04/03/11-by Bridgette P. LaVictoire
House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt’s comments regarding Catholic Bishop John McCormack have created something of a firestorm in New Hampshire. Bettencourt called McCormack a “pedophile pimp” among other things, and now, Governor John Lynch is calling upon Bettencourt to retract his comments. Lynch stated “These comments have no place in the public discourse, and the people of New Hampshire have a right to expect a higher level of civility and judgment from their elected officials. I would urge the majority leader to retract his comments.”
A retraction seems unlikely. Bettencourt, who is a Republican, lashed out at McCormack after the bishop spoke at a rally in which he criticized the House’s two-year budget proposal. McCormack made his speech in front of a crowd of around four or five thousand, and criticized the fact that the Republicans have slashed spending to the state’s needy and most vulnerable.
Diocese of Manchester spokesman Kevin Donovan stated that the remarks made about McCormack were intended to divert attention from the budget issues and that they were false and defamatory. Still, House Speaker William O’Brien said that he shares Bettencourt’s feelings, but would have chosen his words more carefully. State Republican Chairman Jack Kimball said that he had not spoken with Bettencourt, but that he was disappointed with his words and did not share his sentiments.
According to the Union Leader:
McCormack once was a key administrator for Cardinal Bernard F. Law in Boston. The Archdiocese of Boston was among the first to be drawn into scandals involving the sexual abuse of Catholic boys by priests. McCormack was Law’s top aide and was assigned to investigate sexual abuse complaints and reassigning priests. He was named Bishop of Manchester in 1998.
In fact, McCormack was in charge of drafting Cardinal Law’s policy regarding the managing of complaints of the sexual abuse of minors by the clergy. In deposition testimony, he admitted to keeping the identities of accused priests a secret.
Under questioning by Roderick MacLeish Jr., an attorney representing alleged victims of the Rev. Paul R. Shanley, McCormack acknowledged a clash of values between Mulkerrin, whose chief concern was the welfare of victims, and a cluster of church officials intent on maintaining the confidentiality of accused priests.
MacLeish: You would agree with me that one of the reasons it would be important to let the parishioners know was because they might be able to get help for their children, is that correct?
MacLeish: That’s what Sister Catherine told you, is that not correct?
McCormack: Right, correct.
MacLeish: And you decided that that was not an appropriate policy, is that correct?
McCormack: Not myself; it was a matter of discussion among some of us.”
McCormack said that discussion was held by a group that met weekly and included Wilson D. Rogers Jr., chief legal counsel for the archdiocese, the Rev. Kevin J. Deeley, the Rev. Edward M. O’Flaherty, and Mulkerrin.
Asked if he had ever discussed with Law the decision to keep the identities of accused priests secret, McCormack said, ”Not that I recall; I don’t think so.” McCormack also said that in the years he served as Law’s secretary for ministerial personnel, from 1984 to 1994, the protection of children was never defined as a ”first priority” but was ”a matter of concern.”
Bettencourt is a Catholic, and he is single.