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'I didn't think there was any activity going on'


The following are excerpts of Bishop John B. McCormack's sworn testimony on June 4 about his actions involving priests accused of sexual abuse while he was a top deputy to Cardinal Bernard F. Law in the Archdiocese of Boston. McCormack, now leader of the Diocese of New Hampshire, was questioned by attorney Roderick MacLeish. Here MacLeish asks McCormack about confronting the Rev. Joseph Birmingham in 1987 about sexual abuse allegations against him.

Q. So even though you were aware of the multiple allegations against Father Birmingham, and even though you had your own reservations about making him pastor, you were content to take Father Birmingham's word on the fact he was ''clean.'' Is that your testimony?

A. Yes.

Q. Well, it turns out that seven weeks earlier there had been a report made by another parishioner of St. Ann's [in Gloucester] where Father Birmingham was working to show that he wasn't clean, correct?

A. Correct.

Q. So you were mistaken in taking Father Birmingham's word for it, were you not, Bishop?

A. Correct.

Here MacLeish asks McCormack, who was a licensed social worker from 1981 to 1988, what he did when a priest told him that the Rev. Ronald Paquin might be molesting a teenage boy in Haverhill:

Q. But you didn't go to DSS [the Massachusetts Department of Social Services] did you?

A. No, because I didn't think there was any activity going on.

Q. Well, you were told -

A. Father Paquin assured me there wasn't.

Q. Well, Father Paquin assured you there wasn't. This is the same Father Paquin that you had a credible report about him molesting two boys a year earlier, correct?

A. Correct.

And in another exchange about Paquin:

Q. What we see from looking at these memorandums is that you got the report about him molesting two boys, and a year later he's romancing another 15- or 16-year-old boy. [The priest] tells you that, and your only response from these documents is to go and speak with Father Paquin about it, correct?

A. And tell him -

Q. And tell him to cut it out?

A. Right.

Q. But you said earlier that when you had a report that you believed where a child under the age of 18, where there was reasonable cause to believe might be being abused, it was your practice to contact DSS?

A. That wasn't my assumption here, that he was being abused.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

This story ran on page A18 of the Boston Globe on 7/9/2002.
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