Bishop Accountability
  Manchester NH Resources
December 15
–22, 2002

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Time to heal; Lawyers for abuse victims say they won’t ‘stand down’

By Tom Mashberg
Boston (MA) Herald
December 15, 2002

Bernard Cardinal Law returned to Massachusetts last night to a brief reprieve from upcoming depositions, but attorneys for hundreds of victims of abusive clerics said there would be "no stand down" in their litigation against the Archdiocese of Boston.

Behind the scenes, mediators and archdiocese lawyers talked through the weekend in hopes of devising a "global settlement" plan ensuring orderly compensation for victims while allowing the archdiocese to right its listing financial ship.

"The ideas are getting serious now," said a source on condition of anonymity. "There's no more of this bankruptcy foolishness."

Law will not be forced to appear as previously scheduled on Tuesday and Wednesday to deliver two days of sworn testimony in the Rev. Paul R. Shanley molestation case.

That case has been the driving engine behind the release of the many damning church personnel records that sank Law's career.

Instead, said attorney Roderick MacLeish Jr. of Greenberg Traurig, Sister Catherine Mulkerrin, a "compassionate and very able" nun who long implored Law and other church leaders to confront their abuse crisis, will be deposed.

"If the church had only listened to her," he said, "many of my clients might never have been abused."
MacLeish said Law would be rescheduled for shortly after Christmas, and Law's former personnel chief, Bishop John B. McCormack of Manchester, N.H., would be rescheduled "as soon as possible."

"There are not many people who have great sympathy for the cardinal," MacLeish said of the decision to put off Law's interrogation. "But there has never been any wish on the part of my clients to destroy another human being."

Noting that an international media frenzy was afoot at the prospect of Law's presence in downtown Boston, MacLeish added: "A brief postponement might be welcome for him and the public, who have heard enough horrendous stories in the past few days."

But MacLeish made clear his clients, who number some 225 men and women, have in no way granted Law and the church a reprieve in exchange for a promise that the church not file for bankruptcy.

"There was no quid pro quo, and there has never been any connection between Law's deposition and this alleged bankruptcy," he said.

"I knew as of this past Wednesday that bankruptcy was and always has been an empty threat," he said. "I don't know why the idea was ever floated - it caused enormous ripples of unhappiness in the United States and at the Vatican."

MacLeish said many Catholic donors in dioceses outside Boston were alarmed by the bankruptcy talk and called him last week to ask if they should withhold large gifts to the church as a result.

"These kinds of tactics are employed all the time," he said. "But it hurt them. It was contrary to the interests of the church. We knew it was an empty threat from day one."

MacLeish said his firm would pursue a two-track strategy. It would continue with litigation and discovery - some 28 more boxes of clergy files surfaced late Friday from church archives, he said - while pressing ahead with settlement talks through intermediaries.

A meeting among the attorneys representing more than 450 accusers and the archdiocese is set tentatively for tomorrow afternoon.

As negotiations proceed, the church will be be represented by a second law firm, Goodwin Procter, which has experience handling larger cases.

The mediators will be Paul A. Finn of Brockton Mediation and Conciliation, which handled much of the mediation work resulting from scores of suits in the Rev. James R. Porter abuse case; and Paul R. Sugarman, a Hub lawyer.

Sources say settlement plans have yet to take shape, but that the agreement to postpone Law's deposition was serving as a "jumping off point" for more concrete steps.

Next on the agenda, the sources said, would be to revisit the church's insurance assets - estimated at more than $100 million - to see if they could be stretched to cover most if not all of the claims on the table.

"That money is a key factor," a source said.

Finally, the sources said, a mediation model would have to be arranged that would compensate victims under agreed-upon formulas.

"It's all formative," said a source. "But we have created a dialogue that we hope will put an end to this without having to take drastic measures."

Meanwhile, church aides said Cardinal Law would have no public schedule for the next few days. They declined to say where he would be staying.

Bishop McCormack applauded

By Benjamin Kepple
Manchester (NH) Union Leader
December 16, 2002

Diocese of Manchester Bishop John B. McCormack said during Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral yesterday that he would stay on as bishop and received an enthusiastic response.

McCormack received a standing ovation from nearly all those attending yesterday's 10:30 a.m. Mass at his home parish. There were 50 to 100 more people than the normal 250-strong crowd.

During remarks at the beginning of yesterday's Mass, McCormack noted that his leadership had been criticized, but made it clear he thought it shouldn't have any effect on his future work.

