Church Protesters Turn out in Force

By Gary Dennis
Union Leader [Manchester NH]
Downloaded March 10, 2003

With signs reading "Warning: Abuse Zone" and "McCormack can't remember, victims can't forget," more than 30 protesters stood outside St. Joseph Cathedral yesterday morning and heckled parishioners as they went to listen to Bishop John B. McCormack speak.

And making its first appearance in New Hampshire: a 12-foot white cross emblazoned with the names of accused priests and bishops that protesters yesterday carried back and forth in front of the Lowell Street church.

Mike Gustin of Westford, Mass. held the large cross at one point, trying his best to keep it from launching into the wind gusts that whipped up Lowell and Pine streets all morning yesterday.

"My hope is with all the specifics that have been released lately, that some Catholics who have been silent will now become more active," Gustin said.

Last week, more than 9,000 documents were released as a key part of the Dec. 10 agreement between McCormack and former state Attorney General Philip T. McLaughlin under threat of criminal indictments. The pages included church files on about 40 accused priests and involve at least 80 victims whose names had been redacted.

The documents also include the state's 154-page report on the investigation and transcripts of interviews with abusive priests.

The details of those documents brought protesters out in more force than usual - between 30 and 40 stood across from St. Joseph yesterday compared to the usual dozen or so.

The large cross had blue letters on its crossmember spelling "Cross of Shame and Deceit." On the vertical member, the names of high-ranking diocese officials and 48 priests accused of abuse or accused of moving accused priests around from parish to parish, Gustin said.

The protesters were relatively quiet, save when a family went to enter the church for the 10:30 a.m. service.

"Read the papers! Read the papers!" screamed Susan Renehan of Southbridge, Mass. "Thousands of pages of betrayal by your bishop."

Renehan said she was abused herself by a priest from age 11 to 14. That priest then stalked her for three years, she said, until he died when she was 17. The abuse, she said, led her to form the Coalition of Catholics and Survivors before scandals broke over the last year.

Jeff Powers of Charlestown, Mass. said he was appalled by some of the details outlined in the released documents. He wore a poster with pictures of McCormack that called the Manchester bishop "O Holy Shuffler of Pedophiles."

"We feel we were instrumental in getting (Boston Cardinal Bernard) Law to go," he said. "McCormack is the next one who has to go."

Powers said he scanned the released documents and found some things that were "salacious" and "seemly."

Phil DeAlbuquerque, president of STTOP - Speak Truth to Power - yelled a few things toward the front entrance of St. Joseph as well.

"For God's children, put McCormack in jail," was one of his shouts.

The white cross made its way back-and-forth in front of the church throughout the 10:30 a.m. service. The cross was made by a Massachusetts resident named David Lawcon, Gustin said, who made eight of the crosses to go to protests in Manchester, Boston, Fall River, Mass., Worcester, Mass and other New England cities.

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