Bishop says he's haunted by his part in abuse scandal

Monday, December 16, 2002

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Bishop John McCormack told parishioners Sunday he is haunted by his part in the church sex scandal, and for the first time apparently questioned whether it could affect his future as leader of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester.

"These days my past haunts my present and clouds my future with you in New Hampshire," he said at the opening of Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral.

McCormack, who became bishop of New Hampshire in 1998, has been dogged for nearly a year by accusations that he failed to protect children from sexually abusive priests while he served in the Archdiocese of Boston as a top deputy to Cardinal Bernard Law from 1984 to 1994.

Last week, McCormack averted unprecedented criminal charges against the diocese of endangering children by moving abusive priests from parish to parish. As part of an agreement with state prosecutors, McCormack acknowledged that the church had harmed children by such moves.

However, McCormack tempered the remark by adding that the best way he can help alleged victims is "to serve and lead the church in New Hampshire well."

No resignation plans

The Rev. Edward Arsenault, chancellor of the diocese, said Sunday that McCormack has no plans to step down.

Roughly 350 people who attended the morning Mass gave McCormack a standing ovation at the close of his opening remarks.

McCormack apologized again Sunday to the alleged victims of abuse but also criticized the attention paid to scandal, calling it a "bizarre interest in the details of these horrible acts which repulse us."

McCormack was expected to be questioned in civil lawsuits Monday in Massachusetts, where he also has been subpoenaed in a grand jury criminal investigation in that state involving the church scandal.

In New York, priests in the Diocese of Brooklyn are hoping they will have some say in the replacement of their bishop, Thomas Daily, now that Law has resigned. Daily was an adviser to Law and was involved in the transfer of priests in the Boston Archdiocese who were accused of sexual abuse.

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