New Hampshire House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt send a letter to Bishop John McCormack of the Manchester Catholic Diocese on Saturday in which he appeared to dial back his rhetoric while at the same time underscoring his point of view that McCormack is unfit to serve in his role. Bettencourt made the letter available to NH Journal.
Last week Bettencourt called the Bishop a “pedophile pimp” because the Bishop spoke at a State House protest against the Republican state budget.
Below is a reprint of the letter:
I wanted to take a moment to write to you regarding my comments made yesterday that were directed at you.
Upon humble reflection, the characterization of my feelings towards your leadership as bishop was at best undiplomatic and a better choice of words was both warranted and appropriate. I pride myself on “calling it as I see it” and standing strong for the things that I believe in. But in this case my frank words detracted from my genuine sentiment, one which is shared by many Catholics in New Hampshire and across the country. All too often, we express the greatest degree of raw emotion when we are hurt, such was the case here.
My comments emanated from the deep hurt brought forward by the damage caused by the sex abuse scandal that engulfed our church, which has resulted in thousands turning their back on the church, particularly for those of my generation. Unfortunately, your role in that scandal has, in my opinion, hurt the Church in ways that will take decades to repair.
As a practicing Catholic myself, I cannot separate your involvement in what has been the darkest period in our Church’s recent history. While ultimately the Lord will judge each of us, many people judge our faith by our leaders and I feel that it why a large number have left the Church.
For many Catholics your presence as Bishop is an ongoing reminder of an evil that was perpetrated on those most vulnerable and innocent. I came of age in the faith during the height of the sexual abuse scandal and when many were walking away from the church, I remained. I stayed in the belief that the Christian faith and our Church were more than the few individuals who betrayed one of the greatest trusts a man can be given- that of a priest. Some have suggested that it is time to move on from that hurt but for many of us this is simply not quite so easy.
My comments were in no way were intended as an attack on the Catholic faith, the Church, or on the position which you hold. I remain a committed member of our church and am proud to be so. They also had nothing to do with your message of caring for those less fortunate than ourselves. My comments reflected my feeling toward someone who, in his position, played such a prominent role in a terribly dark chapter in the history of the Catholic Church.
I encourage all citizens who wish to come to the State House and have their voice be heard to do so, regardless of whether I agree or disagree with their message. But to be criticized for failing to protect those who are “vulnerable” by someone with your own history of protecting the vulnerable was more than I could stomach. It reignited all the feelings that I have worked to control in seeing that damage to the Church that this scandal created.
I have been dismayed by the criticisms that the House budget shows a disregard for the poor or disadvantaged when in reality the Finance Committee and many in the House of Representatives poured their hearts out to ensure that the most vulnerable in our society were not disproportionately hurt by our work to have the state live within its means.
The New Hampshire House of Representatives is essentially comprised of volunteers who care about the state and want to serve their neighbors and make society a better place. Any notion that we neglected the most vulnerable in society is simply without basis.
Ultimately we will all be judged by God and I’m sure there are areas where you have made our church stronger, but from my perspective it will be a much needed new chapter for New Hampshire Catholics when your retirement is accepted and we can bring new leadership to the church that is untainted by the past abuses. For many this will be a much needed step toward healing.
However, as I feel it is critical for you, as a leader of our Church to consider your role and history when speaking out on issues of the day, I bear the same responsibility for how I represent myself, the House of Representatives, the state and my faith. In this regard, I have fallen short of my own standards in my public comments. While I still feel considerable anger and hurt about the abuse scandal, you and certainly the public deserve better from me than colorful comments that are lacking in forethought.
Rest assured that I appreciate the flaws of my statement and I know that you are aware that we are all human and for those who are believers, sinners. You have my word that I will use this moment as an opportunity for personal growth and will thoughtfully consider the criticism I have received.
Rep. D.J. Bettencourt