Bishop Accountability
  Manchester NH Resources
February 1
–14, 2003

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Priest said to apologize to children of ex-lover

By Associated Press
Nashua (NH) Telegraph
February 1, 2003

Boston -- The Rev. James D. Foley met with four children of a woman with whom he had an affair and apologized for not doing more to help her the night she died of a fatal drug overdose, according to the children.

Foley met with the children, two of whom he may have fathered, in a 90-minute meeting on Jan. 13 arranged by the Boston archdiocese, the children told The Boston Globe. They said Foley, 69, told them about his affair with their mother, Rita J. Perry, and apologized for not doing more to save her when she died in August 1973.

“He told us he was sorry for the pain and anguish he had caused our family, and he asked us to forgive him,” said James Perry, 38, of Foxborough, the second youngest of the children. “I’m not sure we’re ready to do that. We need more answers before we talk about forgiveness.”

Foley declined comment to the Globe about the meeting. Foley was dismissed last month from his position as associate pastor at St. Joseph’s Church in Salem after the 1973 incident became public. He could not immediately be located for comment Friday.

Representatives of the Boston archdiocese did not confirm the meeting. The archdiocese has a policy of maintaining confidentiality about meetings between church officials and victims’ families.

Perry’s three sons and daughter said they agreed to go public in hopes of finding more information about their mother’s death. Until church personnel files on Foley were released last month in connection with civil lawsuits, the children believed their mother died alone from an overdose of barbituates.

On Friday, Perry’s oldest son, Richard Perry, 48, of Stoughton, said for now the family had no comment beyond what it told the Globe.

James Perry said the meeting was particularly painful for him and his sister, Emily Perry, 32, because Foley has said their mother believed he was their father.

“I kept thinking to myself I am sitting across from the man who may have been responsible for my birth, but also for my mother’s death,” James Perry said.

The children said Foley told them he tried to revive their mother after she collapsed and he realized she may have taken some pills, then made an anonymous call to Needham police and fled the house.

Foley denied a 1993 written account in his personnel file by New Hampshire Bishop John McCormack, then an official at the Boston archdiocese, that says Foley fled the house in a panic and called police only after he returned to the house some time later.

Church files released in December in connection with lawsuits by alleged clergy sex abuse victims showed Foley disclosed the affair to church officials in 1993 and was sent for psychological treatment, then returned to ministry in 1995.

Richard Perry said he wasn’t sure he believed Foley.

“He didn’t have to meet with us, but he did and I think that took a lot of courage,” he said. “But I don’t think we got the full story. I think he said things that put himself in the best light, but we have real questions whether it’s true or not.”

McCormack protester arrested

By Gary Dennis
Manchester (NH) Union Leader
February 3, 2003

With the shouts of a half dozen protesters outside St. Catherine of Siena Parish punctuating his every word yesterday, Bishop John B. McCormack offered up his apologies and explanations concerning the church sex abuse scandal to a thinly attended morning service.

Only a few mentions of the Columbia space shuttle tragedy were made at the Manchester church on Webster Street in the city's North End. The few made were where the seven astronauts were included in a list of those to be blessed and prayed for.

And one protester was arrested while McCormack ran the Sunday service inside -- Richard Webb, 50, of Wellesley, Mass. was charged with disorderly conduct yesterday and freed on $250 bail in the afternoon. It's the first such arrest to come out of the protests which have become weekly events wherever McCormack conducts a church service.

Maybe it was the ugly weather that greeted parishioners when they woke up yesterday morning that explains the relatively sparse turnout. The Manchester bishop started off the service saying he came to St. Catherine because he lives on River Road within the church's parish boundaries and because "of my own failures and sins."

"Because of what I have done to our faith and for the protection of our children," he said.

But it was hard to drown out the yelling of the half dozen protesters lined up on a sidewalk out front only 30 yards from the stained glass. They held signs calling for McCormack's resignation.

At about 11 a.m., police loaded Webb into the back of a white police van, prompting the remaining protesters to shout loud enough to turn heads inside the church.

Police say Webb was arrested after he disobeyed a police officer's order to move off the sidewalk in front of the church.

"I was furious," said Webb's wife, Ann. "The person who should be arrested is inside the church -- Bishop McCormack. My husband was standing peacefully with a sign."

