Support for N.H. Bishop Dwindles

By Pamela Ferdinand
Washington Post [Manchester NH]
January 18, 2003

BOSTON, Jan. 17 -- An advisory group appointed by New Hampshire Bishop John B. McCormack has informed him that most of the Roman Catholics who attended a series of public meetings conducted across the state believe he should step down.

"There was considerable concern that Bishop McCormack does not have the moral authority to implement the revised policy on sexual misconduct nor to lead the church forward in the healing process," the Diocesan Task Force on Sexual Misconduct Policy concluded in a 21-page report released today. "Indeed, we heard some attending the listening sessions express skepticism about the credibility of the task force because the bishop appointed us."

The mainly layperson task force, appointed by McCormack last fall and led by former state House speaker Donna Sytek, expanded its mandate to review sexual misconduct policies by also choosing to summarize public sentiment at four meetings attended last fall by more than 200 people.

The report noted some parishioners felt they were being patronized by their pastors and wanted more information about personnel files and church finances, but task force members stopped short of taking a position on whether McCormack should resign.

James M. Farrell, a University of New Hampshire professor and outspoken McCormack critic, faulted the group for a lack of courage. He said the proposed policy changes will fail to restore faith in the diocese as long as McCormack is in charge.

"A report that fails to recommend consequences for bishops who cover up abuse, and who facilitate further abuse, is inconsistent with justice," he said.

In a prepared statement, McCormack praised the recommendations, saying he was impressed by the report's "scope and detail." He has said he does not intend to resign. But there has been mounting pressure on him to follow the example of Boston Cardinal Bernard F. Law, who stepped down last month amid accusations he knowingly allowed suspected pedophile priests to work in parishes.


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