Bishop Replaces Pastor, Apologizes

Associated Press, carried in Nashua (NH) Telegraph
November 4, 2002

Manchester -- Bishop has apologized for the problems faced by parishioners of a church whose priest had a sexual relationship with a teenage boy, and has named an interim replacement priest.

"I am sorry for the pain, confusion and division that has resulted from this series of events at St. Patrick Parish in Jaffrey," McCormack said in a statement Sunday.

McCormack, bishop of the Diocese of Manchester, transferred the Rev. Roland Cote to Jaffrey in June from Nashua's St. Louis de Gonzague parish, without informing parishioners in his new parish about his past.

Cote admitted to parishioners in September he had a long-term affair with a teenage boy in the 1980s. Authorities investigated him in April after the teenager, now 35, told authorities the priest sexually abused him as a minor in the 1980s.

Prosecutors said they could not bring charges because the boy was over 16 when he first met Cote.

McCormack wrote a letter earlier to parishioners telling them that though Cote's actions were wrong, they did not violate the Diocese of Manchester's policies on child sex abuse.

He also said he was confident Cote "had not engaged in sexual misconduct with a minor and that he is not a risk to children or young people."

"I am confident that I made the right decision even though it was made at the expense of your knowing about his entire personal background," McCormack said.Cote told parishioners Friday he was resigning immediately as their priest.

"During the past months, the divisions within the parish have become worse and this reality has been emotionally and physically draining to parishioners as well as me," he said Sunday in a statement. He said he needed time to rest and "to put things back together."

In his statement, McCormack said he has accepted the resignation and granted Cote a leave of absence for medical reasons.

He said he has appointed the Rev. William Quirk, a retired priest, as administrator of St. Patrick Parish until he can appoint a new pastor.

"To those who disagree with my decisions and remain upset, it is my intention and hope that the steps we take in the months ahead will help you regain confidence in your parish community and in me," he said.

He also said that upon the recommendation of a Diocesan Review Board, he had asked Cote to participate in an evaluation "to assure me . . . of his ability to fulfill his resolve to live a chaste and celibate life as a priest."

He said Cote "willingly participated in this evaluation, which has confirmed that he is resolved to live a chaste and celibate life and that he is not a risk to minors."


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