Catholic Culture Solidarity
Catholic Culture Solidarity

morally accountable: "ladies, you have to be very careful of slander"

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Jan 21, 2007

The Bishop Accountability website posts some invaluable archival material corroborating the Cultrera documentary on the Birmingham-McCormack perfidy. Should there remain any question about Bishop McCormack's fitness for his present office, here are one, two, three, four reasons to dispel lingering doubt.

In fact, you can find the Cultrera story, with different victims and the same villains, told in three painful pages in this affidavit. Note the analogy to the damage Birmingham inflicted on Cultrera: the witness (a schoolboy's mother in this case) is so distraught over the horror that she doubts she'll be a believable witness, whence her self-doubt makes her a less believable witness in fact, whereat her distress increases, and so forth. Following are the paragraphs you'll find most edifying. St. James is a parish in Salem, MA, where Birmingham -- and for three overlapping years, John McCormack -- ministered to the people of God:

Sr. Grace told me that she had gone to the Archdiocese in Boston as soon as she became aware of the situation with Father Birmingham. Sr. Grace spoke with Father John Jennings, the Personnel Director. She told Father Jennings that as long as she was Principal of St. James, Father Birmingham would no longer be allowed near any of her students. She told me that Father Jennings dismissed her as a meddling female. She suggested that I go to the Archdiocese with a group of the parents.

Until I met with Sr. Grace, I did not want to believe what I had been told and hoped that it was all a mistake. After my conversation with Sr. Grace, it really sank in and I came totally unglued. When my husband came home from teaching school, I was crying very uncontrollably and all I wanted to do was sleep, but I couldn't. I had my husband call my doctor at home as it was on a Wednesday and he wasn't in the office. Dr. Barry told my husband to bring me into his office the next day, as he wanted to talk to us. After we told him everything we knew about Father Birmingham, he told us to go to the Archdiocese in Boston and speak to John Jennings, the Director of Personnel for the Church. However, he wanted me to wait for a few days so that I could regain my composure. He said that if we went right away and I started to cry, they would dismiss me as an emotional female.

The following week, my husband and I had a meeting in our home with some of the parents involved and decided that a group of mothers would go with me to the Archdiocese so that we could tell Father Jennings what we knew. I called the Archdiocese and as soon as I told them what the subject was, we had no problem getting an appointment with Father Jennings.

The group consisted of myself, my sister Winnie Morton, Judy Fairbank, Ann McDaid and Mary Abraham. When we got into Father Jennings' office, I told him my name, address, my husband's name and that he was a school teacher at Saugus Jr. High. I told him that I wanted him to seek counseling for Father Birmingham, but Father Jennings would not say that he would do so. I also told Father Jennings that I wanted him to inform the Pastor at St. Michael's in Lowell, where Father Birmingham had been transferred, about Father Birmingham's molesting the boys. Father Jennings refused to do that as well.

The other ladies had a chance to speak and they told their stories. After about an hour of discussion, Father Jennings said "ladies, you have to be very careful of slander." With that, I completely lost my cool, jumped up and asked him, "where do you think my husband would be if he had been molesting children? He would never be allowed to get another teaching job." Father Jennings said he would get back to me and we left.

The upshot? Birmingham was to receive three further ministerial assignments, including a pastorship. Oh yes: in 2003, rebuffing calls that he resign as Bishop of Manchester, McCormack insisted, "I cannot heal victims myself, but I am confident that I can help them." Based on the fact that his miter is still firmly on his head, it must be the case that the Congregation for Bishops agrees.


Pastors of souls have received, and deserve, most of the blame for the abuse crisis. But theirs is not the only vocation that failed the victims; psycho-therapists were also culpably negligent. The National Review Board faulted therapy centers for giving mendaciously optimistic reports on the success of their treatment of abuser priests in order to keep business coming in (one of the lingering mysteries of the Crisis is the lack of outrage occasioned by this charge). Yet even discounting self-serving motives for optimism the cavalier incompetence of Birmingham's therapists (go here and here) is contemptible.

Almost every one of the worst abusers spent some time in therapy (at St. Luke's, the Servants of the Paraclete center, the House of Affirmation, e.g.) and was flagged out of the pits back onto the track by the credentialed, professional, state-of-the-art, etc., house staff. While we're on the topic of accountability, can anyone point to a single therapist who has lost his license as a consequence? Has a call been raised from within the profession for ridding itself of the quacks?

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