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Spotlight Report

Bishop bows out as speaker at BC High commencement

By Patrick Healy, Globe Staff, 4/12/2002

Bishop John B. McCormack of Manchester, N.H., has bowed out as commencement speaker this spring at his alma mater, Boston College High School, fearing that the ceremony would be overshadowed by McCormack's ties to defrocked priest John J. Geoghan and allegations that the bishop did not act to stop a fellow parish priest from molesting boys in the 1960s.

A BC High spokesman, Mike Reardon, said yesterday that school officials had wanted a member from BC High's Class of 1952 to speak at commencement on May 25, and that McCormack had been their first choice to represent his class 50 years after graduation.

But after recent talks between officials and McCormack, Reardon said, the bishop declined the offer. ''He has decided it wouldn't be something he would want to do this year,'' Reardon said. ''With everything going on, he thought the attention would be taken away from the seniors and his own classmates.''

Reardon said he did not know if McCormack planned to attend his class's 50th reunion celebration. A call to McCormack's spokesman yesterday was not returned.

Over the last month, more than a dozen alleged victims of the late Rev. Joseph E. Birmingham have joined in a lawsuit against McCormack and the Archdiocese of Boston, seeking to hold both accountable for abuse they say they suffered at Birmingham's hands.

McCormack and Birmingham were priests together at St. James parish in Salem in the 1960s. One of the alleged victims has charged that McCormack saw Birmingham take him to his rectory bedroom and did nothing to stop it. McCormack has denied the allegation, but has acknowledged being warned in 1970 or thereabouts that Birmingham was molesting children at St. James.

McCormack was also among several bishops who once supervised Geoghan, who allegedly abused scores of children during his three decades as a priest.

This story ran on page A18 of the Boston Globe on 4/12/2002.
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