February 16, 2002
New Hampshire Diocese Names 14 Priests Accused of Abuse
By PAM BELLUCK
Secrets Confided to the Clergy Are Getting Harder to Keep (February
Pedophile Issue Shakes the Authority of Boston's Cardinal (February 15,
OSTON, Feb. 15 - In a reflection of the rising concern over pedophile
priests in the Roman Catholic Church, the bishop of the diocese of
Manchester, N.H., today announced the names of 14 priests who had been
accused of sexually abusing children in the past and turned those names
over to prosecutors.
"People wonder not only what has the church in New Hampshire done about
this in the past, but also what is it doing to make the church safe for
children in the future," said Bishop John B. McCormack, whose diocese
covers New Hampshire. "There have been instances in New Hampshire where
priests have had inappropriate contact with children."
The announcement comes in the midst of a widening scandal over
pedophile priests in the Boston archdiocese. In January, the archbishop
of Boston, Cardinal Bernard F. Law, apologized for allowing John J.
Geoghan, a known pedophile, to remain an active priest until the early
In recent days, the Boston archdiocese has sent prosecutors the names
of some 80 priests suspected of molesting children since the 1960's.
Eight were active priests whom the archdiocese has since suspended.
"The news regarding the handling of priests accused of sexual
misconduct in Greater Boston has had an effect on the church in New
Hampshire," Bishop McCormack said. "It is normal for people to ask, If
it has happened there, what about here?"
In New Hampshire, one of the 14 priests named today was an active
full-time priest, the Rev. John R. Poirier of Holy Family Parish in
Gorham. Six other priests were retired or sick, but would assist part
time in parishes by saying Mass on weekends, said a diocese spokesman,
Patrick F. McGee. As of today, those seven priests were all removed
from active duty.
The remaining seven priests had already been removed from active
ministry as a result of the accusations against them.
The accusations against the 14 New Hampshire priests were reported to
the diocese over the last 30 years; the incidents are alleged to have
happened between 1963 and 1987, Mr. McGee said.
Under New Hampshire law, child sexual assault charges can be brought
until a victim's 40th birthday, and diocesan officials said they
expected criminal investigations to begin.
Bishop McCormack made an effort today to explain why some priests were
allowed to continue working in parishes.
"Previous policy and practice have allowed for the return of some
priests to ministry after careful evaluation and assurances from
experts that they could do so without placing anyone at risk," the
"It is now clear to me that any credible allegation of sexual
misconduct with a minor by a priest means that he cannot return to
ministry in New Hampshire," he said.
Bishop McCormack formerly served as a cabinet secretary in the Boston
archdiocese, and he is one of several current or former archdiocesan
officials who are accused of taking too little action in some of the
130 lawsuits filed by people who say they were molested by Mr. Geoghan.
In 1993, Bishop McCormack, who was not yet a bishop, was a point person
on Cardinal Law's new policy of taking parishioner complaints about
abusive priests and removing some priests from active duty.
Mr. McGee declined to discuss Bishop McCormack's role in the Geoghan
Bishop McCormack is scheduled to visit Gorham, Father Poirier's former
parish, this weekend, said Maurice Champoux, the parish council
Mr. McGee said the accusation against Father Poirier was made "over 20
years ago and we have no record of any other accusations made against
Mr. Champoux said he expected that parishioners would be stunned.
"You never dream something like this would be happening," he said.