Bishop Accountability
  Manchester NH Resources
March 4–31, 2003

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Family saw two faces of diocese

By Annmarie Timmins
Concord (NH) Monitor
March 4, 2003

Members of a family in which a young girl was abused by their priest thought a look at his personnel file last week would reiterate the betrayal they already knew. Instead they said it showed church leaders had lied to them more than they had realized.

Among their most disturbing discoveries, they said, was a suggestion that a church official was coaching the abusive priest on how to deny their allegations even as he was promising the family he would investigate its claims.

"Abused again - that's been my sister's experience with this," said the victim's brother. "I feel like nothing is going to surprise me anymore, and then I go back and look at these documents."

The brother spoke to the Monitor about the family's experience on the condition that neither the family's name nor the priest's be included in this story. His purpose was to protect his sister's and his family's privacy.

The priest's personnel file was among the 9,000 pages of church records released by the state attorney general's office yesterday in connection with its child endangerment case against the Diocese of Manchester.

During the last several days, state investigators allowed victims and their families to preview the church files to prepare them for what was going to be made public. According to sources who had read the documents, this was not the only family whose members felt the church had given them half-truths.

One victim of another priest learned just recently that church officials had misled him when they told him his priest had admitted to abuse. The priest, according to the files, admitted to abusing some victims, but he had specifically denied abusing that victim.

The priest in the case of the young female victim now lives in New Mexico. Suspended in 1994, he denied the allegation in letters to the church as recently as last year. He declined to be interviewed for this story and referred calls to his attorney, Robert McDaniel of Concord.

McDaniel could not be reached late yesterday.

The church official who advised the priest how to respond to the allegations in 1995 was Francis Christian, now the diocese's auxiliary bishop. At the time, Christian was handling clergy personnel matters for Bishop Leo O'Neil.

"My advice to you would be to make no direct denials," Christian wrote to the priest. "As I say, it is better not to jeopardize the fragile situation that exists by any direct statements."

Christian, who works out of the diocese in Manchester, could not be reached for comment yesterday. Pat McGee, spokesman for the church, said the file reflects that Christian had actually advised the priest to stop denying the abuse. Doing so was upsetting the victim, McGee said.

The diocese has concluded the woman's allegation is true, McGee said.

Admonished before

Last week's preview of the file raised other concerns for the family. According to the victim's brother, Christian misrepresented his interaction with the family in memos he kept on the situation.

The brother recalled Christian telling them that theirs was the first allegation of sexual misconduct against the priest that the diocese had received. The file released yesterday, however, contains a letter dated nearly 10 years earlier from Christian to the priest admonishing him for an affair with an adult woman.

The victim in this case, who still lives in New Hampshire, was abused during the 1960s, beginning when she was about 6. The abuse stopped when the girl was a teenager.

But she kept it a secret until 1994, when she revealed it to her brother during a conversation they were having about the Rev. James Porter, who had recently made headlines for abusing nearly 30 children in Massachusetts.

"It just knocked me back," the brother said of his sister's revelation. "And it still does."

The victim declined to be interviewed for this story, preferring instead to let the details come from her brother, who has gone to nearly every meeting she has had with diocesan officials since she reported the abuse in 1994.

Her brother remembers the family's first meeting with Christian at the diocese. "He acted concerned, surprised and interested in doing what he could in helping any way he could," the brother said.

Along with the sister's allegations, the family and Christian also discussed the affairs the priest had been having with adult women. Christian listened to the allegations and offered to set up a second meeting where the family could address the priest directly.

"The odd thing about that (second) meeting was that (the priest) acknowledged his lifelong infidelity," the brother said. "And he did not flat-out deny the abuse (of my sister). He said he might have been in her room at night, but it wouldn't have been for anything like (we alleged)."

What the family didn't learn until they read the priest's files last week was that Christian had advised the priest to offer that half-hearted denial.

The priest cooperated with the state's investigation of the church hierarchy and recalled for investigators his memory of Christian's advice: "He advised me not to deny it directly," the priest said. "(He said), if we deny it directly, you know they're going to get mad. I got the very impression that (if) I said, 'No, I didn't touch your legs,' she would fly off the handle."

Not on the list

Christian ultimately decided to remove the priest from his parish and to revoke his rights to celebrate Mass publicly. The family recalls Christian telling them the priest was being removed for his affairs with women, not the child abuse.

Christian did not state his reasons in his memo, but a subsequent letter written by the bishop said the priest was removed for the affairs.

In February 2002, when the diocese was persuaded by law enforcement officials to release the names of priests they believed had been credibly accused of sexual misconduct with children, the priest in this case was not on the list. When the family asked why, the Rev. Edward Arsenault, the person now in charge of handling clergy sexual abuse, told them the priest's file was not found with others containing child sexual abuse allegations.

Christian had filed it instead alongside those of priests accused of sexual misconduct with adults.

When the family protested and said they had come to the diocese in 1994 specifically to report the abuse of their sister, Arsenault protested back, according to the brother.

"He said, 'That may have been your perception of why you were here,' " the brother recalled. "I think my eyes almost fell out of my head."

McGee said yesterday the improper filing was a mistake, not intentional.

After constant urging from the family, the church released the priest's name a month after putting out its first list.

"That was possibly the worst month my sister has had in the last year of dealing with this," her brother said. "It was waking up every day and having a reminder that the diocese was not taking her seriously."

Reaching a settlement

Christian's mischaracterization in 1994 of the priest's sexual misconduct has had another consequence for the church in the last year. The family has recommitted itself to having the priest removed from the priesthood rather than just suspended, as he is now.

"My sister is now in a position to carry it farther along than she could in 1994," the brother said. "She believes and has believed all along that this priest should be (removed). We all feel that. It's amazing to think that he hasn't been."

The sister and her family wanted accountability from the church and last year began demanding explanations as to why the church was paying the priest's retirement when it didn't consider him fit to wear a collar.

"We just could not get the feeling they were dealing with us straight," the brother said.

Finally, believing it was the only way to get the church's attention, the family sent the diocese a letter demanding a financial settlement. Shortly, the church gave the family the audience it had requested. They met with Bishop John McCormack this summer. At their request, Arsenault was not invited.

The brother said family members were disappointed to realize that Arsenault had not told McCormack the most significant details of their sister's abuse or of their past dealings the church. And he said they didn't appreciate the hardball McCormack's legal team had played in trying to diminish a settlement.

It was McCormack who rescued the meeting, according to the brother. He offered a better settlement figure than his staff had presented, and he agreed to request that the pope remove the priest from the priesthood.

