdiocesan officials, contained records of several complaints against Shanley. One dated as far back as 1966 when a fellow priest documented an accusation that Shanley had molested a boy.

The cardinal testified that he did not know that an archdiocesan liaison to victims alleging sex abuse by priests wanted parishioners to be alerted about sexual misconduct. As early as 1994 in fact, Sr. Catherine Mulkerrin, who at the time was employed by the archdiocese and worked directly with victims, recommended that church bulletins run notices about priests who had been accused or admitted to sexual misconduct and had served in various parishes.

The cardinal went back and forth when asked whether he had seen a 1985 letter, written by Wilma M. Higgs, of Rochester, N. Y., complaining about a speech by Shanley that approved of sex between men and boys. First the cardinal said that he had seen the letter, but two days later he said he believes it likely he did not read it.

‘Absolutely devastated’

Reactions to the depositions varied. Tom White, development director for Voice of the Faithful, after reading the entire transcript, said he was “absolutely devastated.” He added, “He just doesn’t get it. There is a blind spot, something fundamentally missing from his make up, that you know he won’t ever get it; he’s so desensitized. …What’s missing is a visceral, instinctual reaction to the consequences of sex abuse to children’s lives. A parent in any situation like this would say, ‘Take off the collar; get help. But don’t send them back to the parish.’ ”

A different response came from among some of those who watched the videotapes but had not yet read transcripts of Law deposition. One abuse survivor, who asked not to be identified, acknowledged with “dismay” how well the cardinal came across on television.

Another woman, long active in parish and diocesan ministry and now with abuse survivors, also said Law “looked very good.” She added, “He seemed credible, confident and sincere.”

She also said that part of Law’s testimony, where the cardinal testified that he was never told about complaints against Shanley before his tenure began in Boston in 1984, “really bother me,” she said. “It seems that [Bishop] Daily never fully informed the cardinal.”

It was Thomas V. Daily, now bishop of Brooklyn, who during the 1970s and early 1980s handled many of the complaints against Shanley.

Law testified that he relied primarily on the advice of deputies, Bishop John B. McCormack, now bishop of the Manchester, N.H., diocese, and Daily, in the handling of personnel matters.

That testimony prompted Fr. Tom Carroll, pastor of the Jesuit Urban Center, to write in his weekly insert to the parish’s bulletin: “Some of the quotations from the ongoing deposition of Cardinal Law that have been reported in the press in recent days seem to suggest that the cardinal, our archbishop and ordinary, has not understood this task of selection and supervision of his priests as a primary and personal concern in his episcopal ministry.”
Another reaction to Law’s deposition and testimony was more pointed. “I was looking at the Catholic Bill Clinton,” said Joe Gallagher, a spokesman for the Coalition of Catholics and Survivors, a local abuse victim advocacy group. “He was at the top of his game, parsing words.”

During a telephone interview Gallagher voiced concerns, shared by many others, about Law’s seeming aversion to accountability. “When Law was a vicar in Mississippi, dealing with abusive priests, it was the responsibility of his boss, the bishop,” Gallagher said. “Wherever he’s responsible … it’s the responsibility of someone else.”

The local media weighing in on Law’s deposition was largely critical. The Boston Herald ran a lead editorial, under the headline, “Cardinal’s answers no answer at all.” A Boston Globe editorial, “The cardinal’s oath,” once again called for Law to resign.

Fr. Robert Bullock, pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Sharon, Mass., said in a telephone interview, that he has noticed a drop in church attendance. “The numbers are very much lower,” he said, “appreciably lower.”

In addition to concern about the morale of the people, Bullock and other priests are concerned about the process by which 20 priests accused of sexual misconduct have been removed from ministry. According to Bullock and one other longtime observer of the archdiocese, priests are called to the chancery and with no chance of defense, informed of the allegations and dismissed from active ministry. Even if a priest denies them, he is told to vacate his rectory, they said.

“Ironically, the church treats people worse than civil society. If you are accused in civil society, you at least get a lawyer,” said the observer, who asked not to be identified.

Morale among priests is so low and fear so high that Bullock, on behalf of the Boston Priests’ Forum, has written a letter to Law, asking that he address the due process concerns. “All of us need to know our rights,” Bullock wrote. “What happens to a priest who is falsely accused? How is the accusation determined to be substantial? Who does the investigation and what are the criteria?”

Bullock also wants Law and the regional bishops to meet with the priests. Law has not done so since February.


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