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Bishop Admits Shielding Abusive Priests

Jan 9, 2003 | UPI

The Roman Catholic bishop of New Hampshire denies he had any responsibility in the 1980s to report to authorities numerous allegations of clergy sexual abuse on children.

Bishop John B. McCormack admitted in depositions he shielded scores of accused priests to avoid scandal, despite being urged by an assistant to tell parishioners about abusers, reports said Thursday.

McCormack, who now heads the Diocese of Manchester, N.H., had served for a decade as secretary of ministerial personnel in the Archdiocese of Boston, handling abuse complaints for Cardinal Bernard F. Law, who resigned as archbishop last month as a result of the clergy sex-abuse scandal.

From 1981 to 1988, McCormack was also a licensed social worker in Massachusetts and in that position was required under state law to report suspected child abuse.

However, according to the deposition, he said he was acting as a priest and not as a social worker when he learned of abuse allegations and did not feel obligated to report the abuse to authorities.

"I was acting as a delegate or as administrator for the archdiocese in its administration, so that I wasn't acting as a social worker," McCormack said in pre-trial testimony made public Wednesday by Roderick MacLeish Jr., an attorney for plaintiffs in civil suits against the church.

He said that as a priest, "I had no responsibility" to report allegations. Priests at that time under state law were not required to report abuse allegations.

McCormack said he and a small group of church officials decided against publicly identifying accused priests "to avoid scandalizing people about the sexual abuse committed by clergy."

He said he did not recall whether he ever talked with Law about keeping the names of accused priests secret.

McCormack's top assistant at the time, Sister Catherine E. Mulkerrin, urged him repeatedly to inform parishioners about accused clergymen by publishing their names in parish bulletins.

In his deposition, McCormack admitted her advice was not followed. Described as a "voice in the wilderness," Mulkerrin resigned her position in 1994.

McCormack, who last May acknowledged mistakes he made while in the Boston archdiocese, has become the focus of protesters who want him to resign, as did Law. McCormack has declined to do so.

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