Bishop McCormack Must Resign

Our View, carried in The Eagle Tribune [New Hampshire]
February 10, 2003

Bishop John B. McCormack has served as the leader of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester, N.H., since 1998.

But he carries with him the taint of the years he spent in Boston assisting Cardinal Bernard Law in shuffling priests accused of sexually abusing children from one parish to another.

McCormack has been the target of protests by Catholics who say they and their family members were abused by priests and McCormack did nothing to stop it. McCormack has mouthed platitudes to these victims but has done nothing to indicate he accepts responsibility for his role in their suffering.

McCormack should resign as the leader of the diocese. The church, as it did with Cardinal Law, should replace him with someone willing to get to the bottom of the sexual abuse scandal and to prevent it from happening again.

What was McCormack's role in the scandal of priestly abuse? From 1984 until 1998, he was a top aide to Law in the archdiocese. For many of those years, he handled the cases of priests accused of abuse. McCormack was a "fixer" -- he made problems go away.

Records and testimony in the many lawsuits against the church show that McCormack in 1985 investigated a complaint against the Rev. Paul Shanley that Shanley had spoken favorably at a conference about sex between men and boys. McCormack dismissed the allegation after Shanley told him the remark was taken "out of context." What is the proper context for approval of sex between adults and children?

Shanley is awaiting trial on charges he assaulted and raped boys while a priest in Newton, Mass.

Church files show McCormack and Shanley had earlier talked about setting up a "safe house" for accused priests and discussed the possibility of Shanley leaving the country if problems arose.

McCormack also "investigated" accusations that the Rev. Ronald Paquin had molested boys while serving at parishes in Methuen and Haverhill. Paquin has admitted to molesting and raping an altar boy 40 to 50 times in a Haverhill cemetery.

The conclusion of McCormack's "investigation"? Dismissed. Why? Because Paquin told him he had done nothing wrong.

McCormack is also named in a civil lawsuit brought by 54 men who say they were molested as children by the Rev. Joseph Birmingham, another priest who was moved from parish to parish. Birmingham died in 1989.

One of Birmingham's alleged victims, Larry Sweeney, told our reporter how the priest "feasted" on young boys. When trouble arose, "they shipped him off to another parish and served up another platter of young boys for him," Sweeney said. "He was having a banquet, and the caterers were McCormack and the other higher-ups."

McCormack must go.

Bishop John B. McCormack has served as the leader of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester, N.H., since 1998.


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