MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — A New Hampshire priest who was the former leader of one of the nation’s top clergy treatment centers was sentenced Wednesday to serve at least four years in prison for stealing $300,000 from a hospital, a dead priest’s estate and the state’s Roman Catholic bishop.
Monsignor Edward Arsenault held several senior positions in the New Hampshire diocese from 1999 to 2009, when he became president and CEO of Saint Luke Institute in Maryland. He resigned in May after allegations arose involving an inappropriate adult relationship and misuse of church funds.
Details of the thefts revealed Wednesday show a priest who billed the church for lavish meals and travel for himself and often a male partner. He was convicted of writing checks from the dead priest’s estate to himself and his brother and billing Catholic Medical Center $250 an hour for consulting work he never did.
“It’s criminal behavior. It’s disturbing behavior,” Senior Assistant Attorney General Jane Young said. “These are thefts from a charitable institution by someone very high up.”
Arsenault pleaded guilty in Hillsborough County Superior Court Wednesday to three felony theft charges. He stole $104,000 from Catholic Medical Center in Manchester by submitting false invoices and working only a third of the hours called for in his consulting contract, which ran from March 2009 until June 2010.
Young said Arsenault stole $184,000 from then-Bishop John McCormack and the Manchester diocese by billing for meals at some of Boston’s finest restaurants. He also purchased cellphones and computer equipment, among other expenses. Young said he submitted fake invoices for about $15,000 in psychological counseling he never received.
Young said Arsenault stole $23,000 as executor of the Monsignor John Molan’s estate in 2010, including an $8,000 check he made out to his brother.
The investigation did not involve Saint Luke Institute, a prominent education and counseling center based in Silver Spring, Md., with sites in other parts of the U.S. and in Britain. The center treats priests with a range of mental illnesses and has played a key role in addressing the problem of sexually abusive clergy.
Before he was sentenced, Arsenault apologized to “the many people I have harmed, including the priests and the faithful.”
“Today is only the beginning of the consequences of my criminal behavior,” Arsenault said.
Arsenault was sentenced to four-to-20 years, including a deferred, two-year sentence that the judge has the option to tack on when Arsenault returns to court after the four years are up. He was also ordered to pay $300,000 in restitution.
As he was escorted from the courtroom, his hands cuffed behind his back, he paused briefly in front of the prosecution table and awkwardly extended a handshake to Young.
His attorney, Cathy Green, told Hillsborough North Superior Court Judge Diane Nicolosi, Arsenault “was the person who held the diocese together” during the priest sex abuse scandals a decade ago. She called his prison sentence “significant.”
Arsenault had been McCormack’s top lieutenant, handling both the clergy sexual abuse crisis and orchestrating the church’s new child protection policies. Bishop John Libasci, in a statement issued on behalf of himself and McCormack, said Arsenault stole more than money.
“Many of the faithful and former co-workers inevitably will be left with a profound sense of betrayal and mistrust,” Libasci said.
CMC President Joseph Pepe said the hospital is saddened by Arsenault’s criminal conduct, but relieved that Arsenault is being held accountable.
Young said the investigation began last year, after church officials and parishioners came to the attorney general’s office and said they suspected large sums of money had been misappropriated. She stressed that Arsenault cooperated fully and will continue to cooperate as investigators look into whether anyone else was involved.
NH Priest Pleads Guilty To Theft
April 23, 2014 3:30 PM
By Michael Rosenfield, WBZ-TV
MANCHESTER, N.H. (CBS) — A one-time top church official in New Hampshire was hauled off to prison in handcuffs following three guilty pleas in court Wednesday in Manchester, New Hampshire.
“By pleading guilty today, I publicly acknowledge that I broke the law in New Hampshire,” said Monsignor Edward Arsenault.
Prosecutors say Arsenault stole about $185,000 from the Diocese of Manchester, as well as the estate of a deceased priest, and Catholic Medical Center.
The crime was enough to push at least one woman to leave the Catholic Church.
“To tell you the truth, the best part of the day was to see those handcuffs go on his wrists,” said Marge Thompson who attended the sentencing hearing.
Part of the money stolen, according to prosecutors, was used to fund a lavish lifestyle for Arsenault and a male musician with whom he had an adult relationship. The musician, identified as Luke Parkin, lives in Florida but is believed to have ties to Massachusetts.
Church officials have called it an “inappropriate relationship” for a priest.
“In general he used the money for entertainment purposes,” said Jane Young, New Hampshire Assistant Attorney General. “For going out to dinner, for travel, for himself and another individual. There was extensive travel throughout the country.”
In a statement, the current bishop of Manchester, Rev. Peter Libasci, said “This is indeed a sad day…I ask that you keep in prayer those who have been affected by Msgr. Arsenault’s conduct, particularly his brother priests and those who worked closely with him. I also ask that you pray for Msgr. Arsenault. He has made some terrible mistakes, and he will be held accountable for them.”
