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New Hampshire legislators pour on criticism of Catholic bishop

April 07, 2011

Republican legislators in New Hampshire have rallied to support their party leader, who caused a furor by calling Bishop John McCormack of Manchester a “pedophile pimp.”

Majority leader David Bettencourt said that he regretted using that offensive phrase, and scheduled a meeting with Bishop McCormack to clear the air. But a colleague, Rep. Timothy Comerford, added to the rancor by saying that Bishop McCormack is a “corrupt scumbag.”

“Why should we kowtow to a corrupt hack of a bishop?” Comerford asked. “I don’t understand why any good Catholic would stand behind such a disgraceful man.”

The Republican lawmakers expressed their ire after Bishop McCormack joined in a public protest against state budget cuts. The bishop said that the cuts would hurt the most vulnerable people in New Hampshire. Bettencourt, the first lawmaker to lash out at the bishop, said that he was irate because Bishop McCormack himself had shown so little concern for the “most vulnerable” in his handling of the sex-abuse scandal.

Bishop McCormack was responsible for the handling of sex-abuse cases in the Boston archdiocese when he was secretary for priest personnel under Cardinal Bernard Law. Archdiocesan records, exposed in lawsuits against the Church, showed that he had provided support for priests who were known to have abused children. After becoming the Bishop of Manchester, he entered a plea-bargain agreement with the attorney general of New Hampshire, acknowledging that the evidence against diocesan leader was sufficient to warrant criminal prosecution.

Another Republican member of the state legislature, Rep. Andrew Manuse, threatened to seek an end to the tax-exempt status of the Catholic Church. Manuse claimed—inaccurately—that Bishop McCormack had violated federal law with his public remarks. “There is already a federal provision that prohibits a church leader from engaging in the political process if the church has a tax-exempt status,” he claimed—again inaccurately. In fact, while federal law places restrictions on the political activity of tax-exempt institutions, it does not outlaw such involvement.

A spokesman for New Hampshire’s Republican party encouraged the legislators to moderate their rhetoric, saying that in their anger at Bishop McCormack they “seem to have lost sight of the bigger picture.”


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Show 2 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: lauriem5377 - Apr. 08, 2011 11:26 AM ET USA

    Pray for the souls of everyone involved in this matter.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 08, 2011 6:26 AM ET USA

    Betrayal has consequences. We are seeing some of the consequences...and then there are the eternal. Oh, I hope you didn't think I was referring to the Bishop regarding eternal consequences. I was referring to the souls who were under his care. A major cause of the scandal was a disregard of the laity: as though all the drama concerned the priest abuser...and the bishop... As though the faithful really were rather beside the point.