Videotapes of Bishop John McCormack’s deposition in the Paul Shanley case were released Wednesday, showing that the policy of transferring problem priests continued as recently as last June.
McCormack, who heads the Diocese of Manchester, placed the Rev. Roland Cote in a Jaffrey, N.H., parish after Cote admitted in June to having a sexual affair with a teenager he picked up hitchhiking.
McCormack said he didn’t consider Cote a threat because he believes there’s a difference between sexual activity with a parishioner and someone outside the church.
“One is an activity where you have a trusted relationship with a parishioner. The other is an activity where you’re away from the parish, off on your own,” McCormack said. “I’m very concerned about that. It’s a young person, and he did it in that instance, but it’s quite different than being with a parishioner.”
McCormack worked in the Boston Archdiocese before taking charge of Manchester. He said that in his years in Boston, he only reported one abuse case to the Department of Social Services, even though he was a licensed social worker and mandatory reporter from 1981 to 1988.
“Even though I still carried the license of the commonwealth, they came to me not as a social worker but as a priest, and at that time, we treated these matters confidentially,” McCormack said.
Alleged abuse victims said that they believe McCormack should have told authorities when he heard stories of abuse.
“The fact that he was a licensed social worker meant that he knew, he had training for it,” alleged victim Gary Bergeron said. “The fact that he was a priest. He knew. The fact that he was a human being. He could have done something, and he chose to do nothing.”
Attorney Eric MacLeish said the number of alleged abuse cases continues to grow.
“We now know that that number that Bishop McCormack’s office was dealing with in 1994 was over 100 priests, which is something, quite frankly, that I had no idea,” MacLeish said.
In a written statement, McCormack’s attorney said that the deposition tapes do not tell the whole story.
“The deposition transcripts do not provide a complete accounting of what Father McCormack and the Archdiocese of Boston did and did not do to respond to accusations of sexual misconduct of minors by priests there,” attorney Brian Tucker said.
Tucker added that McCormack will continue to cooperate with the discovery process.