NH Priest Praised by Church Victims Group

By Scott Brooks
The Union Leader [New Hampshire]
Downloaded November 17, 2003

Sexual abuse victims yesterday honored a former Jaffrey pastor and prominent critic of Bishop John McCormack, praising him outside the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' fall meeting in Washington.

The Rev. James A. "Seamus" MacCormack, who has been on a leave of absence from the Diocese of Manchester since May 2002, was one of six priests from across the country praised at a news conference by Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. The six priests will be the first named to a new honor roll of "courageous" priests on SNAP's Website, said David Clohessy, the organization's executive director.

"It's one thing for bishops to talk about transparency and openness," Clohessy said. "These are ordained priests who've done it."

MacCormack, now a special education teacher's aide at Conant High School in Jaffrey, claimed Bishop McCormack removed him from his parish because of public comments he made about the sexual abuse crisis in the Church.

He sued the bishop in July 2002, saying church officials tried to silence him about the sexual habits of a deceased Manchester priest, including allegations that the priest owned a large collection of homosexual and child pornography.

The suit was settled in July, with terms of the settlement kept sealed.

"It would have been very easy for him to do the bishop's bidding and help keep a lid on sexual secrets, but he chose to tell the truth," Clohessy said of MacCormack. "For that, we really admire him."

SNAP praised MacCormack and the other priests during a ceremony outside Washington's Hyatt Regency hotel, where nearly 300 U.S. bishops were attending their the semiannual conference. Bishop McCormack and Auxiliary Bishop Francis Christian are both attending the meeting, which ends today.

SNAP hoped to encourage the bishops to sign a pledge that no church employee will suffer any retaliation for reporting suspected sexual abuse. None of the honored priests were present for the news conference. Of the six, MacCormack was the only one not contacted by the organization, Clohessy said. He said the organization did not have a current phone number for MacCormack.

McCormack said he was "blown away" by the honor. "I would do it all over again if I had to," he said. "It just brings out the fact that we need to have a stronger church with stronger leadership." Carolyn Disco, chairwoman of New Hampshire Voice of the Faithful, described MacCormack as well-liked and praised him for increasing attendance and contributions at St. Patrick Church, his former parish.

"He was highly loved out there and really made that parish come alive," Disco said.

Patrick McGee, a spokesman for the diocese, said he did not wish to comment on the honor. "We are no longer in any contention with Father MacCormack."

The other priests on SNAP's honor roll were the Rev. James Scahill of East Longmeadow, Mass.; Rev. Robert Smoot of St. Louis; Rev. Lawrence Breslin of Kettering, Ohio; and Rev. Ken Lasch of Mendham, N.J.

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