February 15–28, 2003
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McCormack calls meeting of lay leadership, priests
By Kathryn Marchocki
Manchester Bishop John B. McCormack has called for a meeting of the state's Catholic lay leadership and parish priests next week to discuss the future of the church in New Hampshire.
"He wants, at this time, to talk about the church and where we go from here," diocesan spokesman Patrick McGee said yesterday.
"The bishop feels he wants people to really engage together as church in moving forward. Now that we have the agreement with the Attorney General behind us, he thinks this is a good time to do it," McGee added.
The diocese reached an agreement with the state Attorney General Dec. 10 in which it avoided prosecution by admitting its past reassignment of priests who abused children could have resulted in a criminal conviction.
McGee said the bishop has no plans to discuss resignation at the meeting to be held Tuesday night at St. John the Evangelist Church in Concord.
"His plan has not changed to do everything he can to lead the diocese forward," McGee said. "I think his intention is to talk about the roles of all of us moving forward, he as bishop, the priests and the laity."
Asked if the bishop plans to discuss the effect the removal of priests accused of child sexual misconduct during the past year has had on an already critical shortage of clergy and the need for laity to take a more active role in diocesan affairs, McGee would not comment.
But, he said, "I think it's significant that he is not only inviting priests, but the lay leadership in the Diocese of Manchester to meet with him. . . ."
Pastors of the diocese's approximate 128 parishes along with the presidents of the parish's pastoral and finance councils and one other parish leader have been invited to the meeting.
Leaders of the state's Catholic hospitals and colleges and the board of New Hampshire Catholic Charities also are invited, McGee said.
The diocese's pastoral and finance councils and council of priests also are expected to attend.
While McGee said the event has been planned for several weeks, its timing coincides with several key events in the child sexual abuse scandal that has embroiled the Catholic church for more than a year.
A year ago today, the bishop publicly released a list of 14 priests accused of past sexual misconduct with children and turned their names over to the state Attorney General's Office for possible criminal prosecution.
McCormack that day also announced that any priest with a single, credible allegation of child sexual abuse would be barred from ministry.
Since then, the number of clerics removed from ministry has grown to 22. This number does not include a New London parish priest who apparently committed suicide in December after an allegation surfaced against him, but before authorities could determine whether it was credible.
In addition, the Attorney General's Office will release about 9,000 pages of documents on March 3 that detail how the diocese handled clergy sexual abuse of children dating back to the 1960s.
Moreover, WMUR TV Channel 9 on Wednesday broadcast a poll that showed 73 percent of 483 New Hampshire adults surveyed agreed McCormack should resign based on what they know about his handling of the issue of child sexual abuse by priests in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Eleven percent disagreed and 16 percent were unsure in the random survey that has a 4.5 percent margin of error.
The University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll also showed that 72
percent of the 190 Catholics polled agreed McCormack should resign. Seventeen
percent of Catholics disagreed and 11 percent were unsure.
By Kathryn Marchocki
A diocesan priest in prison for sexually assaulting teenage boys in the 1980s denies that Manchester Bishop John B. McCormack -- in correspondence with him -- questioned the veracity of his accusers.
A source who has seen the documents independently confirms that McCormack wrote the Rev. Gordon MacRae, but never said he believed the priest was unjustly convicted, as MacRae maintains to this day.
MacRae, 49, was convicted in 1994 of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy in Keene in 1983 and later pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting three other boys in the 1980s. He is now serving a 33½- to 67-year state prison sentence.
MacRae said he began writing McCormack to discuss his case after McCormack became bishop here in 1998. MacRae firmly believes his accusers were lying.
"Bishop McCormack has written to me acknowledging that I have taken serious issue with the truthfulness of the things I have been accused of. He never said he believes me," MacRae said in a telephone conversation from Concord state prison this week.
The Associated Press, quoting unnamed sources this week, said McCormack had written letters to MacRae in which the bishop questioned whether the youths told the truth.