Ann Webb spoke via telephone from the Manchester Police Department's headquarters on Chestnut Street. She said an officer on the scene told them they couldn't walk on the sidewalk, in response to which Richard Webb sat down on the sidewalk and was arrested.

Mrs. Webb said that her family -- two teenage daughters and one teenage son -- was also on hand for the protest, but that their children weren't all that concerned.

"They're not upset," she said. "You don't stay in jail a long time for standing on the sidewalk."

McCormack was unshaken by the din outside, speaking mainly of hope during the service's message. And he announced that yesterday marked the 43rd anniversary of his ordination as a priest.

"Let's remember who we are," he said. "Children of God who fail at times."

And he frequently came back to the topic of whether the church has a future after the sex abuse scandal.

"We recognize and acknowledge that the church is made up of victim survivors . . . and those priests who have offended youth and need forgiveness and rehabilitation . . . and other priests who are angered," McCormack said. ". . . We have reason to hope."

Much effort, he said, has been made to review church policies, "so nothing will be missed to protect our children."
At that point, Canterbury's Lori Lambert said, loud enough to be heard for a few pews around, "How can you listen to him? He's such a liar."

And then she took the reporter's notebook and wrote in large letters "His own documents condemn him."
After the service, Kerry Spencer of Manchester was a little lighter on the bishop.

"He's doing the best he can to keep the people faithful," she said as she ushered a young boy out of the church. "Everyone makes mistakes, even the church."

And M.V. Arcand of Manchester, a 73-year-old parishioner of another church in Manchester, said it was time to clean up what's been a mess for no doubt a long time.

"In the olden days when you knew something bad about someone you hushed up," she said.
Protesters yelled toward parishioners from both morning services as they left the church.

Church pickets complain N.H. cops stifling protest

By Robin Washington and Tom Mashberg
Boston (MA) Herald
February 4, 2003

A clergy sexual abuse protester faces an arraignment today on a disorderly conduct charge in New Hampshire after a Sunday arrest that demonstrators say is the result of "heavy handed" enforcement by Manchester police.

Rick Webb of Wellesley, the husband of an alleged abuse victim and a regular protester at Boston's Cathedral of the Holy Cross, was arrested outside Manchester's St. Catherine's Church where protesters were picketing Bishop John B. McCormack, a former aide to Bernard Cardinal Law.

Manchester Police Lt. Jim Stankiewicz said he arrested Webb, who was released on $250 bail, for "safety reasons" when Webb refused to budge from the snow-filled sidewalk in front of the church, instead of standing in a designated area for protesters in a nearby driveway.

"There were several snow banks there with a very narrow path," Stankiewicz said Sunday, adding that the city's police respect the protesters' right of free speech.

But the demonstrators say their rights have been curtailed, with Manchester Police banning them from using bullhorns, carrying signs saying "honk for McCormack to resign" and even pulling over drivers who hit their horns in support without being asked.

"They're constantly saying, `Keep walking. Don't stand there. Don't stand in the snow.' They have more rules than Carter has liver pills," said Joe Gallagher of the Coalition of Catholics and Survivors, who said the protesters have not faced those restrictions elsewhere.

"In Boston, we've had very little conflict with the police, In Worcester, we had no conflict. In Manchester, every five minutes somebody's telling us what to do," he said.

Two Sundays ago, Gallagher and others picketing McCormack's residence were told persons gathering in groups of three or more needed to keep walking because a city ordinance banned them from malingering.

"A person's not allowed to encumber a sidewalk," said police spokesman Capt. Gerald Lessard, who added that ordinances also prohibited excessive noisemaking, especially in residential neighborhoods where the protests have been held.

"We don't take sides, but we certainly enforce the law," he said.

In other church-related matters:

** Law gave his final deposition yesterday in the lawsuit of former Newton CCD student Gregory Ford and his family against the church and the Rev. Paul R. Shanley.

Attorney Roderick MacLeish, who conducted the questioning of Law, said he still may call the cardinal back in other cases.

** The Boston Archdiocese formally announced the closing of the Charlestown Catholic Elementary School, the St. Joseph's Elementary School in Roxbury and Monsignor Ryan Memorial High School in Dorchester.

