Bishop Accountability
  Remarks at the Survivor Support March
at St. Joseph's Cathedral in Manchester, New Hampshire

By Anne Coughlin
New Hampshire Catholics for Moral Leadership
September 21, 2003

There is no greater sin in our faith than the harming of a child. Jesus told us that many times in many ways. When you harm a child you harm them, not just for the moment, but for every minute of every day for the rest of their lives. When you harm a child you harm their present, you steal their past, you shadow their future. When you harm a child you violate the most basic precepts of human decency.


Just yesterday Pope John Paul II outlined his definition of what a bishop should be. He said they must "be pastors who, by their example more than by their words, honor the Gospel and inspire in those around them the desire to know it better and put it into practice."

These bishops have set an appalling example in both words and deeds. They have utterly failed to honor the Gospel. They inspire no one to know it better and put it into practice because they so clearly fail to do so themselves. They are the antithesis of the Pope's definition of a worthy bishop. They must resign.

NHCML recently got an e-mail from a man who explained to us that at 68 years old, he is leaving the Catholic church, mainly because of the crimes of these bishops. He wrote, "the probability of turning the Catholic Church around morally will be harder than turning an aircraft carrier around in a river." We
mourn his loss, and the loss of countless others, to our church. We share his fears and frustrations. But we stand here today bound by the faith that we can turn this ship around in this narrow, painful, difficult channel in which we find ourselves. Jesus told us our faith can move mountains. I believe our faith, along with our combined strength, can remove two men who have long outstayed their time in this Diocese.

We keep hearing that Bishop McCormack's mistakes were made in Massachusetts, as if harming children in another state is any more acceptable than harming them in New Hampshire. We keep hearing that he learned from those mistakes, and we will be the beneficiaries of his new-found wisdom. As if any of us would trust our dog, let alone our children, to a man with his abysmal record and incredible incapacity to learn from past mistakes, mistakes for which countless children paid an unthinkable price.

And the truth is that McCormack's mistakes did not end on the unlucky day he was named Bishop of Manchester.

McCormack assigned John Poirier to parishes where he had utterly unsupervised contact with hundreds of children in spite of a record of sexual abuse. McCormack failed to inform not only parents, but his own priests and diocesan staff, of the danger Poirier posed.

Both McCormack and Christian lied to troubled parishioners when they demanded to know how a priest with Poirier's record could have been placed in their parishes. McCormack lied to the parishioners of St. Peter's Church in Jaffrey when he sent Fr. Roland Cote to serve as their pastor despite Cote's admitted
history of sexually preying on teenaged boys. McCormack and Christian lied about their horrific mishandling of the allegation against Fr. Paul Gregoire, demonstrating that they are not only willing to sacrifice children on the altar of their grasping ambition, but their own priests.

McCormack and Christian have demonstrated time and again that they are liars. They have lied to survivors. They have lied to parents. They have lied to the laity. They have lied to priests. They have lied to the press. They have lied to law enforcement authorities. They ask Catholics now to trust them with something so unimaginably priceless as our children. NEVER AGAIN.

We are proud and humbled to stand here today with survivors, demanding justice. Lay Catholics have learned so much about the dark, devastating secrets of our church in the last two years. I know survivors have many times asked themselves, where were you? Where were you as I walked through this nightmare alone? Where were you all those dark days and endless nights? All I can tell you is that we didn't know. Because of the web of self-interested silence and lies spun by men like McCormack and Christian, we didn't know. BUT WE KNOW NOW.

We constantly hear, usually from Diocesan officials, about the need for forgiveness. Certainly as Christians we are called to forgive. But we are not called to forgiveness without justice, without atonement. Jesus gave us the example of a deep capacity to forgive, but he also gave us the example of righteous anger. When money changers defiled the temple, Jesus took a whip in his hands and drove them from the sanctuary. Imagine his reaction to the way his temple has been defiled by the sexual abuse of children. If he were here today I believe he would go into that church and drive these bishops, who spent decades enabling crimes against children, from his sanctuary. If He were here today in person I believe He would be standing here among us, demanding justice. He is here today in spirit, and we pursue justice and accountability in His name.

McCormack cares so little about the seriousness of sexual abuse that he has appointed as delegate for sexual abuse cases in this diocese a man who would ask the laity to choose between supporting survivors and dialogue with the diocese. This man, Edward Arsenault, is delegate for sexual abuse cases and also,
incredibly, the chairman of the board of the church's self-insurance company for sexual abuse cases. It is a conflict of interest of staggering proportions. There is no possible way he can serve both the best interests of victims who come to him, and the interests of the insurance company that might be required to pay a settlement. It places victims who go to the diocese in a trap. This amply illustrates the Bishops' lack of commitment to dealing fairly and justly with victims. It is an insult to every one of us.

When a child is harmed it calls for compassion. When a child is harmed there should be outrage. When a child is harmed there must be justice. McCormack and Christian showed no compassion. McCormack and Christian were not outraged by abuse. They were complicit in it. McCormack and Christian did not deal
justice, and they have not faced justice. They must and they will resign.

They think they can wait us out, they think they can wear us down. But we will not relent, we will not forget, we will not cede them one inch in this struggle for the very soul of our church.

They will see us everywhere they turn. We will expose every lie they tell. We will demand, because justice demands, nothing less than the resignations or removal of John McCormack and Frances Christian.


Original material copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.