Panel: NH Catholics Say Bishop Must Go

By Kathryn Marchocki
The Union Leader [New Hampshire]
Downloaded January 18, 2003

From the Seacoast to the North Country to the Monadnock Region, their message was the same: Manchester Bishop John B. McCormack lacks credibility to lead the church in New Hampshire and must resign.

That sentiment was the most persistent one voiced by Christian faithful to a task force that crisscrossed the state last fall to hear suggestions on developing a new diocesan sexual misconduct policy.

“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 said.

Concerns raised by more than 200 people who attended “listening sessions” around the state and others sent privately by mail are incorporated in a separate section of the panel’s report to the bishop.

Many comments went beyond the charge of the task force to develop recommendations for a new sexual misconduct policy. But McCormack requested that a summary of them be included in the report, and he plans to respond to them publicly.

The task force said it took no position on the concerns raised.

Several people were angry McCormack assigned a priest to a Jaffrey parish in June without telling parishioners the priest had a previous sexual relationship with a teenage male.

Others lacked trust in the bishop’s ability to protect children given his handling of abusive priests while he served in the Boston Archdiocese, the report said.

Some questioned the task force’s credibility given its members were appointed by the bishop.

The fact that the task force did not call for McCormack’s resignation in its report, released yesterday, drew criticism from James M. Farrell of Somersworth, a University of New Hampshire communications professor and a Catholic.

“Insofar as the task force did not recommend the resignation of Bishop McCormack, they contribute to the ongoing scandal in the church,” said Farrell, who drafted a letter for McCormack’s resignation last year.

He dismissed the task force’s recommendation that the bishop be reported to the Pope and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops if he fails to comply with the new diocesan policy.

The USCCB “by its own unwillingness to address accountability for members of the hierarchy has already sacrificed its own credibility on this matter,” Farrell said.

Other concerns raised at listening sessions included the need for more lay involvement in parish decision making. Some called for elected parish and finance councils rather than having members appointed by the pastor.

Others suggested having parish councils review personnel files of priests before they are assigned to their parishes to ensure these priests have had no complaints of sexual misconduct or “immoral activity” against them.

Full disclosure of diocesan assets, both cash and property, was another concern expressed at listening sessions.

Some people at the listening sessions said priests should be allowed to get married. They said this would broaden the pool of applicants to the priesthood and would likely reduce the incidence of child sexual abuse.

The task force said it also became apparent there is a “difference in the understanding of some people about the church’s teaching on homosexuality.”

In particular, clarification is needed on whether men with a homosexual orientation are “disordered” and ineligible for the priesthood.

The full text of the task force’s report may be found on its Web site:


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