"I think that has been taken out of context," MacRae said.
A source familiar with the letters and file memos McCormack wrote regarding MacRae's claims confirmed McCormack acknowledged MacRae doubts the truthfulness of his accusers. But the documents do not say McCormack believes MacRae. Rather, the bishop wrote he could not develop a firm sense of whether MacRae's conviction was unjust, as MacRae maintains.
MacRae said he met several times with McCormack after the bishop celebrated
Mass at the prison chapel.
By Kathryn Marchocki
A Manchester diocesan priest and serial child sexual abuser fought to regain a parish assignment and even hired a prominent attorney who threatened to sue the diocese if it did not reassign him as a pastor, several sources said.
But the late Bishop Leo E. O'Neil refused to give in to the Rev. Paul L. Aube's demands and removed him permanently from ministry in July 1994, according to several sources familiar with the 9,000 pages of church and investigative files that will be released by the Attorney General's Office next month.
Aube, who is in his 60s, was assigned as a hospital chaplain after the diocese received a credible allegation of child sexual abuse against him in 1981, sources said.
After another allegation surfaced against him in December 1992, O'Neil asked Aube to go into a residential treatment program, which Aube refused to do, sources said.
Aube, instead, hired attorney John T. Broderick to plead his case before the diocese, sources said.
Broderick, now a state Supreme Court associate justice, aggressively advocated for his client, even threatening to sue the diocese if it did not assign Aube to a parish, which would give him access to children, sources said.
O'Neil would not budge and, after Aube refused several requests to go into residential treatment, O'Neil removed Aube permanently from ministry in 1994, sources said.
An attempt to reach Broderick at the Supreme Court yesterday was unsuccessful.
The documents are part of 9,000 pages of church files and transcripts of witness and victim statements the Attorney General's Office will release March 3 as part of its criminal investigation of the diocese.
They tell a different story than the one Aube told in a recent Associated Press story in which Aube alleged he approached the bishop in 1976 to say he had molested several teenage boys and asked never to be assigned to work with children again.
Aube alleged then Bishop Odore J. Gendron, who retired in 1990, insisted he continue in work that involved youth ministry.
Aube's story did not sit well with one man Aube sexually abused in the 1970s, who says he is angry the priest managed to manipulate himself into a position where he comes off as the victim.
"Paul Aube is no one we should feel sorry for," said the victim, 46, who asked that his name not be used to protect his two younger sons who don't know about the abuse he suffered.
"For him to present himself as a victim of the system is absurd," the victim said. Aube, he said, claimed to have a special calling to minister to youth and constantly sought out assignments with youth.
"He wasn't being forced to minister to youth. That's where he directed his career so he could fulfill his deviant appetite for teenage boys," the victim said.
The victim also disputed Aube's allegations that his abuse was never forcible, violent or serious in nature.
The victim said Aube raped him many times in the 1970s when he was 15 or 16 years old while he served at Guardian Angel Parish in Berlin.
"I can remember crying and screaming at the rectory and wondering why the other priests weren't coming," he said.
The victim said he was one of four teenagers Aube took on a multistate road trip in his motor home during which he took turns raping the boys in the front section of the camper.
The victim, who said he wrote Gendron about his abuse in 1980, said he knows of at least 10 others by name who also were raped by Aube. Sources said Aube has abused at least 12 minors and as many as 20 and has emerged as the most serious, serial sexual offender in the diocese.
After Aube's name was publicly released last year by the diocese as one of 14 priests removed from ministry because of past child sexual abuse, he received partial immunity from prosecution in exchange for his cooperation in the attorney general's criminal investigation of the diocese's handling of child sexual abuse.
The victim, who reached a civil settlement with the diocese this year, said he was interviewed by two investigators with the state Attorney General's Office.
He said he agreed to testify before a criminal grand jury in which the state prosecutors would try to seek an indictment against the diocese. That became unnecessary when the diocese avoided prosecution by reaching an agreement with the attorney general in December.
