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Bishop Said Not to Report Sex Abuse

Jun 4, 2002 | AP

The lone Roman Catholic bishop serving New Hampshire spent 5 hours fielding questions about his role in reporting sexual abuse by priests in the 1980s, but families of the alleged victims weren't satisfied.

"The reason why he didn't report these things? Because he stated he didn't want to create a scandal," Rodney Ford said after Monday's deposition. "Well, this is a scandal at its highest."

Bishop John B. McCormack was questioned by a lawyer for three men who say the Rev. Paul Shanley, a former priest in the Boston area, molested them during the 1980s when they were about 6 years old.

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

The accusers also say that McCormack and other church officials failed to protect them from repeated abuse by Shanley. Shanley, who is retired, faces criminal charges of raping one of the boys.

On Tuesday, the nation's Roman Catholic bishops plan to release their proposal on disciplining priests who molest children, hoping to restore trust in a church badly shaken by the abuse crisis.

A committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has recommended asking the Vatican (news - web sites) to remove priests who abused more than one child in the past as well as oust priests who molest any young person in the future, The Boston Globe reported in Tuesday's editions.

On Monday, Ford and his wife Paula choked back tears as they spoke about McCormack's deposition. Their son is an alleged abuse victim.

"In every incident of every alleged victim, he took the word of the priest over the word of the victim, and when he found out after the fact that the victim was telling the truth, he never took the time to go back to these people and validate their claims," Paula Ford said.

As he left the deposition, McCormack would not answer questions from reporters.

Earlier on Monday, Roderick MacLeish, lawyer for the accusers, confirmed a Boston Herald report that McCormack apparently ignored a nun's requests that he warn parishes about priests accused of abuse.

"I know I sound like a broken record," Sister Catherine Mulkerrin, McCormack's top aide in Boston, said in one memo, "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 memos "were sent directly to Bishop McCormack and nothing was done," MacLeish said.

Church records indicate the Boston archdiocese knew for decades of allegations that Shanley was molesting children.

Law, McCormack and Thomas V. Daily, another of Law's former deputies and now bishop of Brooklyn, are to be questioned under oath by MacLeish in the same lawsuits.

The deposition was closed, but transcripts were expected to be released as early as Tuesday.

In other developments related to the scandal:

The mother of a former altar boy in Omaha, Neb., told a jury Monday that the Rev. Daniel Herek sexually abused her son at age 14 and the archdiocese did nothing to prevent it. 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, who have asked that their names not be used.

In Lexington, Ky., a man accused a priest of sexually abusing him in 1983 when he was a 14-year-old altar boy. Will L. McGinnis III, 33, filed a lawsuit Monday against the Catholic Dioceses of Lexington and Covington, claiming the Rev. Bill Fedders abused him. McGinnis says the dioceses failed to report the alleged abuse to police. Fedders could not be reached for comment and the dioceses said they had not seen the suit.

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