The 400 students and 50 staff members at the three schools will be relocated to other schools, church officials said.

Judge allows church protester to return

By Pat Grossmith
Manchester (NH) Union Leader
February 5, 2003

A judge ruled yesterday that a Massachusetts man arrested Sunday while picketing Roman Catholic Bishop John B. McCormack's appearance at St. Catherine Church can still protest outside the church from a distance of 20 yards.

Manchester District Court Judge William Lyons amended bail conditions for Richard Webb, 50, of Wellesley. Webb, a physicist, is charged with disorderly conduct for allegedly sitting down on a sidewalk Sunday outside the church after a police officer told him to move.

Originally, Webb was released on $250 bail and was ordered to stay 100 yards away from the church. Lyons lowered the distance to 20 yards.

Yesterday, Webb pleaded innocent to the misdemeanor charge, and his bail was continued. A trial was slated for April 8.

Police prosecuting attorney Lt. David Mara wanted the 100-yard restriction to continue.

He told the judge the group of protesters was asked to stand in a designated spot and not on the sidewalk because of a snow emergency. All of them moved with the exception of Webb, he said.

"He said the only way he was going to move was to be arrested," Mara said.

After Webb was arrested, there was a "big scene, and people could hear that inside the church," Mara said.

Webb said he opposed the 100-yard restriction because he might want to exercise his First Amendment rights and protest at the church again. Mara said the original bail conditions would not prevent him from doing so.

But Webb said he wanted to be able to protest within clear sight of the church. Mara objected, saying the bail condition was reasonable considering his arrest and what "we consider to be a dangerous situation at that time."

Lyons said he understood the prosecution's position, but "I also understand there's a First Amendment rights issue involved."

The judge noted that Webb could not "encumber the sidewalk, and if he commits another crime, then he's subject to arrest."

Webb, a graduate of MIT, is the owner of R.D. Webb Co. of Natick, Mass., which makes high-temperature laboratory research vacuum furnaces for university, industrial and government research laboratories. Among his clients, he said, are MIT, Princeton University and NASA.

Webb, who alleges his wife was sexually abused by a priest as a young child, said outside the courtroom that on Sunday, protesters were told to stand near a snowbank on the northeast corner of the church's property.

His wife and three teenage children were with him, he said, and the location was not safe.

It was icy on Sunday, he said, and the location abutted the lot where parishioners parked their cars. Webb said he did not see anyone use the sidewalk in front of the church.

He said he asked Lt. James Stankiewicz to allow the protesters on the sidewalk because it was safer. The officer said they couldn't.

Webb asked Stankiewicz what grounds prevented the protesters from using the sidewalk. Webb said Stankiewicz replied it was on the grounds the church had shoveled and maintained the sidewalk and had control of it. That, Webb said, "is completely ridiculous."

He said Stankiewicz told him the church had specifically requested that protesters be kept off the sidewalk.

The officer ordered him to move, and Webb said he sat down on the sidewalk to protest the group's not being allowed on the sidewalk. He said he was quiet and respectful and told the officer that he would neither resist nor assist him in his arrest.

At the time, he said, Stankiewicz told him he was under arrest for trespassing, that no bail would be required and that he would be given a summons with a court hearing date.

Webb said he had no problem with Stankiewicz, who was "a good guy."

But Webb said that when he arrived at the station, the charge had been changed to disorderly conduct. He was told that a captain had changed it.

Stankiewicz was off duty yesterday and unavailable for comment.

Richard Tracy was the captain on duty when Webb was brought in Sunday. Tracy said yesterday that the charge against Webb had always been disorderly conduct.

The question, he said, was whether it was a violation, which meant no bail and Webb would be issued a summons to appear in court, or a misdemeanor, which required bail being set.

Webb, he said, was charged with a misdemeanor.

As for the protesters' location, Tracy said police asked them to stay in a designated area because it was snowing at the time, the sidewalk was narrowed because of snow, and officers wanted to make it accessible to parishioners going to Mass.

Webb said he didn't see anyone use the sidewalk in front of the church, but Tracy said some parishioners park along Webster Street and then cross over to the sidewalk to get to the church.

Webb, who previously lived in New Hampshire and still owns property here, said he protested for 10 months in Boston and was never arrested and encountered no problems. Sunday was the first time he had ever been arrested, he said.

