Breaking the law

Breaking the law

New depositions from Bishop McCormack of Manchester, NH, were released yesterday. Also see this article. What’s remarkable is that he broke the law even though he claims he didn’t.

    Bishop McCormack ... who was secretary of ministerial personnel under Bernard Cardinal Law, acknowledged in a deposition he would have been required to report suspected child abuse as a licensed social worker in Massachusetts from 1981 to 1988. ... “I was acting as a delegate or as administrator for the archdiocese in its administration, so that I wasn’t acting as a social worker,” McCormack told Roderick MacLeish Jr., a plaintiffs’ attorney in the Rev. Paul R. Shanley civil suit. “I still carried the license of the commonwealth, but (allegations) came to me not as a social worker but as a priest. ... I had no responsibility to (report),” he said. [Boston Herald]

But the exemption for priests is only for sacramental duties, i.e. Confession. As a head of ministerial personnel, McCormack was only a bureaucrat. To extend his argument, if a teacher is at home and she sees her neighbor abusing her child, is she required to report it? According to Massachusetts law, she is.

McCormack also bald-faced lied to parishioners who were worried about their children being abused.

    McCormack acknowledged that in 1987, when the father of a 13-year-old altar boy serving with Birmingham wrote a letter asking whether Birmingham was the same priest who had previously been removed from another parish because of a sexal abuse allegation, McCormack replied, ‘‘There is absolutely no factual basis to your concern.’’ Asked why he did not tell the concerned father that his son was indeed serving with the same Father Birmingham, McCormack said, ‘‘I can’t explain that.’’ [Boston Globe]

I can explain it. Because McCormack was more concerned with protecting his friend than with protecting children. Or is it more insidious than that? McCormack’s pattern of protecting Shanley and Birmingham and others and even overlooking their immoral lifestyles (such as visiting Shanley’s gay-sex hotel in California) leads on to more troubling questions.

He even seems to excuse the most horrific distortions of moral teachings.

    On Shanley, MacLeish questioned McCormack during the June session on his response to an excerpt from a 1985 speech by the former street priest, reading: “When adults have sex with children, the children seduced them. Children may later regret having caused someone to go to prison.” The bishop said he had questioned Shanley about it in 1985 and was told the priest was talking about child prostitutes. “As I recall, this is how he explained this to me—that it is the child who is seducing the adult by selling his body and prostituting himself,” McCormack said. [Boston Herald]

Does it make one whit of difference that it is a child prostitute and not an altar boy? Just because a child has had his life destroyed and he now works the street selling his body, doesn’t mean that he has suddenly become an adult and gained the ability to consent. And that’s just the legal proscription. What about the moral dimension? Fornication is always a sin. Having sex with a child, whether a prostitute or not, is always a sin. Did McCormack shrug his shoulders and say, “Oh, if you were talking about prostitutes, then that’s different”?

Sometimes in the deposition, McCormack claims ignorance of the reality of pedophilia.

    “I knew that there was abuse of children in the home, but oftentimes it was emotional or physical,” McCormack said, speaking of what he learned while training as a social worker. “I don’t recall any kind of report or discussion about sexual abuse.” At another point McCormack said his rudimentary understanding of child sexual abuse factored into the decision that he and others made to keep the identities of accused priests secret—despite the guidelines issued by the bishops’ conference. [Boston Globe]

How could he claim that? How could anyone claim to be ignorant of the reality of sex abuse? It’s not like it was just invented in the 1980s.

At other times, McCormack showed a shrewd understanding of the realities of legal manuevers, including making sure he didn’t know too much so that he could plead ignorance in depositions and court testimony.

    Under questioning by Robert R. Sherman, another attorney representing alleged Shanley victims, McCormack said he never made a record of Shanley’s response to a 1993 allegation that he molested a minor because, “I want to get as best a response as possible, but I had to respect his rights.” McCormack then added: “I learned more and more as we dealt with this that whatever was said to us was discoverable, and he had to know that.” [Boston Globe]

Is this what we want our shepherds to be? Scheming, devious, uncaring of the effects on the innocent, only caring about his cronies?

There’s so much more in the articles. He admits to ignoring the guidelines of the bishops’ conference on handling pervert priests, including keeping their identities secret from parishioners. His biggest concern was with fellow priests and not laypeople, and especially victims.