The Diocese of Manchester comprises the entire state of New Hampshire and is in the Province of Boston. In fact, its present bishop, John J. McCormack, was a top lieutenant of Cardinal Bernard Law in Boston. Before becoming the Bishop of Manchester, McCormack was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Boston and later ordained an auxiliary bishop of Boston.
As a top lieutenant of Cardinal Bernard Law, McCormack was instrumental in the Boston priest abuse scandal. McCormack was in charge of handling priest abuse claims for Law and dealt directly with some of Boston’s worst pedophile priest including John Geoghan and Paul Shanley.
When he became Bishop of Manchester in 1998, he joined Auxiliary Bishop Francis J. Christian as heads of the Manchester Diocese. Christian himself played the same role in Manchester that McCormack had in Boston with similarly disastrous results. Manchester is a relatively small diocese with 86 diocesan priests serving almost 288,000 Catholics in 92 parishes throughout the state. However, in spite of Manchester’s relative size, it had an inordinately large percentage of Catholic priests who were accused of sexually molesting children. According to figures gathered in 2005 by www.bishopaccountability.org in collaboration with www.snapnetwork.org, the Diocese had 91 priests and religious accused of sexual abuse.
Manchester was the subject of a state attorney general’s investigation. The Diocese of Manchester came very close to being criminally indicted for its actions in violation of the state’s child endangerment laws in the priest abuse scandal. It was only a last-minute settlement with the Attorney General’s office that spared the Diocese such criminal charges. On December 10, 2002, the Diocese of Manchester entered into an agreement with the AG’s office to avoid criminal charges. The settlement stipulated that the Diocese would be subject to audits by the AG’s office to ensure they are in compliance with the law. Even though the Diocese signed the agreement, much legal wrangling took place before compliance with the audit was completed.
In March 2009, the NH Attorney General’s office released 879 pages of files the AG assembled during its investigation as well as nearly 10,000 pages of investigative documents relating to the New Hampshire priest abuse scandal. These documents may be found at http://www.bishop-accountability.org/NH-Manchester/2009_03_07_Audit_Records/
While the Manchester priest abuse scandal grew out of the sex scandal engulfing the Archdiocese of Boston, the official response of the Diocese of Manchester was very similar to the response in Boston.