"Among the many choices and decisions that I have made as a priest and a bishop, my mistakes and failings have been lifted up, scrutinized and characterized by some to be such that I am a harmful person or one who lacks moral character," McCormack said.

"Little consideration is being given to any good that I have done in the past, and many are being led to question whether I can do any good in the present or in the future," he said. "Today, I am here to celebrate the Eucharist with you, and take the opportunity to set the record straight. My past is my past; it affects my present and my future, but it does not limit them."

He also said he had learned from his past, and spoke about his role as bishop in New Hampshire. He said he knew that he was not and will not be a "perfect shepherd," but he would work to be a good one.

However, McCormack also asked family and friends of abuse victims to forgive him and the Catholic Church for "the inadequacy of (its) response." And he asked for forgiveness from abuse victims.

"To every victim of child sexual abuse whom I did not adequately help, or who was affected by my response, or the advice I gave or the recommendation that I offered, I am sincerely sorry about your pain and your experience, from the bottom of my heart," McCormack said.

McCormack did make an effort to separate his work in the Archdiocese of Boston from his present role, referencing some of his comments to events which happened in Massachusetts.

"I want to help mend the wounds within the Church of Boston. The most effective contribution that I have to offer to the people of the Archdiocese today is to serve and lead the Church in New Hampshire well. I love being the bishop of Manchester, New Hampshire. It is very much my home," McCormack said.

McCormack also said he was bothered that the full story about his work in the church wasn't being told.

"Only parts of my life story and my life's work is being told these days, and often by people whose motivation is something other than in the best interest of the people whom I serve or have served," he said.

And McCormack spoke about "a bizarre interest in the details of these horrible acts which repulse us," in reference to abuse cases.

But in his homily, McCormack said the church was changing how it operates with respect to abuse cases.

McCormack said that protecting children and helping adults heal must not be subordinated to other concerns, that "confident transparency" must replace the church's old stance of trying to "fix the problem ourselves," and that leadership meant taking responsibility for the past.

"Our vocation as Christians is to serve those most in need," McCormack said. "The misplaced priorities, the inadequate systems, the incomplete efforts of the past now give way to renewed commitments."

Some of those attending yesterday's service did not want to speak with reporters, who were out in force. But those who did speak were quick to voice their support for McCormack.

"I think he should stay," said Joffrey Roa, a parishioner from Manchester. "I think he's a good man. I don't really like what's going on -- it's more like a scorched earth policy."

"I think he shows a lot of courage, and it seems to me he's done everything he can to cooperate with the civil authorities," said Paul Sullivan, of Warner, another McCormack supporter.

However, while reception to McCormack's remarks was generally positive, it was not universally so. One woman, sitting in the last pew of the cathedral, listened to McCormack's opening remarks and left immediately afterwards.

Bishop McCormack next protester target

Manchester (NH) Union Leader
December 17, 2002

Protesters who for months called for Cardinal Bernard F. Law's resignation in Boston will begin targeting Manchester Bishop John B. McCormack, one organizer said yesterday.

"It doesn't matter that we are from Massachusetts. He worked in Massachusetts. He helped shuffle priests around," Stephen A. Lewis said of McCormack.|

Lewis of Lynn, Mass., is co-founder of Speak Truth to Power, or STTOP.

Members of the Massachusetts-based group and about five others representing alleged sexual abuse victims and their supporters plan to begin protesting outside St. Joseph Cathedral in Manchester in the next few weeks, Lewis said.

"You're going to see us dribble up there," Lewis said.

"We want the resignation of all the U.S. bishops that have been guilty of moving around pedophile priests . . . and McCormack is one of them," he added.

STTOP and other victims' groups had been protesting outside the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston for months.

Files highlight church deference on more priests

By Michael Rezendes and Thomas Farragher
Boston (MA) Globe
December 18, 2002

The Boston Archdiocese took no action against one priest despite graphic evidence - witnessed by two children - of his sexual contact with their mother, welcomed back another who admitted to molesting boys, and quickly reinstated a third even though he had been accused by a fellow priest of letting teenage boys sleep in his rectory bedroom, according to church records made public yesterday.

In one case, church officials suggested the troublesome priest accused of having sex with the woman be allowed to transfer to another diocese. In another, Cardinal Bernard F. Law offered a ''most hearty `welcome back''' to an admitted child molester who was returned to active ministry after being treated for a sexual disorder.

More evidence of the same deferential and forgiving treatment that prompted Law's resignation was apparent in the records of 14 other priests accused of sexual misconduct that were released by lawyers for victims of Rev. Paul R. Shanley.