Arsenault was sentenced to four years in prison and was ordered to pay $300,000 in restitution to the various parties.
“I’m truly and sincerely sorry for what I did,” said Arsenault. “And I apologize to the many people who have been harmed by my actions, including the priests and the faithful.”
Arsenault boyfriend’s expenses billed to diocese
New Hampshire Union Leader
23 April 2014
MANCHESTER — Luke Parkin, the man involved in an “inappropriate adult relationship” with the Rev. Msgr. Ed Arsenault III, is a gay recording artist/composor with 70 albums to his credit, according to Internet websites.
In interviews with music sites and gay-oriented sites, Parkin talks about his music, growing up gay and his dating habits. He never mentions romantic interests by name.
“Dating is fun when it’s not called ‘dating,'” he tells Chicago.GoPride.com in an interview. He said he’d favor a man who looks like Tom Brady, writes like Proust and can preach self-reliance like Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Assistant New Hampshire Attorney General Jane Young on Wednesday said the investigation into Arsenault’s thefts of funds from the Manchester Catholic diocese and Catholic Medical Center found that the priest spent much of the stolen funds on Parkin.
Young called the relationship between the two consensual.
The diocese put Arsenault on administrative leave last year, citing financial improprieties and “an inappropriate adult relationship.”
The Diocese of Manchester on Wednesday released a timeline that details investigations into Arsenault.
The Diocese said that in January 2013 it was informed that Arsenault was in an inappropriate relationship. While that tip involved allegations of blackmail, no evidence surfaced of blackmail, the Diocese said. Young said Parkin is facing no criminal charges.
The Diocese said the attorney general’s investigation found that between 2007 and early 2009, Arsenault billed the Diocese for numerous expenses related to the relationship:
• $2,500 for a cell phone.
• $3,200 for a trip to Santa Fe, New York and San Francisco, which included a $159 breakfast at the Four Seasons in San Francisco.
• Forty-eight nights at an extended stay hotel in Amesbury, Mass. Arsenault initially told Diocesan investigators the hotel was for a “homeless international priest,” the Diocese said.
The New Hampshire Union Leader could not reach Parkin Wednesday through email or a former publicist. Investigators said Parkin lives in Florida.
Parkin’s Est MMIX albumn is his 70th album, according to the website WeirdMusic. It appears to have been released in 2012. Some Luke Parkin music videos are on You Tube, and albums can be purchased through iTunes.
His work is instrumental, slow-moving, somewhat hypnotic, with a heavy emphasis on rhythm and synthesizers.
“I move between the classical (art traditions) and commercial worlds; I suppose that’s weird as well albeit in the best possible way,” he told WeirdMusic.
A 2008 work, Lustre, features a cross, dove and serpent on the cover. Musical renditions include a cut for each Station of the Cross, a Catholic prayer said during Lent.
Parkin told WeirdMusic he is religious, but did not elaborate.
UPDATE: Former Manchester diocese official gets 4 years, ordered to repay $288,000
New Hampshire Union Leader
22 April 2014
Luke Parkin, from the cover of a musical album he created. Arsenault admitted he had a relationship with Parkin, identified on Internet websites as a gay composer and recording artist with nearly 70 albums to his credit. Prosecutors said Arsenault lavished Parkin with expensive meals, trips and gifts.
Monsignor Edward Arsenault reaches out with his handcuffed hand to shake hands with prosecutor Jane Young after pleading guilty to felony theft charges in Hillsborough County Superior court in Manchester on Wednesday. Arsenault could spend up to 20 years in prison for stealing at least $104,000 from a hospital, a dead priest’s estate and the state’s Roman Catholic bishop. (JIM COLE/POOL PHOTO)
MANCHESTER – The one-time top ranking priest in the Diocese of Manchester, the Rev. Msgr. Edward J. Arsenault, was sentenced to four years in New Hampshire State Prison today by a judge who urged him to do good in prison.
Arsenault was also ordered to repay $300,000 in restitution to the Diocese, Catholic Medical Center and the estate of fellow Monsignor John Molan.
“I’m truly and sincerely sorry for what I did,” said Arsenault in Hillsborough County Superior Court-North. He paused to gain his composure when he offered apologies to “the priests and the faithful” of the Catholic church.
“I broke the law and I violated the trust of others,” he said. The one-time pudgy priest was trim and dressed in a crisp dark suit and tie. He carried a Bible with him.
Several key facts came out before Arsenault admitted his guilt:
• He was engaged in a relationship with Luke Parkin, who is identified on Internet websites as a gay composer and recording artist with nearly 70 albums to his credit. Prosecutors said Arsenault lavished Parkin with expensive meals, trips to locations such as San Francisco and New York, flowers, a cellphone, an extended-stay hotel in Massachusetts and even for medications.