In Manchester, protesters have encountered problems they have not faced elsewhere, he said. Webb said protesters had their signs taken from them and police stopped some motorists who honked their horns in support of those protesting clergy sexual abuse, violating their constitutional rights.

Demonstrator says she was barred from Mass

By Katharine McQuaid
Manchester (NH) Union Leader
February 5, 2003

A woman involved in a march outside St. Joseph Cathedral Jan. 26 said she was later barred from attending Mass inside the church.

Corinne Dodge of Derry said she was so upset after the solidarity march and demonstration, co-sponsored by New Hampshire Voice of the Faithful and the Boston-based Coalition of Catholics and Survivors, that she wanted to go inside the church and pray. She said she didn't know if there would be a Mass celebration or not.

"I went in to pray. I went in to try to sort things out. I've always gone to church for that," said Dodge, a member of Holy Cross Church in Derry.

Dodge said she was standing behind a glass partition at the back of the church when she was asked to leave by a man who she thought was an usher, but turned out to be a police officer.

"He said we needed to respect the people here too. I said 'I am the people here, I've come here to pray," Dodge explained.

Then, she said, the officer told her the church had asked them not to let people come in to Mass late.

Dodge said she was surprised when she saw the man's badge and realized he was a police officer, and said she didn't understand why he was in street clothes. She said he was very polite and she is not upset with the way he handled the situation, believing he was acting on orders from the church.

"I don't think he wanted to do that any more than I wanted to leave," she said.

Dodge admitted the news of sexual abuse by priests has caused her to stray from the church over the last year.

"I had been very confused lately with the situation and had not gone to Mass for a while," she said.

Manchester Police Capt. Gerald Lessard said police officers have been hired to work details at St. Joseph Church for recent Masses to help lay the ground rules for protesters, but he did not know if there was a directive to keep people from coming to Mass late.

Spokesman for the Diocese of Manchester Patrick McGee had not heard of the incident, and neither he nor Bishop John B. McCormack were there.

"I don't know anything about that, I don't know who she talked to," he said.

But McGee said the Jan. 26 demonstration drew a larger crowd than past Sundays --more than 200 people -- and police may have been taking extra precautions.

"I don't know if on that day whether there were any special security arrangements or not," he said.

But in general, McGee said, anyone is welcome to celebrate Mass at the cathedral. And Father Edward J. Arsenault, the diocese's delegate for sexual misconduct, has even invited protesters into the church in the past.

New Hampshire Voice of the Faithful issues open letter to McCormack

By Chuck Colbert
National Catholic Reporter
February 7, 2003

Even before the Jan. 26 solidarity march in Manchester, N.H., (see related story) a monsignor who is also a historian stirred the pot. Msgr. Wilfrid H. Paradis said that priests’ files were destroyed to conceal abuse evidence, according to the Manchester Union Leader’s reporting Jan. 8.

“It was my very strong impression that some files had been destroyed and the files were destroyed because of incriminating evidence,” Paradis, 80, told the newspaper during an interview. The author of Upon This Granite: Catholicism in New Hampshire 1647-1997, published in 1998, Paradis said he had complete access to diocesan archives and other records and documents while doing research for his book.

The day after the Leader story was published, New Hampshire Voice of the Faithful released an open letter (see below), with a press statement.

“Disclosures this week compound the concern New Hampshire Catholics have about the integrity of records and we ask Bishop McCormack to clarify his position,” said Peter Flood, coordinator of the state’s Voice of the Faithful group.

New Hampshire Voice of the Faithful
P.O. Box 423
Concord, NH 03302-0423
January 9, 2003

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

Dear Bishop McCormack:

The Steering Committee of New Hampshire Voice of the Faithful, representing eight chapters statewide, is deeply troubled by revelations this week of a previous bishop’s destruction of records associated with sexual abuse by a priest, and of records possibly destroyed under your own administration. A diocesan public relations spokesman said documents have not been destroyed since November 2000, leaving two years after your installation here in 1998 when such activity may have occurred. We find these disclosures alarming, since the permanent integrity of all diocesan documents going forward is a vital concern. Without the records of past sexual abuse by clergy, harmful practices endorsed less than one year ago might still be in effect today.

