McCormack Calls Meeting to Speak about Future of Church

By J.M. Hirsch
Foster's Daily Democrat [Concord NH]
Downloaded February 15, 2003

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Bishop John B. McCormack is preparing a report he says will "put into perspective the troubling revelations" contained in soon-to-be-released investigative files about the Roman Catholic Church.

In a letter to the state's priests dated Feb. 10, McCormack said the Diocese of Manchester is preparing a report "on the facts of child sexual abuse in our church and a context in which to understand them." He said the report should be available March 3.

That same day the attorney general's office is expected to release 9,000 pages of church and other documents generated during the state's criminal investigation of the diocese last year.

The documents are expected to include a 100-page report by the attorney general's office detailing some of the evidence the state would have presented had the case gone to trial.

The investigation ended in December with an unprecedented settlement in which the diocese averted criminal child endangerment charges by acknowledging the church had harmed minors by shuffling around predator priests.

On Friday, Patrick McGee, McCormack's spokesman, would not say why the diocese was issuing its own report, or how it differed from the report by the attorney general's office.

Also in the Feb. 10 letter, McCormack said finances have made it necessary to reconfigure the administration of the diocese to ensure it can continue to meet the needs of the state's Catholics.

"This plan is driven by the fact that there is less money available for services, by the desire to serve parishes effectively and by the resulting need to reconfigure the services the diocese provides," he wrote. He said details would be released by March 17.

In December, the diocese said McCormack's personal appeal for charitable donations was down nearly $250,000 from 2001. At the time, McGee attributed the drop to donors being discouraged by allegations of priests abusing children, and church leaders - including McCormack - keeping it quiet to avoid scandal.

In the letter, McCormack also said he has learned a great deal during the past year.

"I appreciate more fully the responsibilities we have as a church to care deeply for the adult victims/survivors of child sexual abuse, whose lives have been so deeply harmed and many of whom remain unhealed, as well as for our brother priests, who for unknown reasons, tragically harmed children and youth and now need our care and help in their weakness and frailty," McCormack wrote.

He asked priests and other diocesan and parish leaders to attend a meeting in Concord on Tuesday, Feb. 18, when he would discuss "what our church plans to do and what I pledge to do to move forward" to restore trust in the church.

McCormack has faced mounting calls to step down since Boston Cardinal Bernard Law resigned in December. McCormack was a top aide to Law from 1984 to 1994.

McCormack didn't mention his plans in the letter, but has said that his past clouded his future in New Hampshire. McGee said the meeting would focus on the church's future, and would be open to the media.


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