Demonstrator Says She Was Barred from Mass

By Katharine McQuaid
Union Leader [Manchester NH]
Downloaded February 5, 2003

A woman involved in a march outside St. Joseph Cathedral Jan. 26 said she was later barred from attending Mass inside the church.

Corinne Dodge of Derry said she was so upset after the solidarity march and demonstration, co-sponsored by New Hampshire Voice of the Faithful and the Boston-based Coalition of Catholics and Survivors, that she wanted to go inside the church and pray. She said she didn't know if there would be a Mass celebration or not.

"I went in to pray. I went in to try to sort things out. I've always gone to church for that," said Dodge, a member of Holy Cross Church in Derry.

Dodge said she was standing behind a glass partition at the back of the church when she was asked to leave by a man who she thought was an usher, but turned out to be a police officer.

"He said we needed to respect the people here too. I said 'I am the people here, I've come here to pray," Dodge explained.

Then, she said, the officer told her the church had asked them not to let people come in to Mass late.

Dodge said she was surprised when she saw the man's badge and realized he was a police officer, and said she didn't understand why he was in street clothes. She said he was very polite and she is not upset with the way he handled the situation, believing he was acting on orders from the church.

"I don't think he wanted to do that any more than I wanted to leave," she said.

Dodge admitted the news of sexual abuse by priests has caused her to stray from the church over the last year.

"I had been very confused lately with the situation and had not gone to Mass for a while," she said.

Manchester Police Capt. Gerald Lessard said police officers have been hired to work details at St. Joseph Church for recent Masses to help lay the ground rules for protesters, but he did not know if there was a directive to keep people from coming to Mass late.

Spokesman for the Diocese of Manchester Patrick McGee had not heard of the incident, and neither he nor Bishop John B. McCormack were there.

"I don't know anything about that, I don't know who she talked to," he said.

But McGee said the Jan. 26 demonstration drew a larger crowd than past Sundays -more than 200 people - and police may have been taking extra precautions.

"I don't know if on that day whether there were any special security arrangements or not," he said.

But in general, McGee said, anyone is welcome to celebrate Mass at the cathedral. And Father Edward J. Arsenault, the diocese's delegate for sexual misconduct, has even invited protesters into the church in the past.

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