Sunday, January 26, 2003

A close look at Bishop McCormack's stance in abuse cases

A Globe examination of thousands of pages of internal church records make clear that McCormack, now bishop of the Manchester, N.H., diocese, was an administrator whose first sympathies frequently lay with his brother priests. With him, their words often carried greater weight than those of their victims.

As Law's secretary for ministerial personnel, McCormack's practice was to confer directly with an accused priest, but he frequently heard the victim's story only by proxy, through an aide's written report. When he did come face-to-face with victims, McCormack sometimes reacted to their charges skeptically, and even dismissively. In one case, he told a parent that a priest could not have molested children, when he knew otherwise.

He gently directed accused priests to lawyers and therapists and seemed especially solicitous of his seminary classmates, sometimes clearing the way for their return to ministry despite evidence in church files about their sexual misconduct.

''There was never an intent by Bishop McCormack to protect a priest to the detriment of a victim,'' McCormack's spokesman, Patrick McGee, said last week. ''His job was twofold: to help the victim and assist the priest. The balance is hard to measure.''

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