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IPSWICH — A retired Roman Catholic priest who once headed the Salesian Society religious order in North America will spend the next eight to 10 years in state prison for repeatedly raping a boy attending an Ipswich summer camp more than 30 years ago, a judge ruled yesterday.
The Rev. Richard McCormick, 73, who at one time was the “provincial” of the order, a position equivalent to that of a bishop, was found guilty earlier this month of five counts of child rape, incidents that took place at a summer camp operated by the order on the grounds of the former Sacred Heart Retreat during the early 1980s.
McCormick “preyed on and exploited the vulnerability of a young boy who was in his care,” leaving him with lifelong scars, said Lawrence Superior Court Judge Mary Lou Rup,
Rup said that the victim’s testimony shows that the effects of abuse, despite hopes to the contrary, are permanent. The man, now 44, broke down in sobs as he recalled being taken to McCormick’s office and to a storage closet and sexually abused during two summers in 1981 and 1982.
Rup suggested that judges and lawyers hope that victims of child sex abuse, especially if they are still young, can recover fully and move forward in life.
“The testimony by (the victim) has belied that assumption,” said Rup.
The victim, whose name is being withheld because The Salem News does not identify victims of sexual abuse, said outside court that he was less concerned with the length of the sentence than the fact that McCormick “has to own it. It’s his now.”
“The only thing that matters now is he can’t do it to any more children,” he said.
McCormick, who sat in court with his head bowed throughout the proceeding, showed little reaction to the sentence, which will be followed by 10 years of probation. He’ll now be moved from Middleton Jail, where he’s spent the past two weeks since the jury’s verdict, to the state prison in Walpole.
He’s still awaiting trial in the case of a second accuser, who came forward after reading about McCormick’s 2012 arrest.
‘A broken man’
Defense lawyer Stephen Neyman told the judge that McCormick is “a broken man,” “banished” by the order while awaiting trial to a facility outside St. Louis, Missouri, for priests accused of misconduct, including sexual abuse.
Neyman asked Rup to impose a two-year term for his elderly client and suggested that it be served at the Vianney Renewal Center where McCormick lived while out on bail in the case.
But prosecutor Kate MacDougall urged a far longer term, of 12 to 15 years, calling McCormick’s actions “an extraordinary violation of a sacred trust.”
“This defendant intentionally singled out this child, took this child away from other children and took advantage of his position, and not only did so but did so under the guise of faith and of God,” she said.
Effects on victim
The victim now says he has no faith. And when his young son was born, he cried, fearing he would not be able to protect him from people like McCormick, he said.
His son is also the reason he has learned to put aside that rage he feels toward his abuser, the victim said.
“When he prays, he should not pray to his God, he should pray to a beautiful, innocent, charming little 5-year-old boy,” said the victim. That boy, the victim’s son, is “the only reason Richard McCormick still wakes up every morning,” he said.
During his victim-impact statement, the victim pointed to a small trophy, one he was given by McCormick as a boy.
There were many times that he imagined ramming it into McCormick’s chest, he said.
The case is one of the oldest child sexual abuse cases to be prosecuted in Massachusetts, due to a change in the statute of limitations that gives victims more time to come forward after they become adults, as well as McCormick’s job, for which he moved around the country. When he left Massachusetts, the statute of limitations stopped running.
‘A life sentence’
McCormick’s sentence is, “for all intents and purposes, a life sentence,” said lawyer Mitchell Garabedian, who represents McCormick’s victim in an anticipated civil lawsuit against the order.
Rup acknowledged McCormick’s advanced age during her sentencing yesterday but said she trusts the Department of Corrections to know how to deal with an aging inmate.
The victim testified during the trial that he knew McCormick only as “Father Dick,” and for years he had searched for his identity. But it wasn’t until 2010, during a slow shift at work, that his searching paid off when he found the priest’s full name in a directory, then looked for a picture. He contacted Garabedian, who at the time was in the news for representing victims of sexual abuse by priests, asking him to reach out to prosecutors.
Garabedian said that while he is planning a civil suit (he has already filed 16 suits on behalf of others who allege abuse by McCormick), “There isn’t anything in the world right now that could repay my client for what he’s lost.”
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