The documents, delivered to the attorneys by church officials under a court order, provided additional evidence that Law knew of sexual misconduct allegations against priests and allowed them to remain in active ministry.

One priest, the Rev. Gerard E. Creighton, was transferred 20 times in 28 years amid a cascade of complaints from numerous pastors and even an assertion that he had ''homicidal tendencies.'' One parishioner withdrew a sexual misconduct complaint after learning that Creighton carried a gun.

''We're especially afraid of what he might do to the children,'' the parishioner said in a 1977 phone call to chancery officials that was reported to Bishop Thomas V. Daily, now the bishop of the Brooklyn, N.Y., diocese.

The parishioner had previously called to alert church leaders that she had seen two young girls reenacting a sexual act. When she questioned the girls they replied: ''This is the way Father Creighton and their mother make love.''

No action was taken against Creighton. But even earlier, in 1973, a Revere priest serving with Creighton complained to then- Cardinal Humberto S. Medeiros that church officials seemed more interested in helping troubled priests such as Creighton than in protecting parishioners.

''Why should so many people have to be abused and insulted and alienated from the church, just so that we can give this man a place to sleep?'' the Rev. John J. McNally wrote. ''We seem to have our values confused.''

Still, in 1984, when Creighton was seeking reinstatement after a leave of absence, the archdiocesan personnel board recommended to Law that ''Father Creighton should be counseled to seek ministry in another diocese.''

Creighton remained an inactive priest. But in 1995, a former nun walked into a Cape Cod furniture store that he owned and operated and accused him of repeatedly molesting her in the late 1950s, when she was a 17-year-old high school student at St. Margaret parish in Dorchester.

A church official writing in a memo to Creighton's file said Creighton denied molesting the former nun or any other woman, but also noted that Creighton ''did reference a couple of times that he would like to kill'' the former nun.

In 1998, the woman accepted a $150,000 financial settlement of her claim from the archdiocese. And she has sued Creighton, in a case that has now made its way to the state Supreme Judical Court, which is looking at statute of limitations issues.

Roderick MacLeish Jr., an attorney with the firm Greenberg Traurig, which released the church files, said, ''This was a potentially violent person carrying a weapon who was castigated by every pastor who worked with him. Why would anyone be thinking in 1984 that he could serve in any capacity?'' Creighton could not be reached. His attorney, Marielise Kelly, denied that he had sexual relations with any woman.

In a separate case, the documents released yesterday also show that the archdiocese used its influence in 1985 and 1986 to arrange a favorable - and private - court disposition when the Rev. Benjamin McMahon was arrested on Cape Cod for performing a sex act with another man.

In handwritten notes and a typed memo, Bishop Daniel A. Hart reported that the Hyannis police chaplain told church officials ''to keep away. ... Police have assured him.'' In a second note, Hart wrote, ''We can keep it from public. ... Prosecutor has pulled papers.'' And in a third note: ''Assured [hearing] will be in judge's chambers and nothing will be done in public.''

The chaplain, Hart wrote, ''indicated that as a result of `connections' and the cooperation of the clerk, there was no publicity about the hearing this week.'' The church records show the case was continued without a finding and that McMahon later left the priesthood. In 1991, the archdiocese received complaints that he had molested three boys in one family during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

In another case, the records show that in 1994, four months after a fellow priest expressed concern that the Rev. Paul W. Hurley had teenage boys sleep over at his rectory room, Law cleared Hurley for return as a pastor in Cambridge, where he served until his indictment on child rape charges in August.

Law ended Hurley's administrative leave in July 1994 after Hurley - who battled alcoholism - confessed to drinking again but denied any sexual activity with teenagers.

The 1994 complaint against Hurley was made by the late Rev. David A. Rittenhouse, who served as his parochial vicar at Blessed Sacrament in Cambridge. Rittenhouse, according to a church memo, reported ''that he was concerned about Paul's relationship with teenage boys from South Boston. They are about age fifteen. They come to the rectory. Sometimes they stay over night and leave in the morning in a meek and sheepish way. Paul was spoken to about this by a priest in the rectory and he continues to do it.''

Hurley was still a pastor on Oct. 24, 2001, when a South Boston man, in a Pennsylvania federal prison for bank robbery, complained that Hurley sexually abused him in 1987 and 1988 during the priest's early years at Blessed Sacrament parish in Cambridge. According to the new records, when the Rev. Charles Higgins, the cardinal's secretary for ministerial personnel, confronted Hurley with the charges a year ago, the priest ''admitted to the activity with [the alleged victim].''

