Editorial: Horrors Revealed

Concord Monitor [New Hampshire]
Downloaded March 6, 2003

Documents describe a church that abandoned law, morality.

When the Catholic Church's long complicity in the sexual abuse of children by priests was first revealed, trust in the institution was murdered.

Yesterday's release of 9,000 pages of sordid church personnel files outlining six decades of sex abuse - crimes abetted and covered up by church officials - marked the viewing of the body after autopsy. It was a stomach-turning sight.

For some, and this seems to be the hope of Bishop John McCormack, the disclosure will prove cathartic. "Out of our pain we are going to be healed," McCormack told the Monitor yesterday. "There is an old proverb: a crisis can become an opportunity."

The bishop sees in the disclosure an opportunity for the church to put this sad and heinous bit of its history behind it. But that can never happen as long as the institution remains a secretive, authoritarian dictatorship of men out of step with the times and their own humanity.

We see another opportunity in the public disclosure. It is a chance for McCormack to admit that he has taken the Catholic Church in New Hampshire as far as he can as its leader.

Past bishops are more damned than McCormack by the revelations in the documents. The crimes described, after all, took place before his arrival here. But the bishop's own record as a high official in the Archdiocese of Boston is no better and perhaps worse. It too shows a pattern of sheltering abusers while abusing victims and families who complained about rape, molestation and pederasty by offering them lies, threats, denials and payoffs. All in exchange for silence to protect the church from scandal.

Faith cannot be rebuilt, nor should it be, until McCormack steps down. His abuse of trust and power, like those of the church itself and many of its priests, was too great and repeated too many times for that.

Several stories in yesterday's Monitor illustrate the degree to which the church abused the trust of parishioners and the public.

One reported the sentence given a convicted child molester who was not a priest. James Wellington molested a 7-year-old girl. Like the eight priests whose files were released yesterday, Wellington had a previous record. He had admitted to raping a young girl in 1985. Merrimack County Superior Court Judge Kathleen McGuire sentenced him to a minimum of 60 years in prison.

Another story described the crimes of Roger Fortier, a priest convicted of abusing two young boys in Farmington in 1998. Based on what the church now calls a misunderstanding, the police were told Fortier had no history of sexual misconduct. Yet the church knew otherwise.

In 1984, the priest admitted to giving alcohol to minors, showing them pornographic movies and molesting them in his church's rectory. But as a supposed first offender, Fortier was sentenced to a minimum of 20 years.

A third story gave Father Paul Aube's account of how, after he was caught by the Nashua police having sex in a parked car with a boy from his youth group, then-Bishop Odore Gendron called police headquarters and had the matter quashed. Aube went on to molest at least seven more children, according to the attorney general's office. He was then assigned to serve as a hospital chaplain in Concord and Manchester.

Many predator priests who were caught went unpunished. We believe many more, including some perhaps still active, were never found out.

Had McCormack's back not been to the wall, we have no faith that he would have cooperated with state investigators and released the personnel files of some who were found out. And as long as he remains in charge, we have no faith in his assurances that the Diocese of Manchester can move on.

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