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Abuse Victims Hope Meeting With McCormack Bears Fruit

Jan 27, 2003 | AP

Organizers of a meeting between alleged abuse victims of a now-deceased priest and a former Boston archdiocese official are hoping it will provide the same benefits as a similar meeting with Cardinal Bernard Law last fall.

About 100 people, including alleged victims of the late Rev. Joseph Birmingham and their families, are scheduled to meet Tuesday with Manchester, N.H., Bishop John McCormack at an undisclosed location. A press briefing is scheduled for Tuesday night in Salem.

More than 50 alleged Birmingham victims have joined a lawsuit against the Boston archdiocese, claiming they were abused by Birmingham and that archdiocese officials, including McCormack, did not stop the abuse, instead reassigning him from parish to parish.

''This meeting is about an opportunity for victims, parents and loved ones to engage the bishop in unfiltered dialogue, so they can get basic answers to their questions,'' said Olan Horne, a member of Survivors of Rev. Joseph Birmingham, a support group. ''There's a sense of empowerment that goes along with these meetings.''

It's also an opportunity for McCormack to ''own his responsibility in this,'' Horne said.

Allegations against Birmingham, who died in 1989, surfaced as early as 1964, according to court records. He served in parishes in Sudbury, Salem, Lowell, Brighton, Lowell and Lexington.

McCormack, who was a top aide to Law from 1984 to 1994, has been criticized for allowing priests who were sexually abusing children to remain in parishes. He became bishop of New Hampshire in 1998.

On Sept. 29, Law, the former Archbishop of Boston, met with a group of alleged Birmingham victims and their family members and loved ones. Shortly thereafter, Law offered one of his deepest apologies for his role in the crisis, saying he was trying to live up to the spirit of that meeting.

''(McCormack's) intent is to go in to listen, to hear stories, to answer questions and to be there with them,'' said spokesman Patrick McGee. ''To the extent that this is helpful to the healing process it would be a wonderful outcome.''

McCormack has already met privately with some of Birmingham's alleged victims.

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