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Report Says Many Want Bishop Out

January 18, 2003|From Associated Press

MANCHESTER, N.H. — A group of church members appointed to recommend policy changes to prevent and punish sexual abuse by priests told Bishop John B. McCormack on Friday that many New Hampshire Roman Catholics think he should step down.

"The most common sentiment expressed on the part of those speaking at listening sessions was that Bishop McCormack should resign," the group said in a report.

"There was considerable concern that Bishop McCormack does not have the moral authority to implement the revised policy on sexual misconduct nor to lead the church forward in the healing process," it said.

In a prepared statement, McCormack praised the group's work but said nothing about resigning. Still, in a private meeting Friday with an alleged victim of priest abuse, McCormack indicated that day could come.

Gary Bergeron met with McCormack and said McCormack told him he plans to remain as bishop so long as he is able to lead the church effectively and help victims heal.

"He said right now he believes he can do that; however if the time came when it was better for the church, that he would make a decision to go," Bergeron said.

The mainly lay Diocesan Task Force on Sexual Misconduct Policy, appointed by McCormack last fall, was to limit its 21-page report to policy recommendations, but devoted the final 2 1/2 pages to criticism from public meetings. The group took no position on whether McCormack should resign.

The recommendations centered on prevention, showing compassion to alleged victims and respecting the rights of accused priests. It recommended alleged violations of abuse-prevention policy be reported to the bishop, and alleged violations by the bishop be reported to the Vatican and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

McCormack is not bound by the recommendations, and some of what will be in the diocese's revised sexual abuse policy is beyond his control because it must conform with canon law.

The report comes amid a nationwide scandal over sexual abuse by priests that erupted in Boston a year ago. Boston Cardinal Bernard Law resigned after months of criticism and lawsuits accusing him of turning a blind eye toward molestation and protecting accused priests.

McCormack was a top aide to Law from 1984 to 1994 and is named in lawsuits against the archdiocese.

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