"I think a light bulb went off in his head, and he realized how big a deal this was," the brother said. "To his credit, I think he saw that we needed to find a resolution."

The family did settle with the church for far less than it had requested, but the brother declined to say how much. More significant, the brother said, was McCormack's assurances he'd have the priest removed from the priesthood.

It took the family nearly nine years to get that response. The brother appreciated McCormack's intervention but gave the credit to the state attorney general's office. Had the state not persuaded the church to release its internal files by threatening criminal charges, the brother believes the church would have continued to hold its own protection dearer than that of victims.

"That agreement will hold them accountable in a way they never have been," the brother said. "And it will hold them accountable in a way they believed in their heart of hearts that they should not have been held accountable."

Details of Cote sexual relationships released

By Annmarie Timmins
Concord (NH) Monitor
March 5, 2003

A judge released details of Father Roland Cote's admitted sexual encounters with at least three young men yesterday, rejecting Cote's argument that the airing would hurt his ability to remain a priest when he returns from sick leave.

Yesterday's release revealed new information that church leaders knew more about Cote's sexual past with young men, which included his payments for sex, than officials let on this fall.

"Simply because the documents the State intends to release contain additional details about the allegations does not create irreparable harm," Judge Kathleen McGuire ruled.

Cote is still a priest with the Diocese of Manchester and could be reassigned to parish ministry after he returns from sick leave, said Pat McGee, church spokesman, yesterday. Cote made headlines in September after his Jaffrey parish learned that Bishop John McCormack had assigned him there knowing Cote had paid an 18-year-old man for sex.

The man came forward last year, and the diocese questioned his claim that he was only 16 at the time - young enough to warrant criminal charges. When law enforcement couldn't prove the man had been underage, McCormack defended the reassignment, saying Cote had not committed child abuse.

McCormack soon after put Cote on sick leave and apologized for not being more honest with parishioners about Cote's past. But it was clear in Cote's file yesterday that the diocese knew even more about Cote's past than McCormack admitted to hiding this fall.

According to a letter in Cote's file written by Auxiliary Bishop Francis Christian, church leaders believed as early as 1990 that Cote had "some problems with homosexuality." And the file contains Cote's admission last year to investigators that he had had "a couple" of other sexual encounters in addition to the one McCormack did eventually disclose to parishioners.

Cote's file was to be among the 9,000 pages of church files made public by the attorney general's office Monday as part of its agreement with the Diocese of Manchester to drop criminal charges in exchange for the release of abusive priests' files and an improved abuse reporting policy.

A lawyer representing Cote filed a last-minute request Monday to block the release to protect Cote's reputation.

The file McGuire made public yesterday does not elaborate on two of the three liaisons Cote admitted to.

The bulk of the file pertains to Cote's five- to six-year sexual relationship with the man who came forward with allegations last year. He met Cote in the 1980s when he was hitchhiking and Cote picked him up. The man said Cote paid him repeatedly for sex. He thought he was 15 or 16 at the time, but he could not remember dates precisely enough to overcome the diocese's insistence that he was not underage.

Church officials initially told state investigators last year that they would remove Cote for the sexual relationship. They decided instead to reassign him after the male signed a settlement with the church that said he was 18 - the age of consent - when he was with Cote.

McGee would not disclose the amount of the settlement yesterday but confirmed that it included a reference to the man being of age.

McGee declined to say why Cote is on sick leave and whether he is being treated. He also declined to say under what circumstances Cote could be reassigned to parish ministry.

When McCormack apologized to parishioners this summer for assigning Cote, he said his mistake was not telling the parish of Cote's past.

When asked whether future parishioners would be notified of Cote's past, McGee said he could not speculate.

"If the bishop decides to assign Cote somewhere, we'll address it at that time," McGee said.

Judge rejects Cote’s appeal

By Associated Press
Nashua (NH) Telegraph
March 5, 2003

Concord, N.H. -- A priest on Tuesday lost his bid to keep private a file that names him in the state’s church sex-abuse investigation.

The Rev. Roland Cote, whose admitted affair with a teenage boy was reported last summer, had filed a last-minute request Monday to keep the file sealed, just as the state attorney general’s office prepared to release 9,000 pages of documents of its statewide investigation. The request delayed the mass release by an hour.

Judge Kathleen McGuire issued an order Tuesday afternoon denying Cote’s request, a day after presiding over a hearing in Merrimack County Superior Court. She had agreed to withhold Cote’s file until she had come to a decision.

“I am pleased that the court recognized the importance of full disclosure of the state’s investigative file in this historic case,” Attorney General Peter Heed said. The state released the documents Tuesday.

Cote resigned from a Jaffrey church last year after the affair was reported and Manchester Bishop John McCormack was harshly criticized for appointing him. He formerly served at St. Louis de Gonzague in Nashua.

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.

Cote’s lawyers argued that releasing parts of the file would damage his reputation. Cote was never charged and he cooperated with the state, they said.

Most of the state’s information about Cote had already been reported in the media, Assistant Attorney General William Delker said at the hearing.

“They’ve been not just reported but widely reported,” he said.

Churchgoers say institution is the problem

By Lynn Tryba
Nashua (NH) Telegraph
March 5, 2003

Nashua -- Some area Catholics believe that while the Diocese of Manchester has developed a solid plan for preventing the sexual abuse of children by priests, there is more to be done before they again feel comfortable with its leadership.

The diocese on Monday released its report – “Restoring Trust: A Report to the People of New Hampshire by the Diocese of Manchester” – in conjunction with a 9,000-page report from the state attorney general’s office that documented the diocese’s inadequate handling of priests accused of sexually abusing minors.

“Restoring Trust” pledged increased pastoral support for sexual-abuse victims and mandatory sexual-abuse-awareness training for priests, among other measures.

Some local parishioners have ideas about how Bishop John McCormack might restore their trust; they include revisiting the structure of the Roman Catholic Church. Some say they think the all-male hierarchy contributes to problems of secrecy and corruption, and that the sexual abuse of children – and its cover-up – is a manifestation of an underlying problem within the institution. Some think McCormack should resign because they say he no longer has the moral authority to perform his job.

Ed Kirby, 74, of Nashua, said he read the diocese’s report. “Its theme was ‘Let’s say a prayer about it, and move on.’ ”

Kirby, a member of St. John Neumann Parish in Merrimack, is unwilling to do so. “I feel I’ve been betrayed. Since the age of 6, I have trusted my spiritual life to the Catholic Church,” he said. “McCormack must be held accountable. He must leave his position.”