Reached by telephone at his Sandwich home yesterday, Hurley said Higgins's account is incorrect, insisting that he never admitted to sexual abuse. Hurley has pleaded not guilty in Middlesex County to two counts of child rape.

In the case of Rev. Joseph K. Coleman, church records show he admitted to sexually abusing two boys while assigned to St. Angela Church in Mattapan.

In a 1987 memo, the Rev. John B. McCormack, now bishop of the Manchester, N.H., diocese, called the allegations serious. One mother said Coleman had taken her 14-year-old son camping and molested him on several occasions. Confronted with the charge, McCormack wrote, Coleman also admitting to performing sexual acts on another boy, who was 15.

In 1988, McCormack received a favorable psychological assessment of Coleman and recommended he be allowed to work in the Boston Archdiocese. Later that year, Law wrote to Coleman to say he was being reassigned as a chaplain at Saint John of God Hospital and Good Samaritan Hospice, both in Brighton. ''To you I offer a most hearty `welcome back,''' Law wrote.

The records show that Coleman's work was restricted to the chaplaincy. But in 1996 church officials discovered Coleman was saying Mass and hearing confessions at St. Lawrence Church in Brookline, and suspended him from active ministry.

In an interview yesterday, Coleman objected to his removal, attributing it to a ''miscommunication between me and the archdiocese.''

Also released yesterday were church files on 10 additional priests accused of sexual misconduct: the Revs. Anthony L. Buchette, C. Melvin Surette, Andrzej Sujka, Robert (also known as John) Turnbull, Thomas D. Donnelly, Joseph Gilpin, Dennis A. Keefe, Kelvin E. Iguabita, Paul J. Finegan, and James J. Foley.

NH bishop challenged on actions

By Kathryn Marchocki
Manchester (NH) Union Leader
December 18, 2002

Manchester Bishop John B. McCormack knew a Massachusetts priest was in therapy for apparently abusing a young boy when he dismissed as groundless another parent's concern that the priest may have molested his son, a church document released yesterday said.

The document is among hundreds alleged victims of the Rev. Joseph E. Birmingham said they will make public if McCormack does not agree to meet with them.

"We want to give him the opportunity to explain . . . before we decide to continue with the bloodletting," said Gary M. Bergeron of Lowell, Mass., who said he was abused by Birmingham at St. Michael Church in Lowell.

McCormack was Cardinal Bernard F. Law's secretary for ministerial personnel from 1984 to 1994 and in charge of sexual misconduct cases from 1992 to early 1995. He became bishop in Manchester in 1998.

"I would have a lot more respect for (McCormack) if he would be willing to meet with us so we can ask the tough questions. For the life of me, I can't understand why the man would not have made different choices. If he has good reasons, I'm willing to hear him out," added Bergeron, 40, one of 53 men who have filed suit claiming Birmingham molested them.

Birmingham, who died in 1989, is accused in the lawsuit of sexually abusing children in Sudbury, Salem, Lowell and Gloucester, Mass., parishes for more than 20 years, beginning in the early 1960s.

McCormack, who graduated from St. John's Seminary in Boston with Birmingham in 1960, served at St. James Parish in Salem at the same time as Birmingham.

In the early 1970s, two adult St. James parishioners told McCormack, who then was working at Catholic Charities, that Birmingham was molesting children, the suit said. Both times, McCormack assured them the matter was being taken care of, the suit said.

A Manchester diocesan spokesman said McCormack never saw or suspected any abuse of minors when he served as assistant pastor with Birmingham.

"Years later, when parents informed him of accusations against Father Birmingham, he advised the parents to contact Father Birmingham's pastor and Father McCormack also notified the pastor in accordance with the practice at the time," spokesman Patrick McGee said.

Birmingham was promoted pastor of St. Ann Church in Gloucester in 1985. Two years later, a parent wrote Law about his concerns that Birmingham may have AIDS and could have abused his 13-year-old son, documents made public in June said.

The parent, whose name was withheld, was worried because Birmingham twice in six months gave sermons on AIDS and recently was reassigned for "health" reasons, his letter said.

McCormack wrote back that he talked to Birmingham, who assured him "there is absolutely no factual basis to your concern regarding your son and him.

"From my knowledge of Father Birmingham and my relationship with him, I feel he would tell me the truth," McCormack wrote April 14, 1987.

But one of Birmingham's alleged victims yesterday released a letter written to McCormack, updating him on Birmingham's treatment at the Institute of Living, a residential center in Connecticut for sexually abusive priests.

