Jaffrey Priest Settles Suit against Diocese

By Nancy Meersman
Union Leader [Jaffrey NH]
Downloaded May 14, 2003

The terms of the settlement, made final yesterday, are confidential.

The Rev. James A. "Seamus" MacCormack's lawsuit hit the headlines last July with allegations about a frantic effort by a diocesan cleanup crew to remove homosexual pornography and paraphernalia from a Manchester rectory in 1999 after a priest died suddenly.

No one involved in the case would talk yesterday about the church's settlement with the 43-year-old priest.

"We agreed we wouldn't disclose the details of the agreement," said MacCormack's lawyer, Robert McDaniel of Concord. "The resolution was satisfactory to both parties."

Patrick Magee, spokesman for the diocese, issued a statement that said the parties had reached "a mutual resolution of the dispute."

"Father MacCormack is on a leave of absence at his request," Magee said. "He will not participate in any priestly ministry or present himself publicly as a priest. Both parties are pleased that this matter is resolved."

In July, when the lawsuit was filed, MacCormack said he was shocked and horrified by the church's efforts to find and destroy the "dozens of plastic garbage bags" full of pornography that were hauled out of the St. Pius X rectory.

MacCormack said he was shaken by the sordid find, and the Rev. John Quinn, head of financial affairs, reassured him by saying, "Don't worry. We've done this lots of times."

MacCormack became a witness to the cleanup when he went to the rectory after learning of the death of the Rev. Richard Connors. Police had contacted MacCormack after they found his card in the dead priest's pocket and asked him to identify the body.

The lawsuit alleged that the pornographic videos, images, magazines and sex toys found in the rectory were the property of the much-loved Connors, whose 1999 death from a heart attack under peculiar circumstances prompted a police investigation that the church hushed up.

According to the lawsuit, Connors' body was found in the home of two men who said the priest had come to buy a dog from them. The body was partially unclothed and had a black leather device tied around the genitals, according to the medical examiner's report which was part of the lawsuit. It says Connors died of heart problems likely exacerbated by the use of Viagra.

MacCormack's statements critical of the priest sex-abuse scandal were widely quoted in newspapers last year, prior to his removal as pastor of St. Patrick Church.

He alleged the diocese was punishing him for speaking out about what he saw as systemic moral decay in the church. His lawsuit filed in Hillsborough County Superior Court accused the diocese of wrongful termination and fraud.

The church contended the lawsuit was "full of falsehoods." Its lawyers responded that MacCormack was transferred out of St. Patrick because he was emotionally unstable and needed time for spiritual healing.

Many St. Patrick parishioners supported MacCormack and were resentful when he was removed. Their anger exploded when they learned the diocese's replacement, the Rev. Roland Cote, had had a homosexual relationship with a young man in the 1980s.

Bishop John McCormack, amid calls from angry parishioners for his own resignation, removed Cote after six months on the job.

Neither side would say yesterday if any money was paid to MacCormack.

A filing in the lawsuit says the diocese has been paying the sidelined priest a monthly stipend of $1,565, as well as health and dental insurance. MacCormack's lawyer said it was his understanding that canon law requires the payments until a priest is removed from the priesthood.

MacCormack will be leaving the priesthood and pursue a career in education and counseling, McDaniel said.

In July, McDaniel said his client had reported the pornography cache depicting "men engaged in sexual activity with each other, and men engaged in sexual activity with boys" to the Attorney General's Office when it was investigating the way the church dealt with priests who molested children.


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