Reports to Detail N.H. Church Sex Cases

Associated Press, Mar. 3, 2003

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) – In dueling reports, the state attorney general and New Hampshire’s Roman Catholic archdiocese both hope to shed light on a dark chapter in the state’s priest abuse scandal.

The attorney general’s office was scheduled to release a nearly 200-page report Monday with the evidence it would have used in seeking criminal charges against the Diocese of Manchester.

The state also was set to release 9,000 pages of church documents – including personnel files, correspondence and other material – to accompany the report.

The diocese will release its own report Monday to explain how it handled allegations against priests in the past and to contrast that with how such cases are dealt with now.

In an unprecedented settlement in December, the diocese agreed its conduct had harmed children and that it probably would have been convicted of child endangerment, a misdemeanor, but for the settlement.

The state’s report will focus on eight clergymen, The Associated Press has learned. Officials have said the eight were not selected because of the seriousness of the allegations against them, but because their cases contained strong evidence the diocese had mishandled the molestation complaints.

Thousands of pages of church documents have been released in Massachusetts during the past year by lawyers for victims and alleged victims suing the church. And three weeks ago, a grand jury in New York issued a scathing report accusing the Diocese of Rockville Centre of sheltering molesters and failing to protect children.

The New Hampshire documents and reports may provide an even more comprehensive look at the inner workings of a diocese than those in Boston or Rockville Centre, however.

Though the New Hampshire diocese resisted providing the documents to prosecutors during their investigation last year, church officials agreed to their public release as part of the settlement.

Bishop John McCormack declined to comment on the pending release of the documents. Last week, however, McCormack told a meeting of the state’s priests and deacons that ending secrecy is critical to healing the church.

“By being truthful and open, we can remove any doubt that there are secrets held from you; we can remove the doubt that you are worthy of trust,” he said.

McCormack is named in the documents and state report, but prosecutors focused on incidents prior to 1998, when he became bishop of Manchester.

Two of the eight priests focused on in the state report are in prison for criminal sexual assault convictions. The six others have been accused of abuse in civil lawsuits.

Among them is the Rev. Paul Aube, who has acknowledged molesting several minors during the 1970s.

Aube became a key part of the state investigation when he told prosecutors last year that church officials insisted he continue working with children even after he admitted sexual misconduct with minors and asked for help. The diocese has not commented on Aube’s claims.

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