Given this history, we are sensitive to the implications of your agreement last month with Attorney General Philip McLaughlin that avoided criminal prosecution of the diocese. That agreement allows the destruction of the records of deceased priests accused of sexual misconduct upon the death of the accused. As the result of a recent tragedy involving the untimely death of a priest, you are now theoretically in a position to destroy his records.

We urge you to publicly pledge that the diocese will not destroy any more records associated with sexual abuse allegations against any priest, whether living or deceased. These records are a crucial archive of how the diocese has handled allegations in the past, how it is doing today, and how it will handle them in the future. We believe all these records, not just a summary of each one, should be maintained as a permanent archive. This is necessary both to provide a lasting record of the diocese’s response to these cases, and to keep them available as a resourcefor survivors of abuse who have not yet come forward. Such actions merely fulfill your own promise to assure the preeminence of the healing of those harmed over any other concern of the diocese (December 15, 2002 homily). We heartily support this focus and pray it will be implemented.

According to the diocese’s own numbers, released at the press conference announcing the agreement with the Attorney General, 43% of the New Hampshire diocesan priests involved in sexual abuse allegations are deceased. The diocese’s records on these priests can provide vital validation for survivors in coming to grips with the enormity of the abuse and betrayal they experienced. Ultimately, those records belong to the people of this diocese, and it is imperative that they be preserved.

The agreement with the Attorney General allows the diocese to destroy these records; it does not require that you destroy them. We ask you to immediately and publicly pledge to retain every page of every record of every priest ever accused of sexual misconduct in a permanent archive that will be an essential part of the diocese’s efforts to provide greater accountability on these cases.

We believe a strong and prompt pledge from the diocese to maintain these records will be a tremendous help in rebuilding the bridge of trust between the Church and those who are heartbroken and disillusioned by this crisis, as you yourself must be.

Peter Flood, coordinator
New Hampshire Voice of the Faithful

Protesters target Manchester’s Bishop McCormack

By Chuck Colbert
National Catholic Reporter
February 7, 2003

Manchester, N.H. -- The Sunday Boston Globe’s front-page story Jan. 26 couldn’t have been more timely. The newspaper’s “Spotlight Team,” in a follow-up report, wrote: “An examination of thousands of pages of internal church records make clear that [Bishop John B.] McCormack, now bishop of the Manchester, N.H., diocese, [and a key adviser to Cardinal Bernard F. Law], was an administrator whose first sympathies frequently lay with his brother priests. With him, their words often carried greater weight than those of their victims.”

The day that Globe story greeted New Englanders, dozens of protesters in New Hampshire were joined by friends and advocates imported from the greater Boston area for a march of protest and solidarity at Manchester’s St. Joseph Cathedral. They were a mix of ages and backgrounds: church reformers and victim-survivors, joined by their families and friends. Nearly 250 people braved the morning’s bitter temperatures to show support for victims of sexual abuse by priests and to urge McCormack’s resignation.

Their message came across loud and clear -- in speeches, through placards, with strains of classical music in the background: Support survivors. Bishop McCormack must go. Speak Truth to Power -- STTOP McCormack.

“I’m here because I have to stand with the victims and survivors, and I don’t hear much at all about them at our local parish,” said Maggie Fogarty of St. Thomas More Parish in Durham, N.H. “If I don’t physically align myself with the victims, then I don’t know what to do with the pain of their stories.” The mother of two small children, Fogarty said, “It all feels very personal when I look at them.”

Fogarty, like many other protesters, also came to voice opposition to McCormack’s staying on as the spiritual leader of the diocese. The jurisdiction of the diocese includes the entire state, with a total Catholic population of nearly 326,000. In other words, approximately 28 percent of the state’s population is Catholic.

“Absolutely, he has to go. I can’t be a part of the solution here until he is gone.” Fogarty added. “His behavior is appalling. He has no moral credibility at all because over and over and over again he took the word of priests over the cries of victims and their mothers.”

Other protesters, members of New Hampshire Voice of the Faithful, sounded similar sentiments:

“His name appears way too often” in the church documents, said Lynn Holmes of Durham.

“He can be forgiven but he must be held accountable. And that means losing his job,” said Barbara Troxell.

