|AG Releases Unverified Allegations against 26 Priests, Nuns
By Garry Rayno and Kathryn Marchocki
New Hampshire Union Leader
March 28, 2009
http://www.unionleader.com/article.aspx?headline=AG+releases+ unverified+allegations+against+26+priests%2C+nuns&articleId=7 baec443-c556-49eb-b05d-6e111178e3bf
MANCHESTER – A group tracking priest sexual abuse yesterday called for the elimination of the statute of limitations on criminal and civil cases after files released by the Attorney General's office included 26 new names of clerics and two nuns and more than 100 new allegations.
The allegations have not previously been released to the public, and members of BishopAccountability.org said keeping the information from the public prevents victims from healing and puts additional children at risk.
"We have reasons for our lack of trust in the diocese," said Carolyn Disco of Merrimack. "It took the point of a legal gun to get them to cooperate."
She noted the diocese has not released any new information since its 2002 agreement with the Attorney General's office to report all abuse allegations and remove accused clergy members from the ministry.
Diocese spokesman Kevin Donovan said yesterday "We have provided every single piece of information we have encountered to the Attorney General's office. . . . Law enforcement is our audience to communicate criminal activity to and we believe that is the best way to protect children."
He said Attorney General Kelly Ayotte said she is confident the diocese will continue to maintain a program to protect children. Several comprehensive reviews have found that program goes "above and beyond what state law requires," Donovan said.
The new allegations include more than two dozen brought against at least 18 dead diocesan priests and members of religious orders, the files show. Their names were released as part of the files even though the state never investigated the allegations to determine if they are credible, Senior Assistant Attorney General N. William Delker said during a recent interview.
"No investigation was done because no criminal case could be pursued and the diocese didn't do its own investigation because there was no need to remove the person," Delker said.
"We took the position that they (the accused) didn't have a right to privacy because they were deceased. We didn't make any independent judgments about the veracity or the credibility of the allegations," he added.
The investigative files also include allegations against clerics, religious and laity whose names were redacted by the Attorney General's office prior to releasing the documents.
"The ones where it was determined that it was unfounded, we ... didn't feel comfortable releasing the names," Delker said.
In cases where the state could not pursue a criminal prosecution because the statute of limitation expired, state officials turned the case back to the diocese where church officials conducted their own review, Delker said.
"In some cases, they did an investigation and found an allegation was founded," Delker said.
In other cases, the diocese ruled the allegations unfounded, he said. State officials reviewed the diocese's investigations and reports and "we didn't have any reason to disagree with their findings," Delker said.
"The audit is over. But they still have a policy in place about how to handle these complaints," Delker said. It includes reporting allegations of alleged child sexual abuse to civil and crimial authorities.
Anne Barrett Doyle of BishopAccountability.org, said the number of newly identified priests accused of sexual abuse in Manchester is shocking and should be a concern for Catholics from all over the country.
"We have every reason to think this diocese is backsliding into secrecy," she said, noting her group has repeatedly asked Bishop John McCormack to release the names of priests accused of sexual abuse like 15 other bishops do, but he has refused.
"Instead, we have the same arrogant withholding of information that caused this crisis in the first place," Barrett Doyle said.
She and Disco said the state should do away with its statute of limitations, noting many victims of sexual abuse do not come forward until they are in their mid-40s. Disco said several other states like Delaware have eliminated the statute of limitations for both criminal and civil cases.
"The state needs to stop shielding institutional negligence," Barrett Doyle said.
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