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N.H. lawmaker calls Manchester bishop ‘pedophile pimp’

Takes issue with prelate’s speech at budget rally

By Norma Love and Holly Ramer
Associated Press / April 2, 2011

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CONCORD, N.H. — The Republican leader of the New Hampshire House yesterday called Bishop John B. McCormack a “pedophile pimp’’ who should have been led from the State House in handcuffs after speaking at a rally criticizing a state budget proposal.

McCormack, who is head of the Catholic Diocese of Manchester, was among about a dozen speakers at Thursday’s rally to protest deep cuts to social services included in the House’s $10.2 billion budget. Representative D.J. Bettencourt of Salem took issue yesterday, writing on his Facebook page that McCormack had no business urging lawmakers to protect the vulnerable, given his role in the clergy sexual abuse scandal in the last decade.

Before being named bishop of Manchester in 1998, McCormack served as a top aide to Cardinal Bernard F. Law in Boston, where he was in charge of investigating sexual misconduct allegations.

In 2002, McCormack averted unprecedented criminal charges against the New Hampshire diocese by agreeing that it had harmed children by moving abusive priests from parish to parish.

“Would the bishop like to discuss his history of protecting the ‘vulnerable?’ ’’ Bettencourt wrote. “This man is a pedophile pimp who should have been led away from the State House in handcuffs with a raincoat over his head in disgrace. He has absolutely no moral credibility to lecture anyone.’’

A spokesman for the diocese said Bettencourt’s comments were false, defamatory, and detracted from the real issue, the state’s obligation to care for the poor.

“Bishop McCormack’s message to the people of New Hampshire yesterday was the simple message of the gospels: The church and our broader society have a fundamental obligation to care for the poor,’’ Kevin Donovan said.

Bettencourt stood by his comments later yesterday.

“Yes, my language was colorful, but I stand by the sentiment in describing a man who has, in my opinion, brought shame and dishonor on my church here in New Hampshire,’’ he said in a statement. “As a practicing Catholic, it is truly disappointing that we would have a leader with a record of enabling such egregious and unacceptable behavior.’’

As required under church rules, McCormack sent a resignation letter to the Vatican last summer when he turned 75, but he has remained in office while awaiting action on his request.

Under the 2002 agreement he reached with the state, prosecutors agreed not to seek criminal indictments against the diocese for failing to protect children from the molesting priests. In return, the diocese agreed to adopt strict child protection policies, admitted its actions had harmed children, and opened itself to audits by the attorney general’s office.

Over the years, McCormack has acknowledged that he made mistakes and that he did not adequately help victims.

During his speech at the rally, McCormack urged lawmakers to pass a budget that is “just and meets the needs of the most vulnerable in our society.’’

“We urge the Legislature and the governor to place the poor, the unemployed, and our most vulnerable citizens first,’’ he told the crowd. “Our commitment to human solidarity, the dignity of human labor, and justice for the weak and marginalized demands no less.’’

House Speaker William O’Brien, a Republican, defended Bettencourt, saying that while he would have used different words, he shares Bettencourt’s belief that McCormack did not properly protect children.

“I certainly agree with the concerns,’’ said O’Brien, of Mont Vernon.

“I don’t agree with the language or the implication of the language.’’