VOTFNH Statement -- Bishop John McCormack’s intimidation of clergy abuse survivor unconscionable

MANCHESTER, N.H., Apr. 4, 2011 -- We are here today to challenge Bishop John McCormack to honor his pledge to treat clergy abuse survivors with care and concern, not harassment through punitive legal measures.

A survivor filed a lawsuit last July related to abuse as an 11-year-old altar boy by Fr. George St. Jean at St. Brendan’s parish in Colebrook, N.H. St. Jean, whose name was released by the Attorney General’s Office in 2009, was a member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, also a defendant in the case. He died in 1982.

The lawsuit was filed under John Doe, to keep his name confidential from the public up to the point of trial, since anonymous trials are prohibited. However, the survivor’s identity was provided to the court, the diocese and the Oblate order. All three know who and where he is.

This arrangement is acceptable to the Oblates, who do not object to the survivor proceeding now as a John Doe, according to his lawyer’s objection to the diocese’s motion to dismiss. This is because they have “no desire to cause the plaintiff (survivor) more pain” by forcing him to disclose his identity publicly in the text of the lawsuit, and “counsel for the two parties (Oblates and survivor) have agreed to revisit the issue at a later date, should it appear this case will proceed to trial.” Sometimes a settlement may be negotiated in the interim, in which case confidentiality is preserved.

The same arrangement was repeatedly offered to the diocese, hoping McCormack likewise would have “no desire to cause more pain.” Instead, the bishop flat out rejected that approach and filed a motion to dismiss. Incredibly, the motion includes forcing the survivor to pay the diocese’s legal bills as well. This is unconscionable.

The case is filled with the usual motions, affidavits memorandum of law, orders, reconsiderations and objections. But now the outstanding issue is the judge’s ruling on the survivor’s objection to dismissal of the case.

Earlier, the survivor filed an affidavit that described his reasons for not identifying himself publicly. He mentioned the shame, embarrassment and fears of the consequences of exposure. His wife is aware of the abuse, but not his children, extended family and co-workers.

His health is a serious concern, given a history of depression, anxiety and thoughts of suicide—all subject to being worsened by forced disclosure of his identity. In addition, his wife is currently being treated for breast cancer, with all the stresses that accompany such difficult treatment procedures. He is particularly concerned about burdening her strength at such a vulnerable time.

He outlined his fears of people perhaps blaming his parents, possible retaliation in the community for suing a religious institution and economic consequences in his employment. The anxiety is simply debilitating.

Addendum

All legal documents and photo at http://www.bishop-accountability.org/legal/Manchester/St_Jean/John_Doe_v_Manchester_Diocese_and_Oblates/

“Diocese to pay $6.5 millionUnion Leader” (5/23/03) McCormack’s use of scare tactics with survivors dates back to 2002-2003. This involved cases where he ultimately had to release incriminating documents to survivors that, in turn, led to settlement without survivor names being publicized. http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news5/2003_05_23_Meersman_DioceseTo.htm "… they tried in court to force the clients to identify themselves so they would either withdraw or settle for small amounts."

“Lawyer: Church playing hardball over confidentiality of names” (AP 11-26-02 longer version) Prior to damaging court rulings against the Diocese, McCormack insisted the survivors’ names be identified publicly. It was the same threat he is using now. http://www.bishop-accountability.org/NH-Manchester/JBMcCormack-2002-11.html (third news article from bottom) “Bishop John B. McCormack repeatedly has said the church must respect the confidentiality of victims. In a June deposition in an unrelated lawsuit, McCormack said victims needed to know they can report allegations to the church in confidence, without it becoming public and rising "to the level of a scandal."

“McCormack’s deposition” Contradicting himself, McCormack acknowledged in prior legal depositions that privacy is critical for survivors approaching the Church. http://www.bishop-accountability.org/ma-boston/archives/McCormackDeposition/McCormack-Depo-1.htm “…we had the policy to encourage people that they could, you know, make it public in some way if they wanted to” p. 127-8

Contact:
Carolyn Disco, Survivor Support Chairman, VOTF New Hampshire, 917-620-8172 Cell