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Bishop Deposed in Sex Abuse Case

Jun 4, 2002 | AP

A lawyer says a memo shows Bishop John B. McCormack ignored requests to tell Boston parishes that their priests had been removed because of sex abuse allegations.

The lawyer for three men who claim they were molested spoke before McCormack answered questions Monday during a closed deposition in lawsuits that accuse him of failing to protect the plaintiffs from priests.

The alleged victims say in their lawsuits they were molested as boys by the Rev. Paul Shanley during the 1980s, when he served as pastor at St. Jean Parish in Newton, Mass.

McCormack, 66, was secretary of ministerial personnel for the Archdiocese of Boston from 1984 to 1994 and handled sexual abuse complaints against priests for Cardinal Bernard Law from 1992 to 1995.

The lawyer for Shanley's alleged victims, Roderick MacLeish, confirmed a Boston Herald report Monday that said Sister Catherine Mulkerrin, McCormack's top aide in Boston, had written memos advising him to contact members of parishes where Shanley and other accused priests had served.

"I know I sound like a broken record," one memo from Mulkerrin read, "but we need to put in church bulletins 'It has come to our attention a priest stationed here between 19XX and 19XX may have molested children — please contact ...'"

The three alleged victims, all now in their mid-20s and from Newton, Mass., have filed lawsuits in Massachusetts accusing Shanley of molesting them starting when they were about 6.

Transcripts and a videotape of the deposition, which will continue June 17, were expected to be released as early as Tuesday.

"There were many questions asked today, and I tried to answer them as thoroughly, as completely and as honestly as I could," McCormack said as he left the session. He did not take questions from reporters.

Rodney and Paula Ford, parents of alleged victim Gregory Ford, accompanied MacLeish to the deposition. According to Rodney Ford, McCormack said he treated molestation allegations gingerly for fear of bad publicity.

"The reason why he didn't report these things? Because he stated he didn't want to create a scandal. Well, this is a scandal at its highest," the father said.

Since the clergy sex abuse crisis erupted in Boston in January, former Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland is the highest-ranking U.S. cleric to acknowledge settling a sexual misconduct allegation against him.

At least 225 priests of more than 46,000 across the country have either been dismissed from their duties or resigned since the scandal began.

In other developments, the mother of a former altar boy in Omaha, Neb., burst into tears Monday as she told a jury that she had trusted the archdiocese, the church and the Rev. Daniel Herek to be good influences on her son.

Instead, she said, her son was sexually abused at age 14 and the archdiocese did nothing to prevent it. The boy, now in his 20s, and his mother suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and deserve compensation for their injuries and counseling that could be needed for the rest of their lives, said their attorney, Harold Zabin. They asked that their names not be used.

Omaha archdiocese officials have admitted to negligence in failing to adequately supervise Herek. The trial is to determine the amount of damages to be awarded to the boy and his mother. Zabin has said he would seek at least $1 million in damages.

Archdiocese attorney Bill Johnson admitted the boy suffered psychological damage, but the extent of necessary treatment and its cost are under dispute.

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