“He’s still in denial,” said Peg Boucher. “I’ve written to him four times. In the last letter he said ‘I always supported children.’ ” But, she added, “The children came after the clergy.”

“Something systemically, surgically needs to be corrected here, maybe Vatican III,” said Lynn Holmes’ husband, David Holmes.

Yet another protester, Joan Barrett of Man-chester, said, “Bishop McCormack had a lot to do with this [situation here in New Hampshire] continuing so long. He has not admitted guilt except under pressure, starting and mounting to get rid of him.”

Like Fogarty, Barrett is also a mother; one of her two daughters attends the diocese’s Trinity High School. “It’s been very difficult,” she said. “[McCormack] came to speak at my daughter’s school, and some of the things he said were not very truthful.”

She added: “I first came three weeks ago [to a protest] when I read in one of our papers that a monsignor in a big parish in town said the [the Massachusetts protesters] had no right to cross the state border. As far as I am concerned, we are all Christians together. I thank them for coming here and being a catalyst to get New Hampshire people moving,” she said.

At least one speaker picked up on Barrett’s point. “I know that many of you who call New Hampshire home really don’t want us here today,” said John Vellante of North Andover, Mass. But “clergy sexual abuse has no state boundaries. It happened here just as it happened in Massachusetts and in so many other states across the land,” he added. Vellante alleges he was abused not only in Massachusetts, but also once in Concord, N.H., by a former priest.

The Jan. 26 march, cosponsored by the Coalition of Catholics and Survivors and the New Hampshire Voice of the Faithful -- representing eight chapters statewide -- was organized to demonstrate “grief and support for victims and survivors of sexual abuse by the clergy,” according to a flier distributed by the two organizations.

“Marking the first anniversary of the exposure of this crisis, the march enables us to show our unabated support for untold numbers of people who were sexually abused as children by priests,” said Anne Barrett Doyle, a spokesperson for the Coalition of Catholics and Survivors. “Their cries for justice remain unanswered.”

The march also garnered support from other local church-reform and victims-advocacy groups, including the New England chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP; Survivors First; and Speak Truth to Power, or STTOP.

National leaders from SNAP, including executive director David Clohessy, and Susan Archibald, president of The Linkup, a 3,000-member victim-survivors’ organization, also attended and spoke to the crowd attending the event, the largest in New Hampshire to date.

Dominican Fr. Thomas Doyle, the winner of this year’s Isaac Hecker Award for Social Justice, also addressed the crowd. “Looking into the faces, listening to the stories, and sensing and feeling the pain of the men and women, boys and girls who were brutalized and soul-raped” has changed his life, Doyle said. “For a long time, the four most painful words that I often had to say was, ‘I am a priest.’ ” Yet, he said, “Being with you and walking with you is a great privilege in my life.”

The Manchester march was similar to one held last summer in Boston (NCR, July 5). Outside St. Joseph’s Cathedral protesters unveiled placards, bearing names and photographs of children at the approximate age of their sexual abuse. Holding the signs overhead, one by one, protesters stepped up to a small platform to identify the victims and speak, some through tears:

“John, abused at age 12, 1958–1959, while studying for the priesthood.”

“Six years old, still innocent when the abuse began.”

“Mary abused as a child, as were two of her children.”

“Denise, abuse began at 10 years of age, the same age as my daughter.”

All told, 83 names of alleged victims rang out from the somber stillness among the protesters. The strains of “Adagio for Strings” by Samuel Barber captured the mood and set the tone for the hour and half recitation, and subsequent silent march around the red brick cathedral, now a new focal point for the national crisis in the Catholic church.

“It’s very moving,” said Tom Blanchette, of Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., himself a survivor of clergy sex abuse, abuse that started at age 11. “This is much more effective than shouting.”

McCormack did not celebrate Mass inside St. Joseph Cathedral that day. His spokesperson, Patrick McGee, declined to give McCormack’s exact location. “We are not putting that out,” he told the local media. “We don’t want [the smaller parishes] to become part of the story,” he told a Boston Globe reporter.

The Manchester Union Leader reported next day that the bishop celebrated Mass in northern New Hampshire. McGee also told a Union Leader reporter, “The [church here] does stand in solidarity with all victims of abuse.”

