Bishop John McCormack files: Bishop: Church brass hid sex scandal
By Eric Convey and Tom Mashberg Boston (MA) Herald June 4, 2002
Manchester, N.H. — A bishop who served as Bernard Cardinal Law’s top personnel aide for a decade testified yesterday that Archdiocese of Boston leaders kept a wave of clergy abuse allegations secret because telling the faithful in the affected parishes might have created “a scandal.”
Bishop John B. McCormack, 67, now head of the Diocese of Manchester, N.H., gave the explanation under oath in a deposition in the Rev. Paul R. Shanley abuse case, witnesses to his questioning said.
“He said he didn’t want to create a scandal,’ ” said a visibly incensed Rodney Ford, whose son, Greg, now 24, is suing Law, McCormack, Shanley and the Catholic Church for numerous rapes alleged to have occurred in the 1980s at St. Jean’s Parish in Newton.
“Well, this is a scandal at its highest,” Ford said. “It’s a disgrace what we have had to go through.”
McCormack, emerging from 5 1/2 hours of questioning by attorney Roderick MacLeish Jr., declined to discuss his testimony in detail or answer questions from reporters. “I’m glad I’ve had this opportunity to begin answering the questions that people have, that lawyers have,” said the embattled bishop, who has been urged to resign by The Manchester Union-Leader and numerous others. “I tried to answer them as completely, as thoroughly, as honestly as I could. Thank you for your interest. God bless you.”
The Herald reported yesterday that one document produced as a result of subpoenas in the Shanley case indicates a high-ranking archdiocese nun urged McCormack and others in 1994 that parishes be alerted after their pastors were credibly accused of molestation. Time and again, church documents show, the nun was overruled in favor of secrecy. McCormack admitted yesterday he ignored the nun, Sister Catherine E. Mulkerrin, preferring to stifle the flow of any information to churchgoers.
At one point yesterday, according to Paula Ford, Greg’s mother, who was also at the deposition, McCormack acknowledged that he usually took the word of priests over parishioners when confronted with allegations of child abuse. “In every incident of every alleged victim, he took the word of the priest over the word of the victim,” she said. “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.
“This was one of the most painful days of my life,” she said yesterday. “The truth is so painful.”
MacLeish, who is to depose Law tomorrow and Friday, said the testimony also shows that McCormack and his colleagues at the chancery in Brighton ignored Mulkerrin’s advice in violation of a 1992 directive from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops stating that lay Catholics should be kept informed of sexual abuse reports. The conference is expected to issue new guidelines on the reporting of abuse by clergy today.
“Had Bishop McCormack taken the advice of Sister Mulkerrin, and gone to the parishes where Paul Shanley and some of these priests had served, and spoken to them and informed the parishioners of what was going on, I don’t think we would be here today,” he said.
MacLeish confirmed a Herald report yesterday that one of Mulkerrin’s memos read: “I know I sound like a broken record. 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. . .”
MacLeish said his recent deposition of the Rev. Charles J. Higgins, the current archdiocese personnel chief, showed that Boston officials have discussed abuse at just three of the 200 parishes known to have been served by alleged abusers.
The tone of the session was cordial, said Peter Hutchins, a New Hampshire lawyer who also attended because he has cases involving the church. Written and audio-visual transcripts of the deposition could be made available as soon as this afternoon, pending a ruling by Middlesex Superior Court Judge Raymond J. Brassard.
Testimony also included discussions of priests who have not previously been implicated in abuse cases, MacLeish said.
“This is a case about a pattern,” he said. “There were many, many priests who were mentioned today.”
Some questions focused on how the archdiocese handled allegations involving the Rev. Ronald H. Paquin, who is in jail awaiting trial for abuse. Others pertained to a group of priests who attended St. John’s Seminary in Brighton with McCormack in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
They include Revs. Joseph Birmingham, John Geoghan, Bernard Lane and Shanley, all of whom have faced multiple lawsuits.
MacLeish and his law partner, Robert A. Sherman, said soon-to-be released documents include information that could strengthen cases against three or four more priests. They said they planned to make files on 10 more abusive priests public as soon as today.
MacLeish and Sherman stated in court last week that church lawyers were blocking witnesses from cooperating during depositions. There were no such problems with McCormack, MacLeish said.
The Fords said McCormack apologized to them over Shanley. Rodney Ford said he did not take the bishop seriously. Paula Ford said she expects future sessions to produce more troubling details about the church’s handling of the issue.
“I can see the writing on the wall,” she said. “It’s not pretty.”
