It happened on his Facebook page, and was duly reported by the Concord Monitor in New Hampshire:
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.”
Evidently, Bettencourt had second thoughts. The next day, he sent a conciliatory letter to the bishop, quoted in the New Hampshire Journal:
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.
UPDATE: Ed Peters has a few choice words on this story:
Bettencourt insulted the bishop with a crude ad hominen attack utterly unconnected to the issue before them, and twice accused the bishop of civilcrimes warranting immediate arrest, namely, pedophilia and pimping. In writing. Politics can occasion some pretty harsh descriptions of one’s opponents, I know, but it should never, ever, excuse an elected leader’s public leveling of plainly criminous accusations against a fellow citizen who disagrees with the politician, absent, at least, immediately proffered evidence that backs up the claim of crimes.
So, does Bettencourt have evidence that McCormack engaged in pedophilia? Does he have evidence that the bishop worked as a pimp? If he does not, then, even though Bettencourt can never erase his vile words, he can at least apologize for them. Immediately.