MANCHESTER BISHOP John McCormack acknowledged last week that he assigned a priest to St. Patrick Parish in Jaffrey though he knew that the priest had conducted a six-year love affair with a man almost half his age. McCormack’s reaction to the public revelation of this scandal further erodes any faith one could have in the church leadership.
McCormack is upset that Rev. Roland P. Cote’s affair, and McCormack’s handling of it, have become public. We bet he is. The revelations prove once and for all that McCormack had, and still has, no interest in keeping out of the priesthood individuals who don’t uphold the church’s principles, policies or code of behavior. It further proves that McCormack had, and still has, no intention of informing parishioners when their priests have a record of engaging in sexual conduct with young men.
If this were happening in the Unitarian Universalist Church, it would not be an issue. But it isn’t. It is happening in the Roman Catholic Church, which represents the beliefs that sex outside of marriage and homosexual behavior are both sins; that priests are representatives of God and should behave as such; and that parishioners are subordinate to the priesthood and should look to their priests for moral and spiritual leadership as well as for a model of upstanding behavior.
The hierarchical structure of the Roman Catholic Church makes it very important that priests uphold the values and beliefs of the church. Priests who do not share the church’s beliefs are in a uniquely opportune position to mislead or take advantage of their flocks.
McCormack’s attempt to reassure parishioners by saying he believed that Rev. Cote would never have sex with a young man again is not convincing. McCormack has said before that he believed other priests who told him their sexual adventures were behind them, only to have the behavior repeated. It is a disturbing pattern. Either McCormack is one of the most naive people on earth, or this is an evasive answer designed to dodge his responsibility for covering up rampant homosexual behavior in the priesthood.
When he asserts that the overriding concerns in cases involving priests having sex with young men are 1) whether the law was broken, and 2) whether the church’s sexual misconduct policy was violated, McCormack misses the bigger picture. Because priests are in uniquely powerful leadership positions, standards of behavior for them must be higher than the minimum set by law or sexual abuse policy. Simply put, there should be no tolerance for sexual misconduct by priests.
McCormack’s reaction to the public exposure of the Cote case reveals yet again that church leaders, including McCormack, are and long have been more interested in protecting their “brother” priests and the church from public scrutiny than in seeing that priests uphold church doctrine or ensuring that priests do not pose a risk to their parishioners.