Aube, who served in parishes in Claremont, Berlin, Nashua and Rochester, was sent for psychological counseling after the 1981 complaint surfaced against him, sources said.
He then was placed in hospital ministry at Concord Hospital and then at Elliot Hospital in Manchester until O'Neil permanently removed him from ministry in 1994, sources said.
Storm postpones meeting: The storm prompted Manchester Bishop John B. McCormack to postpone last night's scheduled meeting with the diocese's parish priests and lay leadership to next week.
The meeting, where McCormack will discuss the future of the church in
New Hampshire, will be held Tuesday in Concord.
By Albert McKeon
Concord, N.H. -- Bishop John McCormack vowed to remain the leader of the Diocese of Manchester and unveiled a broad plan to strengthen the Catholic Church in New Hampshire.
Addressing the diocese’s clergy and numerous parishioners Tuesday night, McCormack detailed a plan calling for greater spiritual and ministerial work. He asked clergy and laity to move beyond the clergy abuse crisis through charity and prayer.
“I am sorry for what has happened in our past,” McCormack said.
[Photo caption: Bishop John McCormack speaks at the Evangelist Church in Concord.]
He suggested that many may have expected him to announce his resignation at a meeting of the diocese’s clergy and parish council members at St. John the Evangelist Church.
“I do have something to say . . . I am here to lead the church in New Hampshire as your shepherd . . . I intend to do so with every fiber of my being,” McCormack said.
With about a dozen protesters outside the church demanding his resignation, McCormack stood at the altar inside welcoming survivors of abuse and promising support through a new ministry group.
The bishop also pledged that no one in diocesan ministry serves today with even one credible allegation of sexual abuse of a minor. He also vowed that he would never assign a priest in the future who faces a credible allegation.
McCormack said all future assignments of clergy will be made after approval is sought from priests, parish councils and parents. He assured the audience that all clergy assignments will take into consideration all the information in diocese files, as well as a pastoral code of conduct.
At a time when critics wonder how dioceses allocate parishioner donations – especially with the Catholic Church having made and expected to make innumerable civil settlements – McCormack announced that the Manchester diocese will publish next month an audited financial statement.
He said he and the diocese’s pastors will actively engage the laity, through parish councils, on administrative and budgetary matters.
“For too long, many priests and bishops have not trusted in the competence of the laity,” McCormack said.
“We have tried to protect you rather than entrust matters to you. Some of us have been fearful that we could not trust you to handle ‘bad news,’ and in our fear and lack of trust, you have lost your trust in us.
“Although we have always wanted what is best for those whom we serve, we must never again neglect the maturity of your faith and experience and trust in the Lord. We were wrong. Please do not imitate our mistake.”
With protesters chanting, “McCormack must go,” loud enough to be heard inside the church, the Rev. Richard Thompson pledged to support the bishop.
“This past year has been trying even on my spirit of hopefulness,” Thompson said. “In the past eight to nine months, I’ve struggled even with the support from my bishop. Through prayer, conversation, I have seen a definitive sense of conversion (in McCormack).”
McCormack announced that the remainder of 2003 would be a year of reparation and hope in the church. He said that laity and clergy are not only a church that serves the poor, but a church that is poor because all Catholics need fulfillment through God to attain enrichment.
Occasionally receiving warm applause from the about 500 people in attendance, McCormack expressed sadness and regret for clergy abuse.
“During the last year, especially, I have learned so much about the abandonment, loneliness and powerlessness that exists within many adult survivors of sexual abuse.
“By experiencing this, I became more aware of the loneliness and
powerlessness within myself, and my need for God’s help in order
that I may help them heal and move forward in their lives.”
By Kathryn Marchocki
A former Catholic priest was arrested at his Cape Cod home yesterday on 34 charges of sexually assaulting two boys from 1977 to 1981 while he served in a Dover parish.
