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New Hampshire Bishop Tells Parishioners Scandal 'Haunts' Him

Dec 15, 2002 | AP

Bishop John McCormack told parishioners Sunday he is haunted by his part in the church sex scandal, and for the first time apparently questioned whether it could affect his future as leader of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester.
"These days my past haunts my present and clouds my future with you in New Hampshire," he said at the opening of Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral.

McCormack, who became bishop of New Hampshire in 1998, has been dogged for nearly a year by accusations that he failed to protect children from sexually abusive priests while he served in the Archdiocese of Boston as a top deputy to Cardinal Bernard Law from 1984 to 1994. Law resigned as archbishop on Friday.

Last week, McCormack averted unprecedented criminal charges against the diocese of endangering children by moving abusive priests from parish to parish. As part of an agreement with state prosecutors, McCormack acknowledged that the church had harmed children by such moves.

However, McCormack tempered the remark by adding that the best way he can help alleged victims is "to serve and lead the church in New Hampshire well."

The Rev. Edward Arsenault, chancellor of the diocese, said Sunday that McCormack has no plans to step down.

Roughly 350 people who attended the morning Mass gave McCormack a standing ovation at the close of his opening remarks.

McCormack apologized again Sunday to the alleged victims of abuse but also criticized the attention paid to scandal, calling it a "bizarre interest in the details of these horrible acts which repulse us."

McCormack was expected to be questioned in civil lawsuits Monday in Massachusetts, where he also has been subpoenaed in a grand jury criminal investigation in that state involving the church scandal.

In New York, priests in the Diocese of Brooklyn are hoping they will have some say in the replacement of their bishop, Thomas Daily, now that Law has resigned. Daily was an adviser to Law and was involved in the transfer of priests in the Boston Archdiocese who were accused of sexual abuse.

"As of today, we see all the more reason why the priests and laity should have input," Msgr. John Powis of St. Barbara's Church in Brooklyn, told Newsday for a story in Saturday editions.

In September, Daily submitted a retirement letter, a mandatory practice for bishops who turn 75. The pope must now decide whether to accept.

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