McCormack has no plans to resign, McGee said. He was quoted in The Union Leader as saying, McCormack “plans to continue to work to move the church forward in its mission in New Hampshire and to continue to make sure the actions of abuse never happens again.”

Still, for one survivor, Kathy Dwyer of Braintree, Mass. -- and any number of protesters --McCormack has a tough sell. “I grew up in a poor, working class Irish family, and being Catholic was more of our identity than even being Irish,” Dwyer told the solidarity protest and march attendees.

In Manchester and in Boston, for increasing numbers of the laity, maintaining that Catholic identity presents a constant challenge. “I haven’t lost my faith,” said Maggie Fogarty. Perhaps a “profound renewal” is underway, she suggested. Just maybe “God can work good through something as chaotic and disastrous as this.”

Sources say McCormack had doubts about victims

By J.M. Hirsch, Associated Press
Manchester (NH) Union Leader
February 11, 2003

Concord -- In letters to a Roman Catholic priest who pleaded guilty to molesting several boys, Bishop John B. McCormack questioned whether the youths told the truth, The Associated Press has learned.

The letters from McCormack to the imprisoned Rev. Gordon MacRae are among 9,000 pages of investigative files to be released March 3.

The documents are from the state attorney general's 11-month investigation of whether the Diocese of Manchester had endangered children in past decades by shuffling around priests accused of abuse. Several sources familiar with the records and the investigation described their contents to the AP. The sources spoke only on condition of anonymity.

The documents include detailed allegations against dozens of priests, the sources said, along with letters from McCormack to MacRae sent within the past two years.

Patrick McGee, spokesman for McCormack, had not seen the documents and would not comment on them. He said any report on them was premature. He said a description of any portion of the documents takes the material "out of any kind of a context."

Senior Assistant Attorney General Will Delker would not comment on the documents before they are made public.

MacRae was convicted in 1994 of raping a 15-year-old boy during "pastoral counseling" sessions in 1983 at the rectory of St. Bernard's Church in Keene. He is serving a 33½- to 67-year sentence at the state prison.

MacRae later pleaded guilty to assaulting three other boys.

Sources said McCormack's letters are sympathetic to MacRae and express reservations about the truthfulness of his victims. Court records show that MacRae challenged the truthfulness of the victims himself until 1995, when he dropped lawsuits that accused two of them of being motivated by greed. He still maintains his innocence, according to his lawyer, Eileen Nevins.

At MacRae's November 1994 sentencing, Cheshire County Superior Court Judge Arthur Brennan told MacRae the evidence against him was "clear and convincing" and that making counter-accusations against his victims was "a trademark of your struggle against justice."

McCormack has been dogged by accusations for more than a year that while a top aide to then-Cardinal Bernard Law in Boston he protected priests accused of abuse, and dismissed the complaints of alleged victims.

McCormack has acknowledged making mistakes in Boston, but has asked that he be judged by his time in New Hampshire, where he was appointed bishop in 1998.

McCormack averted unprecedented criminal charges against the diocese in December by acknowledging the church had harmed children in the past and agreeing to public release of the documents. The attorney general's office is blacking out victims' names and other identifying information before releasing the documents.

The documents also contain details about one New Hampshire priest who recognized he was harming minors and asked church leaders for help. That priest, who never faced criminal charges, reportedly was the centerpiece of the state's case against the diocese.

According to sources, the priest approached church leaders in 1976 following incidents with teenage boys during the previous five years. The priest requested psychiatric help, and that he not be assigned to work with children again.

The sources said church leaders ordered an evaluation that deemed him fit to work and returned him to an assignment that included working with children. The priest later paid for psychiatric help on his own.

The documents also include records of the investigation of the Rev. Roland Cote. McCormack appointed Cote to a Jaffrey church in June without telling parishioners Cote had paid a teenage boy for sex during the 1980s.

McCormack said he kept quiet because he did not consider Cote a threat to children.

Cote stepped down after his past became news and McCormack was harshly criticized for appointing him. County prosecutors investigated Cote last spring, but did not press charges because the boy's exact age could not be determined. They believe he was at least 16, the age of consent in New Hampshire. Church officials have said the boy was 18.

When the documents are released they will be available for viewing at the attorney general's office. Copies also can be purchased. A summary of the documents that runs more than 100 pages will be posted online on March 3.


Original material copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.