A Catholic priest with a history of allegations of sexual abuse dating back five decades was released on bond Friday after his arrest in New Rochelle a day earlier on five counts of child rape.
The Rev. Richard McCormick, 71, pleaded not guilty and was granted $1,000 bail at his arraignment in Salem Superior Court and allowed to return to the Salesian Brothers of Don Bosco facility in New Rochelle, where he lives and where he was arrested Thursday. Prosecutors had asked for $75,000 bail, arguing that McCormick's "minimal ties" to Massachusetts make him a flight risk.
The alleged assaults took place at an Ipswich, Mass., camp in 1981 and 1982, when the male victim was about 11 and 12 years old, said Carrie Kimball-Monahan, a spokeswoman for the Essex, Mass., district attorney.
McCormick's arrest followed a yearlong investigation after the alleged victim went to authorities, she said.
Mitchell Garabedian, the Boston attorney who is the civil representative for the victim, said the alleged abuse took place at a now-closed camp called Sacred Heart Retreat House, run by the Salesian Brothers.
McCormick went on to become the leader of the order for the eastern U.S., Garabedian said.
McCormick's attorney, Stephen Neyman of Boston, said Friday he would not comment because the case against his client is pending.
Garabedian confirmed to Newsday.com on Friday he represented three men who settled a case against the Salesian order in 2009, claiming abuse by McCormick during the late 1970s when he was rector of the now-closed Salesian Junior Seminary in Goshen. He would not reveal the amount paid out in those settlements but said each complainant received "six figures."
Garabedian told Newsday.com he has settled nine civil cases with the Salesians involving McCormick, covering alleged sexual abuse occurring between 1963 and 1982.
In March 2002, McCormick resigned from his post as a theology and English teacher at St. Petersburg Catholic High School in St. Petersburg, Fla., after a female student complained that he "cupped his hands around her chin and gave her a kiss," the St. Petersburg Times reported.
McCormick's next court date is Oct. 23. According to the Essex DA's office, Judge Timothy Feeley set several conditions for McCormick's release. He must:
• Continue to live at the Provincial Residence of the Salesians in New Rochelle.
• Report to the Superior Court probation department by telephone once a week and in person for every court appearance.
• Have no unsupervised contact with minors.
• Stay off the grounds of Salesian High School, near the Provincial Residence.
Feely ordered the Rev. Steven Dumais, vice provincial for the Salesians, to serve as McCormick's custodian and ensure he obeys the release conditions.
Dumais. who attended Friday's hearing, told reporters outside court he was there to support McCormick, but also said the order takes the allegations seriously.
"We are doing our very best to support the work of the authorities the best we can,'" he said.
There is no lawsuit pending in connection with the current criminal case. The alleged victim's name was not disclosed, and Garabedian declined to discuss the case. "All I will say is, "Let the facts be represented, the relevant law applied and a just and fair verdict rendered," he said.
McCormick is already barred by the Salesians from any public ministry and is not allowed to have any unsupervised contact with minors while at the Provincial Residence, but has not been defrocked, Kimball-Monahan said. She said she believes this is the first time McCormick has faced criminal charges regarding the sex-abuse allegations.
"He does not have any criminal record that we are aware of," Kimball-Monahan told Newsday.com.
A call to the Salesians' eastern U.S. headquarters in New Rochelle on Friday was not returned.
The Salesian order was founded in the 19th century by St. John Bosco to care for homeless and orphaned child laborers he encountered in Turin, Italy, according to britannica.com. It takes its name from its patron saint, St. Francis de Sales. The website salesianmissions.org says it is the second-largest order in the Catholic Church.