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Details Emerge From Church Deposition

June 6, 2002

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CONCORD, N.H. (AP) _ Last month, Roman Catholic Bishop John B. McCormack apologized for not investigating inflammatory comments made by a Boston priest later accused of molesting several parishioners.

But The Associated Press has learned that McCormack said in a sworn deposition Monday that he did investigate the comments concerning sex between adults and children made in 1985 by the Rev. Paul Shanley.

The issue centers on a complaint that Shanley blamed children for their own sexual abuse during a speech. In his own televised speech in May, McCormack apologized for not investigating the complaint.

In the deposition, however, McCormack said he now recalls that he did discuss the comments with Shanley, according to two people who attended the closed session in Manchester and agreed to speak to the AP on condition of anonymity.

McCormack said Shanley told him he had been talking about his work with child prostitutes and his comments had been taken out of context, the two people present said.

Asked why he didn’t say that in his May 2 television address, McCormack said he has been searching his memory ever since and only recently recalled the conversation.

Monday’s deposition was conducted by lawyers for three men who say they were molested by Shanley during the 1980s, when Shanley was pastor at St. Jean Parish in Newton, Mass. McCormack became a top deputy to Cardinal Bernard Law in Boston in 1984.

The men claim that church officials including McCormack failed to protect them from repeated sexual abuse by Shanley, who is in jail awaiting trial on criminal charges that he raped one of the boys. Shanley has pleaded innocent.

Church files have shown officials were warned of Shanley’s sympathetic views toward a national group that endorses sex between men and boys, and moved him to new parishes despite additional allegations against him.

Transcripts and a videotape of the 5 1/2-hour deposition could be released this week.

McCormack, 66, held important posts under Law until he became bishop of Manchester in 1998.

He was in Boston in April 1985 when Wilma Higgs of Rochester, N.Y., wrote to complain about a speech Shanley had given. She quoted him as saying: ``When adults have sex with children, the children seduced them. Children may later regret having caused someone to go to prison knowing that they are the guilty ones.″

She said she had some of the statements on tape.

McCormack wrote to Shanley about Higgs’ letter, but did not raise the children-are-seducers comments. ``Why I did not focus on that reference in 1985, I don’t know. I’m sorry I didn’t. I wish I had,″ he said in his televised statement in May.

In other developments Wednesday:

_ Miami Archbishop John C. Favalora, Bishop John D’Arcy of the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese and Little Rock Bishop J. Peter Sartain said they favor a zero-tolerance policy for priests who have molested children even once in the past, rejecting recommendations by a panel of bishops. Bishops from around the country will meet June 13-15 in Dallas to consider the proposal.

_A California judge ordered the Rev. Miguel Flores to stand trial on three rape charges. His attorneys questioned the credibility of the alleged victim, a 16-year-old girl who worked as his parish clerk.

_A judge decided to consolidate more than 100 sex abuse lawsuits against the Louisville, Ky., archdiocese for a decision on whether the lawsuits should be sealed. The plaintiffs and The Louisville Courier-Journal argue a state law that seals some lawsuits is unconstitutional.

_The Connecticut Appellate Court heard arguments over whether records should be unsealed from sex abuse lawsuits against six priests in the Bridgeport Diocese. The documents were sealed when the lawsuits were settled in March 2001.

_John McRaith, the bishop for western Kentucky, said that in the 20 years he has held the post he did not report allegations of sexual abuse to authorities ``as probably I should have.″ He said he handled the cases internally, assigning the priests to positions where they would not be around children or their work with children was restricted.

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