What Others Say: Bishops' Effort to Hide 'Scandal' Should Bring Criminal Penalties

Evening News [Salem MA]
January 14, 2003

From The Day of New London, Conn.

Bishop John B. McCormack of the Manchester, N.H., diocese, has given a legal deposition that shows how the Boston hierarchy's fear of unfavorable publicity became a fixation that damaged young people and exposed them to further sexual exploitation by priests. The deposition is further evidence of how misguided, corrupt and even criminal were the leaders of the Boston Archdiocese under Cardinal Bernard Law.

Bishop McCormack, a former top official in the Boston Archdiocese, acknowledged in the deposition that an archdiocesan official who was receiving complaints of sexual abuse by priests urged him to inform parishioners that particular priests in their churches had been accused of molesting children. Bishop McCormack said in the deposition that he and other senior church officials rejected the idea because they felt public notification about sexual abuse by the clergy "would raise it to the level of a scandal."

What were these bishops thinking of? A scandal by virtue of publicity? What about the scandal of covering up sexual crimes committed by priests against children? That is a perversion that constitutes the worst kind of scandal.

In trying to keep a public relations lid on criminal acts by their own fellow priests, the Boston bishops were engaging in a conspiracy to cover up crimes and, worse, providing fresh opportunities for these sick members of the clergy to continue their rapacious attacks on children.

When Roderick MacLeish Jr., a lawyer for plaintiffs bringing lawsuits, asked Bishop McCormack whether he put the child first when there was a conflict between protecting the child and the priest, the bishop replied, "I would try to protect both."

Hiding the identity of errant, perverted priests is hardly a means of protecting either the child or the priest.

The mess within the Catholic Church over its conspiracy of silence just gets worse. As civil cases proceed, the public won't be surprised whatever the level of indecency that comes out.

Massachusetts, like jurisdictions with similar cases, should vigorously prosecute priests who committed sexual crimes against young people. Bishops who covered up the crimes should be arrested as well. These include the notorious Cardinal Law.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.