(Original story at the Concord Monitor here.)
It’s amazing that as a “practicing Catholic” himself, Bettencourt hasn’t been excommunicated from the Church for using his position of office to describe a clergyman as such. Regardless, the harm to Bettencourt’s political career has been done – his Facebook page has been taken down; the state governor has asked him to retract his comments immediately; and he has received many criticisms for his uncalled-for remarks.
What’s next? A defamatory lawsuit that could make this story spread even further?
Bettencourt on Facebook: Catholic bishop is a ‘pedophile pimp’
April 1, 2011
House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt this morning wrote on his Facebook page that Catholic Bishop John McCormack is a “pedophile pimp” with “absolutely no moral credibility to lecture anyone.”
McCormack spoke yesterday at a State House rally where thousands of demonstrators criticized the state budget proposed by the House of Representatives. McCormack criticized the budget for failing to protect people in need and called caring for the poor “the fundamental requirement of our religious heritage.”
This morning, Bettencourt posted on his personal Facebook page: “Bishop John McCormick (sic) of the Catholic Diocese of NH told the crowd, ‘It’s a moral concern (because) the vulnerable take priority in our society.’ Would the Bishop like to discuss his history of protecting the “vulnerable”? This man is a pedophile pimp who should have been led away from the State House in handcuffs with a rain coat over his head in disgrace. He has absolutely no moral credibility to lecture anyone.”
Bettencourt, a Republican from Salem, said in an interview that he posted the Facebook message because he believes McCormack failed to protect children when he worked in Massachusetts under Cardinal Bernard Law. He said he was not calling McCormack himself a pedophile.
“Bishop McCormack was assigned, when he worked under Cardinal Law, reassigning priests who they had knowledge were sexually abusing children,” Bettencourt said. “What he did is he shuffled them from church to church, knowing that they had this history.”
Bettencourt, a Catholic who said he is a member of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic men’s group, said in the interview that “I just really took exception to his questioning the things that we tried hard to do, which is to make sure that we cared for those who couldn’t care for themselves.”
He said some constituents could take offense to the posting, but that he was being honest about how he felt. Bettencourt, 27, described Facebook as a “public forum.”
“Are the words harsh?” Bettencourt said. “Sure they’re harsh, but they are deserving, given this man’s role in a very dark period in the church’s history.”
Kevin Donovan, a spokesman for the Diocese of Manchester, said the message McCormack delivered yesterday is the message of the Catholic Church.
“The bishop speaks for the Catholic Church and the Catholic people and the message of the Catholic Church, and the Catholic faith is that you care for the poor,” Donovan said. “That is a universal message that is passed down from the Scripture, and that message doesn’t change regardless of who communicates it. That’s the message that we are taught as Catholics, and the message that the bishop’s responsibility is to communicate to the people.”
Donovan added in a statement this afternoon that the comment by Bettencourt “is clearly false, defamatory and detracts from the real issue.”
“Bishop McCormack’s message to the people of New Hampshire yesterday was the simple message of the Gospels,” Donovan wrote.