McCormack Says He Still Has Faith in Church

By Kathryn Marchocki
Downloaded January 31, 2003

Manchester Bishop John B. McCormack, responding to a comment attributed to him by an alleged clergy abuse victim, yesterday said he has not lost trust in the church.

"My trust in the church remains strong and undiluted," McCormack said in a statement yesterday.

The bishop's comment follows a statement made by an alleged victim of the late Rev Joseph E. Birmingham while recounting details of a private meeting with McCormack to the media Tuesday night.

Larry Sweeney of Chelmsford, Mass., said he told the bishop during the meeting, which was attended by about 85 people in Salem, Mass., that he has lost trust in McCormack and the church.

"He (McCormack) acknowledged that he has lost trust in the church, also, and I think that says a lot," Sweeney, 44, told the media at a press conference afterwards.

Manchester diocesan spokesman Patrick McGee yesterday said those were not the bishop's words.

"That's not what he said. What the bishop said essentially is he knows that people may have lost faith in him and in the church," McGee said.

Sweeney yesterday stood by his comment.

"He (McCormack) said, 'I know you've lost trust.' And he stopped and he paused, and it looked as though he was reflecting, and he said, 'I've lost trust'," Sweeney said.

"He said those exact words," added Sweeney, who says Birmingham abused him and his brother in a Lowell, Mass., parish in the early 1970s.

While Sweeney yesterday said McCormack "may not have used the words 'in the church'," he said that given the context in which McCormack spoke, "I can't imagine he meant anything other than the church or the people running it."

Another alleged victim privately confirmed he also heard McCormack say he has "lost trust."

Sweeney, who is a pharmacist, said he did not get the impression that McCormack meant he "lost trust in God or lost trust in the institution of the faith, but in human beings that run the church."

"If he meant trust in himself, that's just as bad. He's a huge part of the church," he added.

In his statement yesterday, McCormack said, "I have a deep trust that the Lord will continue to use his church to help victims heal.

"I recognize that many say they have lost faith in me and in the church. I acknowledge the sincerity of their feelings and I will do all that I can to help restore a broken relationship with them," the bishop added.

Paul Ciaramitaro, who says Birmingham abused him as a teenager in the mid-1980s in Gloucester, Mass., yesterday said he does not believe McCormack really understood how child molestation affects children and their families before Tuesday's meeting.

"I saw a different Bishop McCormack walk out of the building than I did when he walked in last night," added Ciaramitaro, 31, of Gloucester, Mass.

"(It) was the beginning of the start of the healing. We'll see what he does to follow it," he added.

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