Cherie Gaudette, 40, of Nashua, agrees that a betrayal has taken place: for the victims, who will always carry the scars of their abuse; and for all church members who used to feel their children were safe at church.

Gaudette’s 10-year-old son, Evan, is an altar server who helps the priests during Masses at St. Francis Xavier in Nashua. Daughter Carly, 14, plays flute in the choir. It used to be that Gaudette didn’t worry about them when they were out of sight at church. Those days are over.

Catholics interviewed Tuesday agreed the diocese had done a good job addressing the clergy’s sexual abuse of children. “But the basic problem is not sexual abuse,” Kirby said. “It’s that a hierarchy can operate with autonomy in secrecy.”

Kirby now questions the diocese’s dealings about promotions, assignments and real-estate transactions. “I must ask myself the question, what other corruption is in there, based on the way they’ve operated?”

He and others advocated the laity becoming much more involved with church decisions and the church’s future direction.

The diocese has taken a step in that direction. Its report outlines that from now on, rather than leaving sexual abuse allegations to a few high-ranked officials, a Diocesan Review Board – including lay members – will investigate cases and make recommendations to the bishop.

Peter Flood, New Hampshire coordinator of Voice of the Faithful, a worldwide group seeking to reform the Catholic Church, agreed that collaboration with the laity was vital. “And I don’t mean we listen to them and agree with whatever they tell us,” he said.

Pauline Boggis, a Milford resident who also belongs to Voice of the Faithful, agrees. “If mothers and fathers had been sitting in on those panels (in the past), it never would have gone down the way it did.”

Gaudette called the recent findings against the diocese a wakeup call from God, a reminder that church authorities are people, too, prone to the same human failings as the general population. Because everyone is human, unquestioning faith in the hierarchy needs rethinking, she said.

Boggis agreed. “My faith is not based on a hierarchy. My faith is based in Jesus. The church is a human institution. They screwed up in the past and they will do so in the future.”

Still, Boggis believes that the clergy sexual-abuse crisis “is going to change things forever.” Other local Catholics echoed her viewpoint and some even expressed optimism about the church’s future.

Flood said he thought the church was now in a much healthier state. He likened the attorney general’s report to discovering you have cancer while there is still time to do something about it.

Speaking personally, and not as a member of Voice of the Faithful, he said he thought the situation would be improved if “any of the existing men who were involved as accessories” left office and were replaced by others without blemished records. He said he knew of many wonderful priests who could step into a leadership role and “carry the church into a wholesome future.”

Both Gaudette, who teaches religious education, and Guyleane Couture, director of Rivier College’s office of campus ministry, said they thought it was an ideal time for the Catholic Church to rethink who may serve as priests. Both favored opening the doors to women and married people.

The questioning of church leadership comes at an interesting time. Today is Ash Wednesday, which kicks off Lent, a 40-day period in the Christian faith reserved for introspection and penance.

The diocese issued a statement Tuesday urging New Hampshire Catholics to use Ash Wednesday as a time to be mindful of the need for hope in the church. In the release, McCormack said he seeks “reparation from the Lord for those harmed by some priests, and for what I and other Catholic leaders failed to do to ensure the protection of children and young people.”

Bulger case shows contrasts

By Albert McKeon
Nashua (NH) Telegraph
March 5, 2003

A priest, at times unmoved but other times in categorical denial of the abuse allegations lodged against him.

An alleged abuse victim, traumatized by the multiple assaults and concerned that the priest could harm again.

A diocese, addressing a complaint it claims to have first received in 2001, but also holding a 1974 document that outlines an abuse allegation.

The same diocese, revealing its concern about a potential scandal just months before the clergy abuse crisis gripped the Roman Catholic Church.

This thumbnail sketch of accused, accuser and church appears in the Diocese of Manchester’s personnel file on the Rev. Albion Bulger. As with the files of 54 other priests – released Monday by the state attorney general’s office – Bulger’s folder provides a glimpse into a brilliant career marred by allegations.

“Father Bulger is a bright, articulate and sophisticated priest,” the Rev. Edward Arsenault, the diocesan chancellor, wrote of Bulger in October 2001. “His experience as a leader in the church has served him well and he is insightful as to (the) severity and purpose of his resignation, retirement and evaluation.

“In fact, his willingness to do so in a cooperative fashion adds further credence to my sense that he likely did assault (the victim) and cannot recall the details thereof.”

Bulger, the former pastor of Parish of the Resurrection in Nashua, had received praise for his clerical work. He displayed great intellectual capabilities, earning a master’s degree at the respected University of Louvain in Belgium.

He also had to resign in September 2001, two months after the diocese claims in its files that it received its first allegation against him.

A man had stepped forward and claimed Bulger assaulted him twice in 1974: once at the priest’s retreat in Barnstead and later at the rectory of St. Kathryn Church in Hudson, the file said.

Most of the diocesan records released on Bulger show the diocese acted swiftly upon hearing the allegation in 2001. The diocese removed Bulger from his parish and offered him treatment – just months before the clergy abuse crisis broke, and shortly before Bishop John McCormack started permanently removing all priests who faced a credible allegation from ministry.

The diocese, specifically Arsenault, feared that if Bulger stayed in ministry, he could have possibly harmed children and cast a cloud of scandal over the church.

But the diocese knew in 1974 of Bulger’s alleged behavior.

In a letter addressed that year to Monsignor Thomas Hansberry, then the diocesan chancellor, Monsignor Raymond Blair wrote of a Derry woman who complained that Bulger gave her 15-year-old son “something to drink (wine or liquor – unknown) and then would have relations.”

Blair, now retired, wrote that the boy had a mental condition that had already led him to a breakdown, but the relationship “naturally made his condition more serious.” Blair also wrote that the alleged abuse occurred the previous summer, in 1973, and that a male friend of the boy had also made the same complaint. The woman, though, told Blair that both boys had a tendency to lie, the letter said.

“The woman felt very badly to have to relate this to us but in justice to the youth of the parish, she felt that the authorities should know that these two boys have accused Father of this,” Blair wrote. “She impressed me as being a very honest and sincere person and felt badly about bringing these charges against Father, not knowing for sure if they were true.”

Hansberry, who has since died, made decisions on clergy assignments as part of his duties as chancellor. Blair’s letter has the diocesan seal in the top, left corner, and the letterhead of “The Tribunal,” a board on which both monsignors apparently had a seat.

Comprising the bishop, clergy and laity, the diocesan tribunal is a forum in which members administer church law. The tribunal, for instance, typically reviews a couple’s request for an annulment.

