Crowd Protests at Cathedral, Tells Bishop to Resign

By J.M. Hirsch
Associated Press, carried in [Manchester NH]
January 26, 2003

MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) More than 200 Roman Catholics and alleged victims of priest sexual abuse gathered outside St. Joseph Cathedral on Sunday to call for Bishop John B. McCormack's resignation.

Many said they were unimpressed by McCormack's apologies and explanations of how he handled accusations against priests while a top aide to Boston Cardinal Bernard Law from 1984 to 1994.

''John McCormack, don't ever again try to confound the laity with your babble,'' said Stephen Lewis, of Lynn, Mass., who said he was abused by a priest as a child.

''We are not your ring-kissing slaves or servants who you count as you fall asleep in your brick mansion.''

Holding pictures of more than 80 alleged abuse victims as children, the protesters marched around the cathedral and told stories of abuse for more than two hours in the frigid cold.

Many held signs calling for McCormack to step down including, ''A truly moral leader would know that pedophelia is a sin and a crime. Resign now,'' and ''N.H. Live Free. Spurn McCormack.''

McCormack did not attend Mass at the cathedral Sunday. His spokesman, Patrick McGee, said the bishop has no plans to resign and wants to continue working to help the victims of abuse any way he can.

''The purpose of the demonstration was to show solidarity with victims, and I think the church in New Hampshire does stand in solidarity with victims,'' he said.

McCormack has been accused of ignoring warnings about predator priests in Massachusetts. And according to church documents released in civil lawsuits, he repeatedly took the word of accused clergymen over alleged victims.

McCormack has been under mounting pressure to resign since Law stepped down in December. Protesters began weekly demonstrations outside the cathedral late last month, though Sunday's was by far the largest.

Lewis said he also wasn't impressed by McCormack's recent settlement with the state attorney general's office, which last year investigated whether church officials in New Hampshire had failed to protect children from abusive priests.

''There is nothing courageous about this man cutting a deal with the attorney general when the law had him in a corner by the throat with indictments of violating the child endangerment laws of this great state of New Hampshire,'' Lewis said.

In an unprecedented agreement last month, McCormack averted criminal charges against the diocese by admitting the church's handling of abuse allegations had harmed children.

Sunday's event drew participants from as far as Chicago, but most were from Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and were affiliated with one several lay Catholic groups that organized the demonstration.

David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said the goal was to reach out to victims and help people understand the scandal that has rocked the church for more than a year.

''We are here to put human stories to the news reports you have read this year,'' he said.

The Rev. Thomas Doyle, a Dominican priest and expert on church sex abuse issues, told the crowd they should not be daunted by the church's expensive lawyers and public relations firms.

''All we have is the truth,'' he said. ''Because of that we are going to make changes.''

Lillian Albert, of Hanson, Mass., said she has been participating in the Manchester protests for several weeks. On Sunday she was holding a sign bearing the picture of a teenage boy.

Wiping away tears, she said McCormack must go for the good of the church.

''He was a pedophile shuffler,'' she said. ''If he doesn't think the abuse of a child is a crime, he doesn't need to be a priest, or a bishop.''


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