New Hampshire Voice of the Faithful
P.O. Box 423
Concord, NH 03302-0423
May 13, 2003
Most Rev. John B. McCormack, D.D.
Diocese of Manchester
153 Ash St.
P.O. Box 310
Manchester, NH 03105-0310
Dear Bishop McCormack:
We received your letter of April 14, 2003 in which you respond
to our call for your resignation and that of Bishop Francis Christian.
Thank you for acknowledging both our letter sent the prior week,
and our distress at your leadership. These are obviously difficult
communications on every count.
We admit surprise that you did not know our sentiments before.
From the very first meeting of New Hampshire Voice of the Faithful,
which you kindly attended, resignation surfaced as an important
issue. Subsequent encounters with various members in several venues
reiterated the point. Its expression in our vote on April 6 was
a natural progression of deliberations over many months. Certainly,
the wide dissemination of polls across the State approving resignation
signaled a common opinion from which NH-VOTF is not exempt. Major
newspapers repeatedly call for your resignation, websites advocate
for it, demonstrators continually mark your public appearances,
and negative letters to the editor highlight the obvious disarray
and distress in our Diocese.
Our action was premised on the need for accountability on your
part for the "willful blindness, flagrant indifference and conscious
ignorance" of the dangers abusive priests posed to children, as
outlined in the Attorney General's report. These actions endangered
children and subjected them to the molestation of their bodies and
souls. Victims' tragic issues with alcohol and drug abuse, suicide
attempts, inability to hold jobs, failed marriages, numbing depression,
and violent rages are just some of the results of what you failed
to do - all compounded by your lies to survivors and their families.
Please understand how difficult it is to accept that such a record
deserves promotion to episcopal seats of honor. We see nothing in
your letter that disputes these facts.
You say your report, Restoring Trust, provides a "clear
explanation" of when the Diocese "was inadequate in its response
in the past." We respectfully disagree. While referring generally
to disturbing and reprehensible behaviors of abusive priests, and
describing the Diocese's actions in the conditional, benign language
of public relations, it refuses to answer directly or comment on
the specifics in the Attorney General's report. Your report claims
the Diocese offers no excuses and then justifies its behavior by
noting, "the Diocese was not alone in its incomplete understanding"
of sexual abuse; society was at fault too.
Restoring Trustfurther says, "the Diocese complied with
the child safety laws of New Hampshire in the past." This is a statement
countered by the Attorney General, who says, "The evidence gathered
during the investigation reveals instances where the Diocese 'had
reason to suspect,' if not direct proof, that a child was being
abused by a priest, yet, it did not report the conduct to the Department
of Health and Human Services."
How can we take full comfort that, though you and Bishop Christian
did not consciously intend to harm anyone, incalculable and repeated
harm followed? In our view, your records point emphatically to a
primary concern for scandal over the protection of children. That
focus was revealed most sharply in your own case when a woman victim
died, and your first notation, even years later, was "1.
Scandal." In an apology last May, you restated you never intended
''a priest be placed in an assignment where he could be in contact
with children if he had an allegation of sexual abuse.'' How then
to account for your reply to the father of a 13-year old altar boy
in contact with Joseph Birmingham, who had been treated for abuse,
that "There is absolutely no factual basis to your concern." Asked
about your inadequate reply, you said, "I can't explain that." (Globe
You are also accountable for a lack of pastoral care for your clergy,
failing to respond effectively to deeply troubled individuals in
need of close supervision and support. Survivors often reserve their
greater anger for bishops like yourselves who enabled abusers by
This is painful to write, given the anguished revelations in the
documentary record; but it underlines why there is little trust
in your or Bishop Christian's word. He is cited prominently in the
Attorney General's report, including in the context of "perjury,
false swearing, or unsworn falsification."
No concealment or coverup?
Your letter to NH-VOTF continues: "I want you to know that there
has been no pervasive pattern of behavior on my part or that of
Bishop Christian to conceal or to cover up the actions of sexual
abuse by priests."
By contrast, the Boston Globe reported on 4/8/03: "(Sr. Catherine)
Mulkerrin, who worked for McCormack from 1992 to 1994, said she
had suggested repeatedly to McCormack that parishes where allegedly
abusive priests had served should be notified about the allegations
in the church bulletin. She also suggested that Law should visit
some of those parishes, perhaps leading Masses of reconciliation.
'My first thought was adults, young or older, some very elderly,
who had kept their secret for years, that they might be freed,'
she said. 'I met so frequently with adults who hadn't broken their
silence for years.'
But neither McCormack nor the archdiocese acted on either suggestion."
Furthermore, your own deposition when questioned by Attorney Roderick
MacLeish, Jr. reads:
"MacLeish: Sister Catherine was telling you in this memorandum,
as she had told you before, that in light of everything that was
happening with the priests being reported for sexual abuse that
there was a need to put something in the various parish bulletins
where these priests had been, correct?
MacLeish: And it was not done, was it?
The most direct statement on your actions comes from survivor Peter
Pollard: "I believe McCormack was and is a major coverup artist…His
manner toward me was clearly manipulative. It was clear to me from
the first moment there was going to be stone wall there.''
In another report, "McCormack told Pollard he had found nothing
to justify removing the priest (George Rosenkranz) from ministry.
McCormack said Rosenkranz merely had "sexual issues," adding that
what Pollard viewed as abuse - acts that included kissing and Rosenkranz's
request that he masturbate in front of him - may simply have been
expressions of affection, according to Pollard. "I was stunned,"
Pollard recalled." (Globe 1/26/03) We are confused how even in light
of this, you say you attempted to respond appropriately to charges
In summary, we stand by and repeat our charge sent to the Holy
Father that you and Bishop Christian engaged in a pervasive pattern
of behavior to conceal and cover up evil actions.