The tribunal does not make decisions on sexual misconduct, diocesan spokesman Pat McGee said Tuesday. The fact that the allegation appears on tribunal stationery does not necessarily mean the tribunal addressed it, McGee said.

At some point, Hansberry would have put the letter in Bulger’s file, McGee said.

The allegations prominently addressed throughout Bulger’s file, or at least the portion made public this week, focus on charges of abuse in 1974, when he served as pastor of St. Kathryn. Bulger, 72, could not be reached for comment.

A man came forward in July 2001, and claimed Bulger molested him twice at the age of 15, the file said. The man also alleged that Bulger sexually assaulted his boyhood friend, who has since died.

The man held his complaint until 2001 because he apparently wanted to protect his family from shame, the file said. “His father passed away last year and this obstacle now no longer exists,” the file said.

Also, Bulger had recently celebrated the funeral Mass of the man’s relative, and the man had learned through family members that Bulger still was an active pastor, the file said. The man wanted Bulger removed from ministry because “even at his advanced age (when he may not have sexual feelings anymore) . . . Fr. Bulger should not be acting in the name of God.”

The man recalled that his mother called the diocese after the second alleged assault in 1974, and a priest told her “the matter would be addressed.”

Contrary to that claim, Auxiliary Bishop Francis Christian told members of the Parish of the Resurrection in 2002 that the man’s recent complaint marked “the first (time) the diocese had an allegation against Father Bulger.”

The man stated he had “strong feelings of guilt and remorse after the second assault and that he contemplated killing himself, but those feelings eventually subsided,” the file said.

Arsenault interviewed Bulger after the man came forward.

Bulger’s “demeanor during my initial telephone conversation and meeting with him was strange,” Arsenault wrote. “He was emotionally benign and showed no sign of expressing any emotional reaction to the accusation . . . He was ‘matter of fact’ when I pointed out that he had corroborated most of the circumstances of the allegation and had just denied the accusation of molestation.”

Arsenault noted in the file that Bulger said, “What can you do about it anyway?” Bulger also quoted, in Latin, Thomas Aquinas’ observation on how perceptions are the custody of the person who perceives them, Arsenault wrote.

In his recommendation, Arsenault wrote that he believed Bulger had likely assaulted both boys. He had advised Bulger to resign as pastor no later than September 2001.

Arsenault’s reasons, as listed in his Oct. 1, 2001, recommendation, for Bulger’s resignation and retirement:

* The immediate cessation of him as a representative of the Bishop of Manchester.

* The immediate removal of him from proximate ministerial contact with minors.

* The potential for grave scandal if this matter becomes public.

* For his own good, the protection of his own right to a good reputation, which is placed in serious jeopardy by this allegation.

Since permanently removing Bulger from ministry last year, and as the scandal unfolded, Arsenault and the diocese have stressed that church officials erred in their understanding and handling of priests charged with abuse.

The state, in reaching a criminal plea agreement with the diocese, contends the church placed the institution above abuse victims, but did not intend to harm them.

A month after retiring, Bulger received an evaluation at St. Luke’s Seminary in Maryland, a psychiatric facility for clergy and those in church ministry.

The facility recommended Bulger undergo residential treatment, a suggestion Arsenault favored. Arsenault also advised McCormack that if Bulger does not approve of residential help, he might accept an outpatient program.

But Arsenault, in November 2001, wrote in a confidential memo to McCormack that Bulger may not accept any treatment after all. “Would outpatient treatment be better than (none) at all?”

Arsenault also proposed allowing Bulger to jointly celebrate Mass only in private with other priests, for instance, at a clergymen’s funeral but not at a confirmation. This limited privilege could possibly motivate Bulger to seek treatment and would allow him to see “us as truly interested in his well-being,” Arsenault said.

Bulger’s prolonged absence from gatherings of priests could damage his “good reputation,” Arsenault wrote, and his absence, while he still lived in New Hampshire, would be noticed.

“I would not want to inadvertently, in an effort to protect the church and the larger community from another possible boundary violation by Father Bulger, to damage his good reputation among priests to which he is entitled.”

About three months later, the diocese would make the reasoning behind Bulger’s retirement public.

Lent begins

By Kathryn Marchocki
Manchester (NH) Union Leader
March 5, 2003

The Lenten journey of conversion and atonement begins today for many Christian faithful, with the marking of ashes on their foreheads.

Catholics and mainstream non-Orthodox Christians observe Ash Wednesday today, the start of the 40-day season of prayer, fasting and almsgiving in preparation for Easter Sunday April 20.

Manchester Bishop John B. McCormack said New Hampshire Catholics should be mindful of the need for hope and peace in the church and the world during this solemn time.

He asked that Catholics listen to Pope John Paul II's message to dedicate with special intensity the feast of Ash Wednesday to "prayer and fasting for the cause of peace, especially in the Middle East."

Facing the growing threat of war, McCormack said he will carry forth the Pope's message that "this year we will undertake the penitential journey toward Easter with a greater commitment to prayer and fasting for peace" and "that peace, in fact, is a gift of God to be invoked with humble and insistent trust."

Many Christian faithful mark themselves with ashes as a sign of repentance to start the Lenten period of introspection and penance in preparation for the celebration of the resurrection of Christ on Easter.

Orthodox Christians mark the start of Lent on Clean Monday on March 10, a 40-day period of fasting, prayer and spiritual reflection. Orthodox Easter is April 27.

"Lent is a time for all of us to assess not only our separation from God, but also the blessed opportunity given to us by God himself and by our church to lessen that gap between us and him," said the Rev. Stylianos Muksuris, dean of St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Manchester.

Several Christian denominations also will hold ecumenical Ash Wednesday services throughout the state today and services throughout the Lenten season.

Church files highlight alcohol’s role in many sex abuse cases

By Albert McKeon
Nashua (NH) Telegraph
March 9, 2003

Alcohol played a role in many of the sexual assaults committed by New Hampshire clergy.

In the 9,000 pages of documents released by the state attorney general’s office last week detailing the Diocese of Manchester’s supervision of clergy facing abuse allegations over the past 40 years, stories emerged of priests dependent upon alcohol for a variety of reasons.

Numerous priests used alcohol, and sometimes drugs, to make adolescents comfortable, easing their inhibitions before sexually abusing them.

Other priests claimed alcohol had clouded their judgment, and, in some cases, prevented them from recalling alleged abuse.