Parkin has not been charged with any crime, said prosecutor Jane Young.
• The CMC theft is still part of a criminal investigation. Arsenault received $104,000 in consulting fees shortly after leaving the CMC board. He signed a contract with then-hospital President Alyson Pitman Giles.
Young said part of the investigation is who had knowledge of the contract. “Was this a valid contract or a contract created for reasons that were other than valid reasons,” Young said.
• The actual thefts amounted to $185,000. Much of the difference between the theft and reimbursement amounts involves questionable reimbursements that Arsenault has agreed to repay, Young said.
For example, he pleaded guilty to stealing $92,584 from the Diocese, but will repay $185,000.
• Arsenault’s sentence could be as long as 20 years, but most of the sentence is suspended or deferred. He could be eligible for halfway house or home confinement, Young said.
• Arsenault created fraudulent invoices of $15,000 from a Boston psychologist, Dr. Cristin Saffo, and submitted them to the Diocese for reimbursement. He was never a patient of Saffo’s, Young said.
For much of the 2000s, Arsenault was the right-hand man of former Bishop John McCormack. He investigated fellow priests on charges of sexual abuse, and he often faced the media.
“Monsignor Arsenault ended up covering a lot of the sexual abuse,” said David Ouellette, a Rochester resident who said he was a survivor of priest sexual abuse. “He ended up blaming the media, blaming the victims.”
But nearly two dozen people wrote in support of Arsenault.
Superior Court Judge Diane Nicolosi asked Arsenault to do good in prison.
“It strikes me you are going to state prison, where there are many people who have suffered and done wrongs and are in need of good help,” she said.
Previous story follows:
MANCHESTER — The right-hand man to former Manchester Bishop John McCormack was in a Manchester courtroom this morning and sentenced for stealing thousands of dollars from the Catholic church diocese, Catholic Medical Center and the estate of a fellow priest.
His sentence calls for the Rev. Msgr. Edward J. Arsenault III to serve four years in prison and pay restitution of $184,240 to the Diocese of Manchester and $104,000 to Catholic Medical Center.
As he was led away in handcuffs, Arsenault said, “I am truly and sincerely sorry for what I did.”
Arsenault III had indicated he would plead guilty to the three felonies, and his lawyer and prosecutors agreed to ask Superior Court Judge Diane Nicolosi for a four-year prison sentence.
Last May, the Diocese of Manchester announced that it had suspended Arsenault from his priestly duties, citing both illegal financial transactions and an “inappropriate adult relationship.”
Prosecutor Jane Young said the CMC theft involved a $200-an-hour consulting contract that Arsenault signed with former hospital president Alyson Pitman Giles.
A investigation into the CMC charge is continuing.
Bishop Peter Libasci has called a meeting for 2:30 p.m. today with any priest who wants to ask questions or voice concerns.
“Once the sentencing takes place, I will be in a position to share information about the investigation,” Libasci wrote to priests in a letter earlier this month.
Through much of the 2000s, Arsenault served as the right-hand man to McCormack, a role that put him before cameras and also involved the investigation and removal of abusive priests.
He left the diocese in 2009 for a $170,000-a-year job — running St. Luke’s Institute in Maryland, a clinic for troubled priests. The following year, the Vatican named Arsenault a monsignor at McCormack’s urging. Arsenault’s court file contains nearly two dozen letters from people vouching on his behalf, including former Attorney General Tom Rath, Portsmouth lawyer Peter Loughlin and the sister of the Rev. Msgr. John E. Molan, whose estate Arsenault stole from.
Catholic Bishop Peter Libasci today released a lengthy timeline of the Arsenault matter, including revelations that the Diocese first heard about allegations involving Arsenault in 2011. Outside auditors for CMC said there was nothing wrong with the consulting contract, and the allegation involving an inappropriate relationship appeared to be rumor, the timeline said.
But the Diocese contacted the Attorney General in 2013, once additional allegations – including blackmail – surfaced and investigators found financial improprieties.
“Many of the faithful and former co-workers inevitably will be left with a profound sence of betrayal and mistrust. They are very much the victims here,” Libasci wrote in a victim impact statement.
In a hand-written letter, Katherine Molan DeCourt said she has forgiven Arsenault. “Father Edward Arsenault is a good man and a very spiritual priest,” she wrote.
Others came from psychologists at St. Luke’s, nuns, New Hampshire Catholics, and employees of the Diocese. No letters were submitted by New Hampshire priests.
At least two writers stressed that Arsenault was under tremendous pressure as the priest-child sexual abuse scandal unfolded.
Sister Sheila Garvey of Hudson said Arsenault was met with criticism from the press and detractors of McCormack, who turned their anger and cynicism toward him.
The psychological burden “resulted in a burn-out that contributed, if not caused, his inappropriate behavior and criminal actions,” Garvey wrote.