In the letter, dated March 25, 1987, Dr. William L. Webb Jr., the institute's president and chief psychiatrist, said Birmingham was being treated for "sexual concerns" involving a young boy.

"What is the risk of his acting out in this manner again?" Webb wrote McCormack with regard to developing a discharge plan for Birmingham. "It would be unwise to say with 100 percent certainty that it will not happen again."

But Webb noted Birmingham's progress in treatment and that the last "episode" occurred 17 years ago.

Webb wrote "it would seem that eventually (Birmingham) could return to his former work. Understandably, it will not be at his former church."

McGee said when McCormack received the letter from the St. Ann parish parent, "he addressed it with Father Birmingham and responded to the parent that he was assured that there was no basis for the concern."

In another letter dated March 2, 1987, also released yesterday, a psychologist treating a boy wrote McCormack about the boy's "serious concern" about his friend.

In a handwritten notation at the bottom of the letter, McCormack wrote former Boston auxiliary Bishop Robert Banks "said no other boy was involved. He asked Joe Birmingham this and he said no one else involved."

Bergeron said the Survivors of Joseph Birmingham, a group of the priest's alleged victims, are extending the same invitation to McCormack that they did to Law several months ago. Law met with the group and many of its members individually and apologized to them, he said.

"I want accountability. I want admittance. I want repentance. I want apologies," Bergeron said of McCormack.

"To put it in Catholic terms, he is asking to receive the sacrament of reconciliation when he hasn't even received the sacrament of penance yet," he added.

He said the group planned to hold a press conference in New Hampshire to release the documents, but "we're offering Bishop McCormack the opportunity to make things right."

McCormack is willing to talk with victims who request a meeting, McGee said.

"However, if victims already are involved in a lawsuit . . . we would have to be considerate of the fact that they are represented by an attorney and work through that process," McGee added.
McCormack was scheduled to be deposed in the Birmingham case Monday, but it was postponed several weeks.

"He's going to meet with us one way or another because it's up to us whether he gets deposed," Bergeron said.

Bishop assured parent son not being molested; Priest was undergoing treatment at the time

By Associated Press
Concord (NH) Monitor
December 19, 2002

Roman Catholic Bishop John McCormack assured a parent his 13-year-old son had not been molested by the Rev. Joseph Birmingham, even though Birmingham was undergoing treatment for allegedly molesting another boy, according to church records.

One of Birmingham's alleged victims, Gary Bergeron, of Lowell, Mass., gave The Union Leader of Manchester copies of the records Tuesday and said Birmingham's alleged victims will release more church documents if McCormack refuses to meet with them.

"We want to give him the opportunity to explain . . . before we decide to continue with the bloodletting," Bergeron said.

Bergeron, who said he was abused by Birmingham at St. Michael's in Lowell, is among 53 men who are suing officials at the Archdiocese of Boston. They claim Birmingham molested them while serving at Massachusetts parishes in Sudbury, Salem, Lowell and Gloucester. Birmingham died in 1989.

McCormack was a top aide from 1984 to 1994 to Boston's Cardinal Bernard Law, who resigned last Friday. McCormack became bishop of New Hampshire in 1998.

Patrick McGee, spokesman for the Diocese of Manchester, said McCormack generally is willing to meet with victims, but "if victims already are involved in a lawsuit . . . we would have to be considerate of the fact that they are represented by an attorney and work through that process."

One of the documents Bergeron released Tuesday was a letter to McCormack from Dr. William L. Webb Jr., president and chief psychiatrist at the Institute of Living in Connecticut.

In the letter, dated March 25, 1987, Webb discussed Birmingham's treatment for "sexual concerns" involving a young boy, and his chances for rehabilitation.

"It would be unwise to say with 100 percent certainty that it will not happen again," Webb wrote, but he also said Birmingham's last "episode" had occurred 17 years ago and the priest had made progress in treatment.

"It would seem that eventually he could return to his former work. Understandably, it will not be at his former church," Webb wrote.

In another letter dated three weeks later, McCormack wrote to the parent that he had questioned Birmingham about the 13-year-old youth and had been assured "there is absolutely no factual basis to your concern regarding your son and him."

"From my knowledge of Father Birmingham and my relationship with him, I feel he would tell me the truth," McCormack wrote on April 14, 1987.

McCormack went to seminary with Birmingham and served with him at St. James in Salem, but has said he had no suspicions the priest was abusing children.

After McCormack went to Catholic Charities in the early 1970s, two parents from St. James parish told him Birmingham was molesting children. He assured them the matter was being taken care of, according to the lawsuit.