“There’s no excuse for an adult harming a child, even though someone’s abusing alcohol contributes (to the abuse),” said the Rev. Edward Arsenault, the diocesan chancellor. “In unweaving the fabric you can ask, ‘Did the alcohol cause the abuse or did the abuse contribute to a problem with alcohol?’ I don’t know.”

The documents, released as part of an agreement between the diocese and the attorney general’s office, paint pictures of priests overcome with pedophilic urges and the demons of alcohol. Some drank to excess; others used it mainly as a weapon, supplying it to unsuspecting victims.

The Rev. Gordon MacRae, now serving a lengthy prison sentence for repeatedly molesting three brothers, used alcohol not as a social device but as a harmful tool.

At the rectory of St. Bernard in Keene, MacRae gave alcohol to a victim who would start to feel “fuzzy, blurry and strange” – as drinking became a regular part of their activities, documents said. The victim told prosecutors how MacRae brought him to a Hudson rectory, got him drunk and then allowed another man to rape him.

The Rev. Roland Cote, now on sick leave, had a relationship with a teenage boy in the 1980s enlivened by alcohol. Prosecutors did not press charges against Cote because they could not prove the sex acts had occurred before the boy reached 16, the age of legal consent. Cote maintains he thought the boy was at least 18.

Cote told police he gave the boy alcohol, but not marijuana. The boy contends the priest gave him rum-and-Coke drinks, and that they smoked marijuana together after consensual sex.

In 1992, Cote told Bishop Francis Christian – then the diocesan chancellor – that he had drank to excess but not regularly, and that a counselor had not diagnosed a problem. Bishop John McCormack transferred Cote, a former pastor of St. Louis de Gonzague in Nashua, to a Jaffrey parish in 2002, but the move backfired when parishioners discovered the diocese had concealed the affair.

Bruce Goss, a Nashua-based psychologist, finds that alcohol can induce a wide range of behavior.

Some abusers fault alcohol for their actions, while others commit acts under the influence that had previously been only a notion, he said.

“It impairs judgment,” Goss said. “What might have been previously a thought or a fantasy moves into the realm of behavior because alcohol no longer inhibits. When there’s a drug involved, such as alcohol, there’s a greater likelihood it becomes a mode of behavior.”

Perhaps one of the most tragic episodes involving alcohol and clergy came at the hands of the Rev. Ronald Paquin, a priest ordained in the Archdiocese of Boston.

Sentenced to prison last year for raping a boy, Paquin had taken 16-year-old James Francis and three other teenagers to a camp in Bethlehem in 1981. Francis’ family alleges Paquin fell asleep at the wheel after a night of sex and alcohol with their son.

Paquin lost control of his car on Interstate 93, near Tilton. Francis was ejected, and the car rolled over him and killed him. The Francis family sued Paquin, one of at least 28 suits filed against him.

A victim of Paquin’s, according to documents, told prosecutors: “It was a regular thing . . . giving me alcohol. Ron didn’t want me to run off to drink . . . when I got older he wanted me to stick around. He wanted me to drink responsibly.”

The Rev. Albion Bulger, pastor of Parish of the Resurrection in Nashua until the diocese removed him in 2001 for a credible abuse allegation, denied serving alcoholic drinks to minors who accused him of abuse. They claimed Bulger gave them alcohol at his cottage in Barnstead and at the rectory of St. Kathryn Church in Hudson when he was pastor there in the early 1970s.

Bulger has never admitted to abusing minors. According to the files released last week, he told Arsenault he could not recall the events of an alleged assault because he was too intoxicated at the time.

The Rev. Roger Fortier – convicted on 16 counts of sexual assault in 1998 – provided beer to minors and watched pornography with them in the 1980s while serving St. John the Baptist Church in Manchester. He brought one 17-year-old boy to a Derry cottage, gave him beer, watched pornography and assaulted him, according to documents.

An admitted heavy drinker for years, the Rev. Albert Boulanger received extensive treatment not only for alcoholism, but also for the sexual abuse of minors, to which he admitted.

The diocese, for instance, placed him back into ministry after receiving treatment for the abuse of at least three boys while at St. Joseph Church in Nashua during the 1970s, documents said. He took sick leave in 1987 and 1989, and during the latter absence, had to undergo Alcoholics Anonymous treatment before the diocese allowed him to resume ministry at a nursing home.

Boulanger died in 2002. He once told Christian he would drink as much as a half-gallon of whiskey in a two-day period, but claimed it never affected his celebration of Mass or other pastoral duties. Parishioners, though, claimed he paid little attention to pastoral council matters or marriage preparations.

Abuse can also occur without alcohol, Goss said. Indeed, many of the priests whose files became public show no sign of substance abuse.

“Men who abuse often have been abused themselves,” Goss said. “Some of the men becoming priests, some of them have been abused. Because of all the feelings that abuse engenders, one way to cope with it is to have an addiction.”

Of course, priests can grow dependent on alcohol without ever abusing a minor, and not every priest drinks. The Catholic Church has not done a study of clergy and alcohol, but it should examine the issue, Arsenault said.

“They do live alone in a rectory,” Arsenault said. “We should look at that and ask, ‘Is that healthy?’ Many priests might tend to be lonely.”

But Arsenault adds: “I would observe in general, and not just with priests, if people are lonely, they turn to alcohol more often than not. They can be lonely and married, or lonely and single. It’s a form of self medication. The worst possible thing is that alcohol is a depressant. It makes you feel numb instead of better.”

The documents also give accounts of sexual abuse victims struggling with the aftermath, and relying greatly upon alcohol. Over the past year, many victims have blamed abuse for leading them to drug and alcohol dependencies.

“It’s such an expensive disease,” Goss said. “It affects the person even more than what is put in the body.”

Protesters turn out in force

By Gary Dennis
Manchester (NH) Union Leader
March 10, 2003

With signs reading "Warning: Abuse Zone" and "McCormack can't remember, victims can't forget," more than 30 protesters stood outside St. Joseph Cathedral yesterday morning and heckled parishioners as they went to listen to Bishop John B. McCormack speak.

And making its first appearance in New Hampshire: a 12-foot white cross emblazoned with the names of accused priests and bishops that protesters yesterday carried back and forth in front of the Lowell Street church.

Mike Gustin of Westford, Mass. held the large cross at one point, trying his best to keep it from launching into the wind gusts that whipped up Lowell and Pine streets all morning yesterday.

"My hope is with all the specifics that have been released lately, that some Catholics who have been silent will now become more active," Gustin said.

Last week, more than 9,000 documents were released as a key part of the Dec. 10 agreement between McCormack and former state Attorney General Philip T. McLaughlin under threat of criminal indictments. The pages included church files on about 40 accused priests and involve at least 80 victims whose names had been redacted.

