New Hampshire Voice of the Faithful
Concord, NH 03302-0423
January 9, 2003
Most Reverend John B. McCormack, D.D.
153 Ash St.
P.O. Box 310
Manchester NH 03105-0310
Dear Bishop McCormack:
The Steering Committee of New Hampshire Voice of the
Faithful, representing eight chapters statewide, is deeply troubled by
revelations this week of a previous bishops destruction of records
associated with sexual abuse by a priest, and of records possibly destroyed
under your own administration. A diocesan public relations spokesman said
documents have not been destroyed since November 2000, leaving two years after
your installation here in 1998 when such activity may have occurred. We find
these disclosures alarming, since the permanent integrity of all diocesan
documents going forward is a vital concern. Without the records of past sexual
abuse by clergy, harmful practices endorsed less than one year ago might still
be in effect today.
Given this history, we are sensitive to the implications
of your agreement last month with Attorney General Philip McLaughlin that
avoided criminal prosecution of the diocese. That agreement allows the
destruction of the records of deceased priests accused of sexual misconduct
upon the death of the accused. As the result of a recent tragedy involving the
untimely death of a priest, you are now theoretically in a position to destroy
We urge you to publicly pledge that the diocese will not
destroy any more records associated with sexual abuse allegations against any
priest, whether living or deceased. These records are a crucial archive of how
the diocese has handled allegations in the past, how it is doing today, and how
it will handle them in the future. We believe all these records, not just a
summary of each one, should be maintained as a permanent archive. This is
necessary both to provide a lasting record of the dioceses response to
these cases, and to keep them available as a resource for survivors of abuse
who have not yet come forward. Such actions merely fulfill your own promise to
assure the preeminence of the healing of those harmed over any other concern of
the diocese (December 15, 2002 homily). We heartily support this focus and pray
it will be implemented.
According to the dioceses own numbers, released at
the press conference announcing the agreement with the Attorney General, 43% of
the New Hampshire diocesan priests involved in sexual abuse allegations are
deceased. The dioceses records on these priests can provide vital
validation for survivors in coming to grips with the enormity of the abuse and
betrayal they experienced. Ultimately, those records belong to the people of
this diocese, and it is imperative that they be preserved.
The agreement with the Attorney General allows the
diocese to destroy these records; it does not require that you destroy them. We
ask you to immediately and publicly pledge to retain every page of every record
of every priest ever accused of sexual misconduct in a permanent archive that
will be an essential part of the dioceses efforts to provide greater
accountability on these cases.
We believe a strong and prompt pledge from the diocese
to maintain these records will be a tremendous help in rebuilding the bridge of
trust between the Church and those who are heartbroken and disillusioned by
this crisis, as you yourself must be.
Peter Flood, coordinator
New Hampshire Voice of the