McGee has said McCormack told the parents to contact Birmingham's pastor, and also notified the pastor himself.

Last week, McCormack reached an unprecedented agreement with the state attorney general to avoid possible criminal charges of child endangerment against the Manchester diocese.
There have been calls for McCormack to resign. He has said he will not.

Files: Church struck deals with accusers

By Michael Rezendes and Matt Carroll
Boston (MA) Globe
December 20, 2002

It was 1988 and the Rev. Paul J. Tivnan was facing possible criminal charges for allegedly molesting a child - until a top official of the Boston Archdiocese persuaded a county prosecutor to drop the matter because Tivnan was being treated for sexual disorders.

Laurence E. Hardoon, the former Middlesex County assistant district attorney who handled the case, said yesterday that the agreement he reached with Rev. John B. McCormack, now the bishop of the Manchester, N.H., diocese, was not uncommon in those days in cases involving first-time offenders when the victim agreed.

''We were willing to think it was an aberration,'' said Hardoon, an assistant district attorney for 14 years who is now an attorney in private practice representing alleged clergy abuse victims.

Hardoon said he could not recall all the details of Tivnan's case. But church records show that one of Tivnan's alleged victims testified to a grand jury that Tivnan had abused him.

The records also show that in 1985, Tivnan admitted to molesting a 15-year-old boy in 1978, when Tivnan was a priest at Immaculate Conception Church in Marlborough. After the admission, church officials placed Tivnan on sick leave for more than a year and later allowed him to serve as a chaplain at hospitals and nursing homes until 1996.

Restrictions on Tivnan's ministry were meant to keep him away from children, but in May 2001 Tivnan found himself in trouble again when church records indicate he either slapped or touched a girl's cheek at a teen Mass in Wakefield, according to church records. Tivnan retired later that year. He could not be reached for comment.

Church records concerning the allegations against Tivnan were among those released Wednesday and yesterday by attorneys for the firm Greenberg Traurig, which represents about half of the 500 people with pending abuse claims against the Boston Archdiocese and its priests.

Also included in the records was a file that, like others released earlier, shows that the church's practice of tolerating sexually abusive priests dates at least to the 1950s.

The Rev. Philip C. Breton's file shows that he was suspended three times - in 1950, 1951, and again in 1957 - and returned to ministry despite allegations that he molested boys at Hampton Beach in New Hampshire who, according to the records, were under 10 years of age.

After his third suspension, Breton again returned to active ministry, serving in three parishes over the next two decades - St. Bridget's in Maynard, St. Anne's in Salem, and St. Alphonsus's in Beverly.

But as late as 1978, when Breton retired at 69, he was accused of ''taking young boys to his home in New Hampshire,'' according to the records. Church officials responded with an ''interview of [Rev.] Breton by Bishop [Thomas V.] Daily, who offered help.'' Breton died in 1984, but his alleged victims continued to make complaints to the chancery into the early 1990s.

Another file details the career of Rev. Anthony J. Rebeiro, 72, who in August was removed from his assignment as chaplain at Quigley Memorial Hospital and the Soldiers Home in Chelsea because of an allegation of abuse against a minor that occurred nearly 30 years ago.

Although the complaint, which alleged Rebeiro had fondled a 12- or 13-year-old girl in the rectory of St. Linus Church in Natick, may have been the first accusing Rebeiro of abusing a minor, it was not the first accusing Rebeiro of misconduct.

As the Globe reported earlier this year, then-archbishop Bernard F. Law received a letter in 1984 from an anguished parishioner at St. Mary's Church in Franklin contending that Rebeiro had made crude sexual advances on his wife.

Law declined to meet with the parishioner. Records released yesterday show that the priest was quietly transferred to St. Patrick Church in Natick and later to churches in Woburn, Holbrook, and Revere.

In 1994, a decade after the Franklin woman's husband complained to Law, the archdiocese began paying for the woman's psychotherapy. But it did not investigate her husband's complaint against Rebeiro, even though a church official said at the time it was important to do so.

Once Rebeiro was suspended, in August of this year, the archdiocese received nearly a half dozen additional complaints about his conduct at St. Linus Church between 1973 to 1980.

One woman said that when she was 12 or 13 years old, Rebeiro fondled her while hearing her confession and, when she tried to leave, ''pushed her against the wall and started to kiss her.'' Another complaint about Ribeiro came from a man who said that, when he was an altar boy at St. Linus in 1977, Rebeiro groped him while he was changing his clothes.