The documents also include the state's 154-page report on the investigation and transcripts of interviews with abusive priests.

The details of those documents brought protesters out in more force than usual -- between 30 and 40 stood across from St. Joseph yesterday compared to the usual dozen or so.

The large cross had blue letters on its crossmember spelling "Cross of Shame and Deceit." On the vertical member, the names of high-ranking diocese officials and 48 priests accused of abuse or accused of moving accused priests around from parish to parish, Gustin said.

The protesters were relatively quiet, save when a family went to enter the church for the 10:30 a.m. service.

"Read the papers! Read the papers!" screamed Susan Renehan of Southbridge, Mass. "Thousands of pages of betrayal by your bishop."

Renehan said she was abused herself by a priest from age 11 to 14. That priest then stalked her for three years, she said, until he died when she was 17. The abuse, she said, led her to form the Coalition of Catholics and Survivors before scandals broke over the last year.

Jeff Powers of Charlestown, Mass. said he was appalled by some of the details outlined in the released documents. He wore a poster with pictures of McCormack that called the Manchester bishop "O Holy Shuffler of Pedophiles."

"We feel we were instrumental in getting (Boston Cardinal Bernard) Law to go," he said. "McCormack is the next one who has to go."

Powers said he scanned the released documents and found some things that were "salacious" and "seemly."

Phil DeAlbuquerque, president of STTOP -- Speak Truth to Power -- yelled a few things toward the front entrance of St. Joseph as well.

"For God's children, put McCormack in jail," was one of his shouts.

The white cross made its way back-and-forth in front of the church throughout the 10:30 a.m. service. The cross was made by a Massachusetts resident named David Lawcon, Gustin said, who made eight of the crosses to go to protests in Manchester, Boston, Fall River, Mass., Worcester, Mass and other New England cities.

Pols eye tougher penalties for failure to report abuse

By Robin Washington
Boston (MA) Herald
March 13, 2003

Less than a year after voting in tough new child abuse reporting laws, state lawmakers heard testimony yesterday on the need to impose stricter penalties on those who fail to come forward when they suspect a child may be being harmed.

Three bills presented to the Joint Committee on Criminal Justice propose increasing the penalty for failing to report abuse - currently a $1,000 fine - to fines ranging from $5,000 to $25,000, coupled with jail term recommendations from six months to 2 1/2 years.

Attorney General Tom Reilly, who wrote a bill presented by Sen. Therese Murray (D-Plymouth), said the proposals "puts some teeth" in the current law, which last year added clergy to the list of mandatory reporters.

Three alleged sexual abuse victims of priests also spoke, including Gary Bergeron of the Survivors of Joseph Birmingham, who said he doubted the law would have encouraged anyone to report his own abuse by the now-deceased priest.

"I don't think $1,000 would have made a difference, considering the hush money the church has paid over the past 40 years," he said.

Committee co-chairman Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) said it was too early to predict which, if any, of the bills would be adopted, but said his colleagues listened intently to the alleged victims.

"Hearing from people who have been affected in person is very powerful," he said.

Though Reilly pushed for a stronger law, he did not say how effective the measure passed last year has proven to be.

That law included a retroactive provision, which required anyone with knowledge of past child abuse to report incidents by June 3, 2002.

Though thousands of pages on alleged molesters in the Boston archdiocese have since been made public, only one known report by a priest of past child molestation was filed before the deadline.

The Rev. David O'Leary told district attorneys in Massachusetts and New Hampshire that the Rev. Robert V. Gale of Boston allegedly abused a child near the church-run Camp Fatima in Gilmanton Iron Works, N.H.

O'Leary also sent a copy to Manchester Bishop John B. McCormack, the Boston archdiocese's former clergy personnel chief.

"Greetings, John," O'Leary wrote. "My report concerning Bob Gale should not be new. I wrote a few years ago when (the camp director) invited Bob Gale to celebrate a Mass (at) a camp reunion."

In letters to McCormack in 1993 and in 2002, O'Leary, a former Camp Fatima volunteer and the senior chaplain at Tufts University, warned Gale should not be allowed at the camp.

"The victim told me firsthand (about the abuse). My promise to him was that Gale would never be at that property," he told the Herald, adding he had no choice but to report Gale again last year.

"That's what the law says and that's what I did."

Although Gale has not been charged in the alleged New Hampshire incident, he was arrested by Bay State authorities two months after O'Leary's report on charges he raped a boy at Waltham's St. Jude Parish in the 1980s.

He pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial after being released on his own recognizance.

Polly Hickey, who knew both O'Leary and Gale in the 1980s when she served as a counselor at Camp Fatima, said she was not surprised by O'Leary's action.

"He just was a good, moral guy," she said.

Bishops sought immunity

By Kathryn Marchocki
Manchester (NH) Union Leader
March 13, 2003

Bishops Odore J. Gendron and Francis J. Christian refused to talk to state investigators probing Roman Catholic leaders' handling of accused abusive priests because the state would not grant them immunity, state prosecutors and state investigative files said.

"They wanted immunity and we wouldn't give it to them," Senior Assistant Attorney General N. William Delker explained yesterday.

"We could have subpoenaed them, but they would have just invoked the Fifth," Delker added, referring to the Fifth Amendment's protection against self-incrimination.

Christian is the auxiliary bishop and former chancellor of the Diocese of Manchester; Gendron was bishop of Manchester from 1975 to 1990.

The state refused to grant Christian and Gendron limited immunity in exchange for their statements because they were targets of the criminal probe into how church hierarchy handled accusations of clergy sexual abuse dating back to the 1940s, Delker explained.

Whether the state would bring charges against them remained an open question until the investigation concluded Dec. 10 with an agreement with the diocese.

"There was no way in the context of this case to give somebody like Gendron immunity and not jeopardize prosecution," Delker explained.

"In the end, we didn't prosecute, but that is a decision we made at the end," he said.

The agreement enabled the diocese to avoid criminal prosecution by acknowledging its failure to protect children from abusive priests could have resulted in a conviction under the state's child endangerment statute.

Diocesan leaders were seeking the same limited immunity the state granted four accused priests that prevents their statements from being used against them in any future prosecution.

Christian handled numerous sexual abuse complaints against clergy as chancellor from 1977 until he was ordained auxiliary bishop in 1996.

In a harshly worded Oct. 14 letter to Christian, former Attorney General Philip T. McLaughlin refused to grant the bishop a "cloak of immunity," saying "you had significant involvement in the way that allegations of sexual abuse of minors were handled."