The Rev. Joseph T. Maguire, 71, was arrested by Massachusetts State Police in Dennis, Mass., on a fugitive warrant after a Strafford County grand jury returned the secret indictments against him Thursday, Deputy Strafford County Attorney Peter K. Odom said.
He is being held without bail pending a March 11 bail review hearing in Orleans (Mass.) District Court.
Maguire is accused of engaging in anal rape, oral sex, fondling and other sexual contact, authorities said.
The boys, identified only by their initials in the indictments, were 9 and 10 years old when the alleged abuses began in 1977.
Maguire was assigned to St. Joseph Parish in Dover from 1974 to 1981. He had previously served in parishes in Hudson, Somersworth and Whitefield.
The indictments charge Maguire with three counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault, 23 counts of felonious sexual assault and eight misdemeanor counts of sexual assault.
Aggravated felonious sexual assault is a Class A felony carrying a maximum penalty of 7½ to 15 years in state prison. Felonious sexual assault is a Class B felony with a maximum penalty of 3½ to seven years in state prison.
In 1986, Dover police investigated reports that Maguire had been molesting boys. Maguire reportedly admitted to Dover police he sexually assaulted four St. Joseph Parish altar boys during the late 1970s, mostly in the church rectory.
Maguire also reportedly told police he had previously molested a boy while serving at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Hudson in the 1970s but the matter was handled internally by Bishop Odore Gendron.
Dover police last May said they investigated the allegations, but never filed charges because the statute of limitations had run out.
When Gendron received the Dover police report on Maguire in 1986, he told police Maguire would never be assigned to ministry again, Manchester Bishop John B. McCormack said in a statement last May.
At that time, Maguire already had left the diocese and was living in Ireland, he said. Gendron had informed the bishop in Ireland of the police report on Maguire, McCormack said.
McCormack confirmed the diocese received a report on Maguire in 1975 from Hudson police. At that time, Gendron decided to send Maguire for psychiatric treatment, McCormack said.
Maguire, who was ordained a priest Feb. 10, 1973, has not been assigned to ministry in the diocese since January 1981 and had his faculties to minister as a priest withdrawn in September 1994, diocesan spokesman Patrick McGee said.
The indictments against Maguire are the result of an investigation that began last summer, Odom said.
Authorities were able to bring criminal charges against Maguire because the clock on the statute of limitations had stopped running -- or tolled -- when Maguire left the state in 1981, Odom said.
"This is a situation where indictments are possible because Father Maguire was continuously absent from the jurisdiction from 1981 on," he explained.
Maguire was arraigned on a fugitive-from-justice charge in Orleans District
Court yesterday morning. It could not immediately be determined how he
By Kathryn Marchocki
Concord -- Manchester Bishop John B. McCormack last night renewed his pledge to lead the Manchester diocese and outlined a more collaborative role for clergy and laity in carrying out his future vision for the church.
[Photo caption: Bishop John McCormack sings hymns last night at a meeting at St. John the Evangelist Church in Concord. McCormack renewed his pledge to continue to lead the Manchester diocese. (David Lane/Union Leader)]
As about 15 demonstrators called for his resignation outside, McCormack began his nearly 40 minute-long address to the state’s parish priests and lay leaders by quickly dispensing of speculation that he planned to announce his resignation.
“Some are expecting an announcement and I have one to make,” McCormack told about 500 Catholics gathered at St. John the Evangelist Church.
“I am here to lead the church of New Hampshire as your shepherd. I have been asked to lead and I intend to do so with every fiber of my being. I want to do this with you and for you,” he said.
McCormack said he is “not deaf to those who have called me to leave.”
“But I do not see my doing so as consistent with who we are as church or who I am in being a faithful disciple of the Lord,” McCormack said.
Straying from his prepared speech, McCormack began the meeting by noting Monday’s release by the state Attorney General’s office of about 9,000 pages of investigative files detailing the diocese’s handling of abusive priests dating back to the late 1950s.
