IPSWICH — A former high-ranking Catholic priest repeatedly raped a boy at a summer camp in Ipswich 30 years ago, forcing the frightened victim to seek safety in the woods, on a fire escape and under a bunk, prosecutors said yesterday.
The Rev. Richard J. McCormick, 71, pleaded not guilty to five counts of child rape and was released on $1,000 cash bail to the custody of a fellow Salesian Brothers priest.
Ipswich police arrested McCormick on Thursday in New Rochelle, N.Y., where he lives at the Salesians’ eastern U.S. headquarters. Standing in handcuffs yesterday in Salem Superior Court, McCormick said “not guilty” five times in a strong voice as a clerk read each of the five counts.
The victim came forward a year and a half ago, said Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston lawyer who has represented hundreds of victims of clergy abuse.
Garabedian said he has reached financial settlements on behalf of nine other victims of McCormick, but this is the first time that McCormick has been charged criminally.
“My client should be proud of himself for pursuing this criminal matter,” Garabedian said. “It takes a lot of strength and courage.”
Garabedian said McCormick abused nine victims from 1963 to 1982 in Massachusetts, New York and, in one case, in a convent in Rome.
McCormick is the former head of the Salesian Brothers of Don Bosco for the eastern United States, which includes thousands of members east of the Mississippi and in eastern Canada. Garabedian said the position is the equivalent of a bishop in an archdiocese.
The abuse of the current victim took place in the summers of 1981 and 1982 when the boy was 9 and 10 years old, prosecutor Kate MacDougall said. It happened at a summer camp run by the Salesian Brothers at the Sacred Heart retreat center on County Road in Ipswich, where the Salesian Brothers once had a seminary. The property is now the home of New England Biolabs.