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NH Diocese Facing Criminal Indictment, First to Settle

Faced with criminal violations, carrying fines as high as $20,000, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester on Tuesday admitted it failed to protect children from pedophilic priests. Bishop John B. McCormack signed an agreement with New Hampshire state prosecutors, acknowledging evidence likely to sustain a conviction of charge against the diocese, reported the Boston Globe. Under terms of the settlement, the Manchester diocese must abide by state child abuse reporting laws and immediately notify authorities of all suspicions, including incidents where the victim is no longer a minor, according to the Associated Press. In addition, the diocese is required to release internal documents collected during the investigation, undergo yearly compliance audits, and step up personnel training and education programs. State attorney general Philip T. McLaughlin said, The agreement closes the door on an era of secrecy in the handling of allegations of sexual abuse lodged against priests, and it opens a new door to diocesan accountability and greater protection for children, according to the Boston Globe.

Meanwhile, Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, President of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, continued to deny that other dioceses committed any wrongdoing. In a press release issued after the Manchester settlement, he stated, The errors of specific persons, at specific times and places, which may have endangered children, cannot be attributed to the church as a whole without overlooking the lives of integrity and good works of ministers of the church in our country throughout history.

Last week, the Boston Archdioceseunder court orderpublicly released over 2,000 of 11,000 internal documents detailing an undeniable, chronic problem with priest pedophilia over the last three decades. The files revealed a disturbing pattern of prioritizing the churchs reputation over the protection and safety of those vulnerable to priest pedophilia. This past Monday, 58 Boston-region clerics submitted a letter urging Cardinal Bernard Laws resignation. The letter stated, The events of recent months and, in particular, of these last few days, make it clear to us that your position as our bishop is so compromised that it is no longer possible for you to exercise the spiritual leadership required for the church of Boston, reported the Associated Press. Since Sunday, Law has been meeting with the Vaticanthe purpose of his meeting has yet to be disclosed. Yesterday, Law resigned as chair of Catholic Universitys Board of Trustees.

Media Resources: Associated Press 12/11/02, 12/10/02; Boston Globe 12/11/02; Reuters 12/10/02; Feminist Daily News Wire