Your letter to NH-VOTF also states: "The response of the diocese
to reports of sexual misconduct of minors in the past often times
relied too much upon the confidentiality requested by adults who
reported being abused as minors."
Once again, by contrast, the Attorney General's report says: "The
Task Force obtained information that Diocesan officials may have
secured confidentiality agreements from victims of sexual assaults
in return for civil settlements and other benefits such as providing
counseling to victims. This evidence demonstrates that the Diocese
required confidentiality in return for remuneration. In at least
one instance, the investigation revealed that one of the reasons
for the Diocese's insistence on a confidentiality agreement was
to prevent the victim from speaking with law enforcement about the
sexual offenses of the priest." Moreover, the Attorney General concludes
the Diocese "acted purposely" with evidence of "its consciousness
of guilt." Bishop Christian played a key role in many of these settlements.
Relationship with the faithful basically good
You claim in your letter to us that your relationship with pastors
and New Hampshire Catholics is "basically a good and effective one."
We see a different reality. Donations have dropped across the State,
beginning last April, often in the 15-20 percent range, even to
the point of more than half in one parish decimated by your mismanagement.
The reasons for the decline invariably cite the bishops, scandal,
and loss of trust as the main factors, with the economy lagging
The impact on diocesan finances is severe, with the Diocesan Finance
Council recommending a cut of $500,000, or 20 percent, out of an
annual operating budget of $2.5 million. Stringent financial measures,
layoffs as part of a 25 percent workforce reduction, and major program
closures mark a budget crisis still being sorted out. Landmark programs
in youth ministry and spiritual renewal services are eliminated.
In addition, twenty-two percent of Catholics report attending church
less frequently, according to a scientific statewide poll, and informal
surveys at various parishes confirm these results. While we know
the hierarchy pays little heed to public opinion polls, they still
indicate a widespread discontent that mars your and Bishop Christian's
roles as pastors. Many priests are frustrated and perplexed in this
unsettled climate. Certainly, the sad requests that neither of you
preside at confirmations reflect the spiritual distress we alluded
to in our call for your resignations. The current state of affairs
is as relevant as past abuses in dislocating our communal life.
How can all these be signs of an effective pastoral relationship?
Resignation ineffective solution?
You are quite right when you state that resignation is not a decision
you make alone. That is why we wrote the Holy Father, who is the
key person responsible for episcopal appointments and resignations.
We have a right and obligation to inform His Holiness of situations
deleterious to the communion and mission of the Church in New Hampshire.
We have never posited that resignation is a simple resolution, as
your statements erroneously imply.
We do propose, however, that there will be a significant sigh of
relief if you and Bishop Christian, as emblematic figures in the
sexual abuse crisis, no longer remain as constant reminders of your
part in this terrible scandal. Healing and moving forward are predicated
on cleansing the wound of what we consider criminal behavior that
maimed the very heart of our beloved Church. The salutary principle
that one must be accountable for one's actions, as well as forgiven,
is worth upholding as an example of justice for all to see. Survivors
deserve to know at the least that the enablers of their abuse are
not rewarded with even greater power and prestige.
Contrary to your assertion that resignations are not in the tradition
of the Church, we find resignations a well-known feature in the
sexual abuse scandal. Five bishops have resigned for the mishandling
of allegations, some with less culpability in terms of the numbers
of priests and survivors involved. Sadly, at least a dozen more
bishops have resigned for their own involvement in sexual allegations,
so the scandal in general is rife with removal from office as a
remedy. We determine that you and Bishop Christian failed to follow
the strong example set by your predecessor, Bishop Matthew Brady,
who acted forcefully to protect survivors.
Certainly, your tutelage for many years as a key aide under Cardinal
Bernard Law, involved deeply in the morass in the Archdiocese of
Boston, does not recommend itself well for continued appointment
here. His graced example of stepping aside for the good of the Church
is a healing one to follow. Bishop Christian's responsibilities
in New Hampshire were corollaries to your own in Boston, marked
by the same patterns of conduct that brought so much disgrace to
our Diocese, as detailed in the Attorney General's report.
We have had ample opportunity to hear and read your explanations
in interviews, meetings, written reports, depositions and homilies.
If there is something new for us to reflect upon, please let us
know and we will consider it carefully. We genuinely appreciate
having Sr. Rosemary Crowley as a liaison to facilitate communication,
and have always welcomed her at our meetings.
Let us conclude that we find this a grave, demanding experience.
It would be so much easier to stay silent and accept the status
quo. We remain Catholics brought up in a firm tradition of respect
for the office of bishop, so we recognize the serious, unprecedented
nature of our actions. We do not take them lightly, and know we
too are accountable before God and our fellow Church community.
Our search is genuinely to do His will as we discern it in our hearts
On a personal level, we wish you both much peace and brotherhood
in the Lord, recognizing our common vocation of loving service to
all in His name.
Anne Pullen, Chairman, State Steering Committee and Concord Area
Peter Flood, NH Coordinator to National Voice of the Faithful
Carolyn Disco, Survivor Support
Nancy Kring-Burns, Prayerful Voice, Nashua Voice
Paul H. Wenger, Structural Change, Milford Voice
Jeffrey Blanchard, Concord Area Voice
Jo and Gino DiGirolamo, New London Voice
Rose Marie Lanier, alternate, Concord Area Voice
Peggy Drago, Greater Manchester Area Voice
Maggie Fogarty, Durham/Dover Voice
Lorraine Graham, Durham/Dover voice
Sandy Johnson, Nashua Voice
Michael Neyens, Jaffrey Voice
Doris Nolan, Milford Voice
Robert Pinard, Greater Manchester Area Voice
Betty Royce, Jaffrey Voice
Marjorie Thompson, alternate, Nashua Voice