Bishop John D’Arcy, Who Sounded Alarm on Sex Abuse, Dies at 80
By Paul Vitello
Published February 4, 2013
Bishop John D’Arcy, who was ignored by his superiors in the 1980s when he warned about priests who later figured in the sex-abuse scandal that rocked the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, died on Sunday at his home in Fort Wayne, Ind., where he had led the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend for 24 years. He was 80.
The cause was cancer, said Sean McBride, a diocese spokesman.
Bishop D’Arcy, who retired in 2009, drew national attention that year when he led a boycott to protest the University of Notre Dame’s invitation to President Obama to speak at its commencement ceremony.
Bishop D’Arcy, whose diocese encompassed the university campus, objected that the president’s abortion-rights views were in opposition to Roman Catholic teachings.
In Boston, where he spent the first half of his clerical career, Bishop D’Arcy, then an auxiliary bishop, wrote a series of letters to his superiors raising alarms about priests he considered troubled and dangerous. The priests were being reassigned to new pastoral duties despite their known histories of substance abuse, sexually abusing children or both, and he urged his superiors to reconsider.
The letters became public in the early 2000s when archdiocese documents were released by court order as a result of lawsuits.
In one of his bluntest letters, Bishop D’Arcy asked the newly appointed archbishop of Boston, Bernard F. Law, to rescind the appointment of the Rev. John J. Geoghan as pastor of a parish in Weston, Mass.
“Father Geoghan has a history of homosexual activity with young boys,” Bishop D’Arcy wrote to the archbishop on Dec. 7, 1984.
Father Geoghan was later accused of sexual abuse by 130 former parishioners, many of them from the Weston parish. He was strangled to death in a Massachusetts state prison by a fellow inmate in 2003 while serving a sentence for child sexual abuse.
Archbishop Law, who became a cardinal in 1985, said he could not recall Bishop D’Arcy’s letter when asked about it years later in depositions concerning the abuse cases.
Bishop D’Arcy wrote cautionary letters about three other priests: Thomas Forry, Richard Buntel and Robert Meffan, all of whom were later accused publicly of sexually abusing children.
In 1985, after writing a second letter about Father Geoghan to Cardinal Law, Bishop D’Arcy was elevated from auxiliary bishop to full bishop status and appointed to the post in Fort Wayne-South Bend.
He never spoke publicly about his letters.
Terrence McKiernan, founder of the Web site bishopsaccountability.org, a repository of church documents released as a result of lawsuits and government investigations of sexual abuse by priests, said letters like Bishop D’Arcy’s were rare.
There have been many internal memos about priests whom fellow clerics considered liabilities to the church, Mr. McKiernan said in an interview on Monday. “But I have read through thousands, tens of thousands of these documents,” he added, “and seen very few with D’Arcy’s level of expression of concern for the victims.”
John Michael D’Arcy was born on Aug. 13, 1932, in Boston, and ordained in 1957. He served as a parish priest for nine years before being appointed the vicar for spiritual development at St. John’s Seminary in Boston.
In that role, in 1979, he recommended a comprehensive rethinking of the archdiocese’s system of recruiting men for the priesthood. Among other things, he urged that candidates undergo psychological testing, in part to screen out those who might not be sincere in taking vows of celibacy.
A 2003 report on sexual abuse by priests in the archdiocese, issued by Attorney General Thomas Reilly of Massachusetts, concluded, “It does not appear that the archdiocese adopted Bishop D’Arcy’s recommendations in any meaningful way.”
Bishop D’Arcy’s boycott of Mr. Obama’s address at Notre Dame was one of two he led at the university when he was bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend. In the other, in 1992, he protested the university’s plans to give an award to Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York, again because of Mr. Moynihan’s abortion-rights views.
When Mr. Obama was invited to give the commencement address in 2009, Bishop D’Arcy declared in an open letter to the university, “Notre Dame must ask itself if by this decision it has chosen prestige over truth.”
Neither boycott changed the university’s commencement plans, though both sparked national debate among Catholics.
“He was very clear in his thinking, and never hid his views from anyone, no matter whom,” said the Rev. John Sassani, a parish priest in Boston, who was a friend.
Bishop D’Arcy’s survivors include two sisters: Sister Anne D’Arcy, a nun with the Sisters of Saint Joseph, and Joan Sheridan.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: February 6, 2013
Because of an editing error, an obituary on Tuesday about Bishop John D’Arcy misstated his position in the Roman Catholic Church in the early 2000s, when letters he had written to his superiors in the Archdiocese of Boston about priests he considered troubled or dangerous were made public. He was bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., at the time; he was no longer an auxiliary bishop in Boston. The obituary also misstated the length of the sentence given to the Rev. John J. Geoghan, one of the priests Bishop D’Arcy had warned about, who was later convicted of child sexual abuse. It was 9 to 10 years, not life.