Under the agreement, reached Dec. 10 after an 11-month criminal investigation of the church, the diocese avoided prosecution by admitting its past handling of sexually abusive priests could have resulted in a criminal conviction.
The investigative files that will be released Monday will outline the cases of about 40 abusive priests and involves at least 80 victims.
They will include clergy personnel files, transcripts of investigators’ interviews with some accused priests who were granted limited immunity in exchange for their cooperation in the criminal investigation, and victim statements.
McCormack said the release of the documents “will be another painful moment in the life of the church.”
He said the diocese intends to release a companion report the same day that will “present our own honest analysis of what we have done and what we have failed to do as church in the past.”
McCormack said dealing with child sexual abuse by priests has been his most challenging and difficult ministry as a priest and bishop.
“Although I did not choose this work in Boston or here, I will do all I can to ensure that our church is safe, vibrant . . . in New Hampshire,” he said.
McCormack outlined a seven-point plan for the church’s future and called for the rest of 2003 to be a year of reparation and hope in the church in New Hampshire.
The seven-point plan calls for making ministry to youth a priority, revitalizing catechetical instruction in all parishes and schools, and embracing and supporting adult survivors of child sexual abuse in parish and diocesan life.
It also calls for a reconfiguration of diocesan services that will direct the church’s diminished financial resources to areas most in need.
He also called for lay faithful, religious, deacons and priests to work more “openly and honestly” together in carrying out the church’s ministry. With fewer priests, Christian faithful need to collaborate more in continuing the church’s mission, he said.
In order to help promote vocations to the priesthood, he said he will
appoint two parents to the diocesan vocations board. He said he will also
form an institute for lay Catholics, to help them in their ministries,
By Kathryn Marchocki
Several New Hampshire Catholics are reacting favorably to Bishop John B. McCormack's pledge this week to consider including laity in future priest assignments and full disclosure of diocesan finances.
The bishop also committed himself Tuesday to strong lay involvement on elected finance and pastoral councils at the parish and diocesan levels and asked all parishes to have councils in place by June.
"For too long, many priests and bishops have not trusted in the competence of the laity," McCormack told about 500 diocesan clergy, religious and lay leaders in outlining his future vision for the diocese.
"We were wrong," he added.
Several Catholics invited to the meeting said they were most impressed with the bishop's pledge that all future assignments of priests and deacons would be made through a simple filter -- would a parent agree to it.
"Those are the things that gave parents tremendous confidence," said Patrick H. Ford of Rye, a Seacoast businessman and former vice-chairman of the diocesan pastoral council.
"This removes the knot in people's stomachs," added Ford, who was invited to the gathering and gave the lay response to the bishop's remarks.
McCormack said he would ask the council of priests and diocesan pastoral council to consider ways to include parents and those with human resources expertise in making future clerical assignments.
He also said all diocesan information and diocesan files will be consulted before making future assignments.
Portsmouth attorney Jack Sanders, a parishioner at St. Theresa Parish in Rye and St. Matthew Parish in Plymouth who also was invited to the meeting, said, "Many of the principles (McCormack) enunciated are a renewal of the precepts of Vatican II."
He said he is pleased McCormack and the diocesan finance council will make an annual, audited financial statement of diocesan administration available to every parish and parishioner. The first will be published by the end of March.
"It's very important the folks that sit in the pews and are active Catholics and contribute money ought to know where the money is going," Sanders said.
Sanders said he believes the goals set forth by McCormack will change church structures that enabled child sexual abuse by clergy to reach crisis proportions.
"We, as Catholics, have been grappling with that issue and what McCormack has done has addressed the structure," he said.
Carolyn B. Disco, a parishioner at St. John Neumann Parish in Merrimack and former parish council member and religious instruction teacher, said she will wait to see what develops out of Tuesday's meeting.
"It's always in the implementation and the details and the action
that we see final results. So I'm listening and interested in watching
how things unfold," she said.
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