Bishop's Deposition Officially Released

By J.M. Hirsch
Associated Press, carried in Foster's Daily Democrat [Concord NH]
Downloaded January 10, 2003

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Transcripts of five days of questioning of Bishop John B. McCormack about the church sex abuse scandal in Boston officially became public Wednesday.

Much of the material contained in the testimony previously was reported by The Associated Press, which acquired copies of the depositions prior to their official release.

McCormack, a top aide to Boston Cardinal Bernard Law from 1984 to 1994, gave the testimony in closed sessions in civil lawsuits brought by alleged victims of the Rev. Paul Shanley, who is awaiting trial in Massachusetts on charges of child rape.

Brian Tucker, McCormack’s lawyer, said the bishop will continue to cooperate with lawyers in the lawsuits of alleged victims, but would not discuss the details of the depositions.

"The deposition transcripts do not provide a complete accounting of what Father McCormack and the Archdiocese of Boston did and did not do to respond to accusations of sexual misconduct of minors by priests there," Tucker said.

He also said that unlike in trials, "the questions posed in a deposition can be without any foundation whatsoever, can be based on hearsay or speculation, can be confusing, can be irrelevant to the matter at issue in the litigation, and can be argumentative."

Much of the questioning focused on how McCormack, who became bishop of the Diocese of Manchester in 1998, handled allegations against priests in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

In one exchange, the bishop suggested it is less serious for a priest to have sex with someone from outside the parish than with a parishioner.

"You know, one is an activity where you have a trusted relationship with a parishioner. The other is an activity where you’re away from the parish and you’re off on your own," McCormack said.

The bishop was discussing the Rev. Roland Cote’s relationship with a youth while he was assigned to St. Patrick’s Church in Newport during the 1980s.

"I’m very concerned about that; he was a young person. But it’s quite different from being with a parishioner," McCormack said.

McCormack’s spokesman has said the bishop believes all abuse is wrong, but was making the distinction that sex with a parishioner involves exploitation.

In June, McCormack assigned Cote to a different St. Patrick’s Church, in Jaffrey without informing parishioners about Cote’s history. He said he kept quiet because he did not consider Cote a threat.

After the AP reported details of the allegations, Cote acknowledged the affair and resigned.

Other highlights of the deposition include:

— When priests admitted sexual misconduct with minors, McCormack did not ask if there were other victims and did not investigate to see if there were.

— McCormack had trouble explaining delays in telling church officials in California about abuse allegations against Shanley in Massachusetts.

— Shanley warned of disclosures that would create "a media whirlwind," but McCormack did not ask what they were.

— McCormack said he believed a 1970 molestation accusation against the Rev. Joseph Birmingham, but does not recall volunteering the information when Birmingham was being made pastor of a church in Gloucester, Mass.

In another exchange, lawyer Roderick MacLeish, another alleged victims’ lawyer, asked McCormack about how his decisions affected others.

"It was difficult work, particularly when there were allegations about sexual abuse of small children. Is that correct? Made it very difficult for you. Is that correct?" MacLeish asked.

"That and plus many other dimensions of the work, working with the priests, working with victims, working with staffs," McCormack said.

"Making some mistakes?"

"Making some mistakes."

"Mistakes that hurt people, correct?"



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