Church records of priests accused of sexual misconduct released yesterday also include files on the Revs. Gerald J. Hickey, Jay M. Mullin, and Harold J. Johnson.

Bishop to meet alleged victims of Massachusetts priest

By Kathryn Marchocki
Manchester (NH) Union Leader
December 20, 2002

Manchester Bishop John B. McCormack yesterday agreed to meet with alleged victims of a Massachusetts priest who claim McCormack mishandled complaints that the priest was molesting children.

The agreement comes the day before several alleged victims of the Rev. Joseph E. Birmingham will hold a press conference in Manchester, where they intend to release more church documents revealing how McCormack dealt with Birmingham.

About five or six alleged victims plan to reiterate their request to meet with the bishop at the press conference, which will be held in the Manchester City Library auditorium at 11 a.m. today, said Bob Morton, who represents the group Survivors of Joseph Birmingham.

"We want the truth to come out, all of it. The victims cannot begin to heal without having the truth come out," said Morton, who said he knew Birmingham, but was not abused by him.

Yesterday afternoon, McCormack told the Rev. Edward J. Arsenault, diocesan chancellor, to arrange a meeting with Survivors of Joseph Birmingham, diocesan spokesman Pat McGee said.

"Following media reports earlier this week, it was clear they wanted to meet with the bishop and the bishop is open to meeting with them," McGee said.

"We want to make sure we are not inadvertently interfering with any suit going on, but the desire is to meet with them and to listen to what they have to say and to open a dialogue with members of this group," he added.

McCormack is one of several defendants named in a lawsuit brought by 54 alleged victims of Birmingham, who served in various Massachusetts parishes from 1960 until his death in 1989.
McGee said he expects a meeting to occur "in the near future."

Morton said his group today will present a chronology of the careers of Birmingham and McCormack in the Boston archdiocese.

Abuse victims to get $542k from diocese

By Associated Press
Nashua (NH) Telegraph
December 21, 2002

Manchester -- The Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester will pay $542,500 to another six people who say they were sexually abused by priests.

The agreement raises the number of people who have settled with the diocese to 84, and the payout to $6,596,500.

The latest settlements, announced Thursday by lawyer Peter Hutchins, are with people who came forward about the alleged abuse after the diocese announced a similar settlement with 62 people last month.

The November settlement, worth $5,074,000, involved accusations against 28 priests, one member of a religious institute and two laypersons. None of the priests was in active ministry. All but five of the alleged victims were men.

In October, the church reached a $950,000 settlement with 16 other alleged victims represented by lawyer Charles Douglas.

Thursday’s settlement involved accusations against five priests by five men and one woman, who said they were abused from the 1950s to 1978, Hutchins said.

The largest amount to be paid in Thursday’s settlement is $275,000 to a female victim, Hutchins said. The lowest was $40,000.

So far, the diocese has paid $5,646,500 to 68 people represented by Hutchins. He said five cases still are pending, and he expects them to be resolved next month.

Hutchins said the diocese also agreed to pay his clients’ continuing therapy.

“The allegations made by the clients were not questioned in any way. Basically, they were settled on an admission of liability of sorts,” Hutchins said.

The diocese reached the settlement in a spirit of “mutual cooperation and respect,” diocesan spokesman Patrick McGee said.

Bishop John McCormack hopes to meet with the six soon “as part of his own ongoing commitment to the healing process of the church of New Hampshire,” McGee said.

While the victims are free to disclose their identities, the diocese agreed to keep their names confidential.

Five men describe decades of abuse

By Kathryn Marchocki
Manchester (NH) Union Leader
December 21, 2002

Five Massachusetts men came to New Hampshire yesterday to tell tragic stories of being molested as children by the same priest, alleged abuses they say Manchester Bishop John B. McCormack knew about but did not stop.

"The bottom line is we want the truth to come out and we want the people here of New Hampshire to judge for themselves about their Bishop McCormack," said Bernie McDaid, 46, a former altar boy at St. James Church in Salem, Mass.

McDaid is one of 54 men who joined a lawsuit claiming they were abused by the Rev. Joseph E. Birmingham from the 1960s through the 1980s in Sudbury, Salem, Lowell and Gloucester parishes.

The alleged victims also demanded a meeting with the bishop, which they said they have sought since April.

McCormack on Thursday agreed to meet with them. A date has not yet been set.

The Rev. Edward J. Arsenault, diocesan chancellor, yesterday apologized for not arranging the meeting sooner. He said he rejected the earlier requests "based on some advice we received."