Saying Christian's conduct and that of other high-ranking diocesan officials "has been central to this investigation," he urged the bishop to talk with investigators.

"Diocesan personnel practices beg to be explained," McLaughlin wrote.

Monsignor John Quinn also refused to speak with investigators without a grant of immunity that would prevent his statements from being used against him in a future prosecution, Delker said.

Investigators wanted to speak to Quinn about how the church handled sexual abuse allegations against the Revs. Gordon MacRae, Joseph Maguire, Paul Aube and Mark Fleming, Delker wrote Quinn's attorney Oct. 28.

Gendron was bishop of Manchester during a time when the diocese received many sexual abuse complaints against priests.

Investigators asked Gendron to speak with them, but the bishop turned them down, Delker said.

"His lawyer indicated that he wouldn't without some kind of assurance that his statements wouldn't be used against him," he explained.

The Rev. George Ham was the only former high-ranking diocesan official who agreed to speak with investigators without immunity.

Ham was chancellor under Gendron from 1977 to 1981, sharing the office's responsibilities with Christian, diocesan spokesman Pat McGee said.

Investigators did not request to interview Bishop John B. McCormack, who became bishop of Manchester in 1998.

"He never was a target (of the investigation) because there never was any indication there were ever any endangered children after he took over," Delker said.

Concord attorney Thomas Rath, however, wrote Delker July 9 saying McCormack would be willing to meet with investigators "to answer whatever questions you may have."

Diocesan spokesman McGee said the agreement is one in which "both sides see as focused on protecting children in our state. In this process, as would happen in any investigation, there were communications between various individuals, their attorneys and the attorney generals office."

He noted that the agreement did not focus on any individual bishop, but the diocese as an institution.

Bishop’s smoke explained: It was cold that June week

By Kathryn Marchocki
Manchester (NH) Union Leader
March 18, 2003

An anonymous tipster suspicious of what appeared to be a heavy amount of smoke coming from the chimney of Manchester Bishop John B. McCormack's summer home contacted authorities last June.

But the caller apparently failed to notice others in the Cape Neddick, Maine, neighborhood also were stoking their chimneys, a state prosecutor said.

Acting on the tip, a state investigator ran a check with the National Weather Service that showed average daily temperatures ranged from a nippy 49 degrees to a high of 56 degrees between June 14 and June 20, the state's investigative files released earlier this month show.

The tipster also prompted state investigators to check with others in the neighborhood who said they, too, had been running their wood stoves and fireplaces, a state prosecutor said.

The information came from a "confidential source," said state prosecutor N. William Delker, who led last year's criminal investigation of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester.

"I thought it was so unsubstantiated that it was almost slanderous. . . . But it was information that we at least wanted to look at," he explained.

The tip also apparently prompted a Boston attorney deposing McCormack in a civil suit last year to ask the bishop if he had burned any documents at his Cape Neddick home last June.

No explanation was given at the time for why the question was asked.

McCormack replied under oath that he had not burned any documents.

Manchester diocese slicing budget by $500K

By Albert McKeon
Nashua (NH) Telegraph
March 19, 2003

Facing dwindling parishioner donations and limited revenue, the Diocese of Manchester has started making significant budget cuts, directly affecting pastoral programs, employees and the bishop’s residence.

The diocese laid off nine employees Tuesday, moving into the final phase of a three-stage plan to trim $500,000 in expenses. That last phase has the diocese about to study which services it can transfer to the parish level.

The diocese will also consider selling two Manchester properties: the bishop’s residence and Emmaus House, a youth ministry retreat. And the diocese could eliminate its monthly print newspaper, Tidings, whose editor just lost his job.

“We’re in the process of reconfiguring,” diocesan spokesman Pat McGee said. “We want to put more emphasis on parishes and laity.”

Bishop John McCormack suggested as much last month, when he outlined a plan calling for greater lay involvement. McCormack presented the plan as a means of moving the Catholic Church in New Hampshire beyond the clergy abuse crisis.

That crisis, and specifically about $6 million paid in settlements to abuse victims, has depleted the diocese’s savings, McGee said. Parishioner donations have also dwindled and will likely remain low, he said.

The clergy abuse crisis, a slow economy and stock market losses have probably led parishioners to reduce their contributions, McGee said. The diocese also lost revenue with its endowed funds when the stock market went sour, he said.

“We know collections will be down,” McGee said. “It’s hard to say (how much). We don’t have totally accurate reports . . . but it means we have to make changes now.”

The diocese has not used parish funds to settle civil litigation, including any money from the diocesan central fund, McGee said. Parishes place money into the central fund and then borrow, at a rate lower than rates offered commercially, for the construction or repair of buildings.

Cutting $500,000 from the diocese’s $2.5 million operating budget does not include the potential sales of the bishop’s residence or Emmaus House. Rather, only operating expenses from those properties figure into the $500,000 savings, McGee said.

The diocese owns both buildings, but the bishop’s residence was a gift. The retreat house is valued at $766,100, while the house is valued at $633,300, according to the city of Manchester’s Web site.

Attorneys for the diocese will now figure out how to sell the property while honoring the intention of the donor, McGee said. The bishop will move out in June, but he has not determined where he will live next, McGee said.

Emmaus House will hold retreats and functions until June. The building serves as a center for the diocese’s youth ministry programs.

The diocese’s plan to reduce expenses means a shifting of such programs to the parish level, McGee said. The diocese will soon establish a task force that will work with all parishes and determine which programs can be transferred, he said.

The diocese will still handle programs that demand central organization, such as the recruitment and training of priests, Catholic education and insurance issues. The diocese thus becomes more of an administrative outfit, while handling pastoral and ministerial issues that are out of the purview of parishes.

Parishes will take on a greater burden with the fiscal reorganization. McGee would not speculate on which services would fall to the parish level, but he said the task force would work extensively with parishes to properly evaluate which programs they could handle.

Most parishioners already do not think in terms of which services the diocese can provide them, McGee said. Instead, they think at the parish level, he said.

Another task force will evaluate the diocese’s communication efforts. That will include examining the vitality of Tidings, McGee said.

The paper’s editor, John Haywood, learned Tuesday that he had lost his job. According to Haywood, the diocese has already decided it will cease publication of the monthly paper.

“It has been a good vehicle to get out the word,” said Haywood, who worked for the diocese for nine years. “It had a lot of good stories. Unfortunately, the crisis in the church is taking its toll. It’s too bad it has to go to this extreme.”

