MANCHESTER — The one-time top-ranking priest in the Diocese of Manchester, the Rev. Msgr. Edward J. Arsenault III, was sentenced to four years in New Hampshire State Prison Wednesday 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, 52, in Hillsborough County Superior Court-North. He paused to gain his composure as 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 consensual adult 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 gifts on Parkin, including expensive meals, trips to San Francisco and New York, flowers, a cellphone, an extended-stay hotel in Massachusetts and even medications.
• The CMC theft is part of an on-going criminal investigation involving $104,000 that Arsenault received in consulting fees from the hospital.
Assistant Attorney General Jane Young said Arsenault signed a $200-an-hour consulting contract with then-hospital President Alyson Pitman Giles shortly after he left the hospital board in 2009.
Young said part of the investigation involves 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.
Giles' LinkedIn account lists her as a corporate vice president with Steward Health Care in Massachusetts, but the human resources department of the company said she no longer works there.
• 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 a halfway house or home confinement, Young said.
Any money Arsenault earns writing or consulting while in prison must be used to pay the restitution, and Arsenault's retirement accounts, currently valued at $130,000, can be tapped for restitution when he reaches retirement age.
• 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; Arsenault must repay the legal bills Saffo incurred as part of the investigation, Young said.
The Diocese on Wednesday released an unprecedented amount of material about Arsenault, including a five-page timeline that details the investigations by the Diocese and Attorney General.
Bishop Peter Libasci and former Bishop John McCormack also issued statements. In his victim impact statement, Libasci called it a sad day and noted that thousands of Catholics donate to the church and expect it to safeguard those donations.
"Many of the faithful and former co-workers inevitably will be left with a profound sense of betrayal and mistrust. They are very much the victims here," Libasci wrote.
Currently, Arsenault is on administrative leave and can't perform priestly functions in public, including state prison, said Diocesan spokesman Tom Bebbington. His future church status will be determined at a trial-like process that involves canon law.
Bebbington said nothing can be said about the process, which takes place at the Vatican, until it concludes.
For most of the 2000s, Arsenault was the right-hand man of then-Bishop John McCormack. He investigated fellow priests accused of sexual abuse of minors, and he often faced the media as the priest-child sex scandal unfolded.
"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 and attended Wednesday's hearing. "He ended up blaming the media, blaming the victims."
Nearly two dozen people wrote in support of Arsenault, including nuns, New Hampshire Catholics and workers at the diocesan offices.
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.