"I'm willing to give Bishop McCormack the benefit of the doubt and I'm willing to meet with him," said Gary Bergeron, 40, who said Birmingham abused him at St. Michael Church in Lowell, Mass., in the 1970s.

"But I want to know why he put the preservation of the church over the preservation of the children," added Bergeron, who said his brother tried to kill himself this summer "over this issue."

McCormack, who was Cardinal Bernard F. Law of Boston's secretary of ministerial personnel from 1984 to 1994 and oversaw clergy sexual abuse cases in Boston from 1992 to early 1995, also reportedly forbid his aide to alert parishioners to abusive priests, including Birmingham, Bergeron said.

Sister Catherine Mulkerrin, who assisted McCormack in handling clergy sexual abuse cases, testified yesterday at a deposition attended by Rodney Ford, whose son, Greg, says he was raped by the Rev. Paul R. Shanley, Bergeron said.

Church documents will show that "she tried over and over again to implement an outreach program and Bishop McCormack stopped her dead in her tracks," Bergeron said.

Standing side by side in front of the Manchester City Library auditorium stage, the five men represent two decades of alleged abuse by the same priest.

Boston archdiocesan records show parents reported Birmingham molested their children as early as 1964; still he was shuffled from parish to parish until he was put on sick leave shortly before his death in 1989.

Birmingham's alleged victims harbor a particular bitterness toward McCormack, whom they said could have prevented Birmingham's alleged abuses from spreading in the mid-1960s.

Birmingham was transferred from a Sudbury parish, where several abuse allegations were made against him, to St. James in Salem in 1964, church records show.

There he served with McCormack, then an assistant pastor who had graduated from St. John's Seminary in Boston with Birmingham in 1960.

Jamie Hogan, 48, said McCormack saw Birmingham bring him to Birmingham's second-floor rectory bedroom, where he abused him several times a week over four years.

"I can tell you, with God as my witness, that Bishop McCormack in the 1960s, he knew what was going on," Hogan, 48, now of Wilmington, Del., said.

McCormack has said through his spokesman that McCormack never saw or suspected any abuse of minors when he served with Birmingham.

Hogan was the first alleged victim to come forward and file a lawsuit that names McCormack as one of the defendants.

McDaid said he was abused multiple times by Birmingham in the sacristy after serving morning Mass, in a school cloakroom after being called out of class and in the priest's car.

McDaid recalls neighborhood boys "diving into the bushes" and scrambling to hide in their backyards when they saw the priest's gold car turn the corner.

When he did "get caught" in Birmingham's car, McDaid remembers several times driving past the Catholic Charities office, where McCormack worked after leaving St. James.

"He (Birmingham) would pull up and sometimes Bishop McCormack was there waving and talking with Father Birmingham as he drove off with two or four boys in the car," McDaid said.

McDaid said he wondered as a boy if McCormack knew what was going on.

"Today I know that man knew. I know Bishop McCormack knew in the 1960s," said McDaid, who wants McCormack to resign.

The school principal in 1970 went to the chancery to complain about Birmingham abusing children and was dismissed as a "meddling female," church records show.

McCormack said a group of parents approached him about Birmingham in the early 1970s, and he told them to report the problem to the pastor. He said he also reported it to the pastor.

Birmingham was transferred to St. Michael Parish in Lowell in 1970.

It was there he met Larry Sweeney, who said Birmingham abused him while he was an altar boy in the early 1970s.

"Father Birmingham was having a feast on young boys. When he finished after one parish and things got a little too hot, they shipped him to another parish and served up another platter of young boys for him," said Sweeney, now in his early 40s.

Birmingham was transferred to St. Ann Church in Gloucester in 1985 and promoted to pastor in 1985, when McCormack was secretary for ministerial personnel.

Paul Ciaramitaro, now 31, worked part-time at St. Ann's rectory where he said Birmingham abused him at least a dozen times as a teenager.

"I wish I never met Joseph Birmingham. He didn't have to come to my parish," said Ciaramitaro, who blames McCormack for allowing him to come to his church and promoting him to pastor.

In April 1987, a St. Ann parishioner wrote Law about her concerns that Birmingham may have AIDS and could have abused her 13-year-old son.

McCormack wrote back that he talked to Birmingham, who assured him "there is absolutely no factual basis to your concern regarding your son and him."

But a month earlier, McCormack knew Birmingham was in therapy at the Institute of Living, a residential psychiatric treatment center for abusive priests in Connecticut, for abusing a young boy, church records released this week said.

When McCormack received the letter from the St. Ann parent, he addressed it with Birmingham and "was assured there was no basis for concern," a diocesan spokesman has said.


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