McCormack, bishop criticized for his role in sex abuse scandal, dies

Posted: 23/09/2021 10:57:47 AM

CONCORD, NH (AP) – Retired Roman Catholic Bishop John McCormack, who has been criticized for his role in the clergy sex abuse scandal in Boston and led the Diocese of New Hampshire during his own trial, is dead.

McCormack, 86, died at the Mount Carmel Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Manchester on Tuesday, according to the Diocese of Manchester. He had been the ninth bishop of the diocese for 13 years before reaching the mandatory retirement age of 75.

McCormack’s tenure as leader of New Hampshire’s 310,000 Catholics began in 1998 and turned tumultuous in early 2002 when the sex abuse scandal erupted in Boston. Victims and grassroots Catholic groups called on him to resign, citing his former post as assistant to Cardinal Bernard Law in Boston, where he was tasked with investigating allegations of sexual misconduct by priests.

That same year, McCormack avoided unprecedented criminal charges against the Diocese of New Hampshire by agreeing that he had harmed children by moving abusive priests from ward to ward.

Prosecutors agreed not to seek indictments against the diocese for failing to protect the children from assault by priests. In return, the diocese agreed to adopt strict child protection policies and to open up to audits by the attorney general’s office.

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

“These days my past haunts my present and obscures my future with you in New Hampshire,” he told parishioners in December 2002, just after Law resigned and the New Hampshire settlement was reached. At the same time, he said the best way to help victims is to serve well and lead the church well.

McCormack grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and was ordained a priest in 1960. He held a doctorate in divinity and a master’s degree in social work, and served in several parishes and posts in Massachusetts before becoming auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Boston.

McCormack has been replaced by Bishop Peter Anthony Libasci, who was previously Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Center in New York.

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