McGee, however, said the task force reviewing communications would help determine the fate of Tidings. But the diocese could see greater benefits through its Web site instead of the print version, he said.

The nine employees who lost their jobs received severance packages and job placement services, McGee said.

Eliminating their positions and the diocesan museum director position – which became vacant recently when that person resigned – marked the second stage in the reconfiguration.

The first step came in July, when the diocese did not fill vacant positions and started cutting operating expenses, McGee said. In all, 20 full- and part-time positions have been eliminated, a 25 percent reduction in the diocesan work force, he said.

The diocese will maintain its use of a public relations firm and lawyers, according to sources.

Churches in New Hampshire already face a difficult challenge with the growing clergy shortage, placing a greater emphasis on laity involvement. The diocese has cited the clergy shortage and shifting demographics of the Catholic population as the reasons why it has closed several parishes, including three in Nashua.

Bishop McCormack’s house to be closed

By Katharine McQuaid
Manchester (NH) Union Leader
March 19, 2003

A bleak financial picture facing the Catholic Diocese of Manchester will force Bishop John B. McCormack to move out of his North End home within the next few months.

The diocese announced yesterday it will close the New Hampshire bishop's River Road residence by June 30 as part of a plan to cut $500,000 from the next fiscal year's operating costs. The budget reconfiguration also involves eliminating nine employees and closing Emmaus House, the diocesan youth retreat center.

No decisions have been made about selling the property.

"The reconfiguration plan does not assume any sale of any property or assets to be effective," said the Rev. Edward J. Arsenault, chancellor and secretary for administration.

McCormack said there are many reasons the diocese is reconfiguring its staff.

"Our life and ministry face many challenges these days, including limitations on our financial resources. Yet, I am confident that our plan for reconfiguration over the next few months offers solid hope that the mission of the church will continue in a new and reinvigorated way," he said.

After the diocese depleted its savings by paying settlements to more than 80 victims of child sexual abuse by priests, in addition to the continuously sluggish stock market, the Diocesan Finance Council recommended the diocese trim at least $500,000 from its $2.5 million operating budget.

The positions of those nine employees are among 20 the diocese has eliminated since July 2002. The 25 percent workforce reduction was achieved mostly through attrition, according to diocesan spokesman Patrick McGee.

"They're jobs in administration, secretarial positions. Eventually we'll be eliminating people that help with the (bishop's) residence, in terms of housekeeping and so forth," McGee said.

McGee said he did not know how much it costs to run the bishop's residence and Emmaus House each month or how much the buildings -- not now on city tax rolls -- could be sold for.

McCormack is the only person who lives in the large brick home, which was a gift to the diocese in the 1940s. It has served as a home to New Hampshire's bishops beginning with Bishop Matthew F. Brady, said McGee.

McCormack has been bishop to the Catholic Diocese of Manchester since 1989. McGee said the bishop has not decided where he will live after the move.

According to the diocese's Web site, Emmaus House has served thousands of young people on confirmation retreats and other programs since 1978. It is also the official sponsor of many large diocesan youth events -- such as Youth Day -- which will continue as planned through June.

The 64-room building sits in Manchester's east side, on Concord Street, and is available for parishes, schools and youth groups that want to hold their own retreats or have one facilitated by Emmaus House's youth ministry staff.

Attorneys for the diocese are handling the liquidation of any of its properties, McGee said.

As for the future of youth ministry in the diocese, McGee said the bishop will appoint two task forces in early April to look at how best to continue those and other services.

McGee said the bishop wants to focus on parishes, which are also seeing a decline in weekly collections, to make sure they have the resources they need to fulfill the mission of the church, rather than try to provide all services from the diocese.

"What we're trying to do is support the parishes and the development of their own missions. We realize in times such as now that things are changing in the church, as well as financial constraints," he said.

Catholic groups design next move

By Albert McKeon
Nashua (NH) Telegraph
March 29, 2003

Two Catholic lay groups will mobilize in the next few days as they react to the release this past month of 9,000 pages of church documents.

First, Voice of the Faithful chapters from this state, Massachusetts and Maine will meet today and decide how they can move forward in their second year of existence.

Then on Monday, a newly formed group, New Hampshire Catholics for Moral Leadership, will lay out its goals and hopes for the church.

Although both groups have different missions and are not affiliated, they will use as a background, to some extent, the public release of documents that detailed how the Diocese of Manchester supervised clergy charged with abuse.

“The facts speak for themselves,” said Bob Morton, an organizer of the Moral Leadership group.

The group will call for the resignation of Bishop John McCormack and Auxiliary Bishop Francis Christian when it holds a press conference Monday morning at the Manchester Public Library.

Also, the group will present a public declaration to all Catholics, asking them to seek accountability and justice in the Diocese of Manchester. Morton did not provide any further details.

“We need different leadership,” Morton said. “People who are worthy.”

The documents, released by the state attorney general’s office and spanning the past four decades, showed church leaders were cognizant of the dangers posed by numerous abusive priests. But more often than not, bishops disregarded those dangers and kept priests in ministry.

The attorney general’s office contends that it could have secured criminal indictments based on the diocese’s handling of at least three priests. McCormack signed a criminal plea with the state last year when prosecutors presented the potential of indictment under child endangerment laws.

Christian appears prominently in the documents. In the review of one file, Christian told the state he had no knowledge – when he actually did – of the Rev. Roger Fortier’s past abuse when that priest was sentenced to jail. When the documents were released, Christian said he thought the state already knew Fortier’s past and he was legally advised to give the response he did.

McCormack does not figure prominently in the documents – he became bishop in 1998 – but his role as aide to Cardinal Bernard Law in the Archdiocese of Boston has prompted Catholics in this state and many from Massachusetts to demand his resignation.

Voice of the Faithful claims 25,000 members worldwide; the organization started in the basement of a Boston-area church in the dawning of the clergy abuse crisis last year. A chapter in New Hampshire evolved in the fall, with groups forming in several towns, including Nashua and Milford.

The tri-state meeting will be held today from 1-5 p.m. at St. Thomas More Church in Durham. Members of the group and clergy abuse victims will attend.

The three chapters will try to launch initiatives designed to obtain justice for victims of clergy abuse, said Voice of the Faithful member Carolyn Disco, a Merrimack resident.

The three chapters will examine how they can meet four goals: measuring bishop accountability in each diocese and coordinating that monitoring nationally; creating alternatives to church-sponsored healing; mobilizing people in the pews; and raising money for victim causes.

“We hope to have a to-do list” when the meeting ends, Disco said.


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