New Hampshire bishop denies allegations of past sexual abuse

Associated Press [New York NY]

July 25, 2021

MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — The head of the Roman Catholic Church in New Hampshire “categorically denies” recent allegations that he committed sexual abuse while serving as a priest in New York in the 1980s, according to a statement issued by his lawyer on Saturday.

A lawsuit filed July 14 in a New York state court accuses Bishop Peter Libasci of the Diocese of Manchester of abusing a male youth on numerous occasions in 1983 and 1984. The abuse resulted in “physical, psychological and emotional injuries,” the ;awsuit says.

In a statement on behalf of Libasci, attorney Michael Connolly said the allegation is not true.

“Bishop Libasci has dedicated over 43 years to serving others as a Roman Catholic priest, during which time he has earned an impeccable reputation for treating all individuals with dignity and respect,” Connolly wrote. “While Bishop Libasci has great compassion for victims of sexual abuse, he will be forced to vigorously defend against these false allegations in court.”

The lawsuit accuses the bishop of abusing a boy who was 12 or 13 while Libasci was a pastor at the Roman Catholic Church of Saints Cyril and Methodius and the Saints Cyril and Methodius School in Deer Park, New York. The school, which this year merged with another school to become Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic School, is also a defendant in the suit.

The Diocese of Manchester said last week that it’s aware of the lawsuit but that Libasci’s status has not been changed.

A national group that supports victims of clergy sexual abuse said it’s “very concerned” that Libasci has not stepped aside.

“We worry that allowing the Bishop to remain in ministry may further endanger young lives in New Hampshire,” the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said in a statement on Saturday. “We hope that the Bishop’s Metropolitan or the Vatican intervene to correct this troubling situation immediately.”

The Diocese of Rockville Center, which includes Saints Cyril and Methodius, filed for bankruptcy last year after the state suspended the statute of limitations for suing over sexual abuse by priests. More than 200 lawsuits have been brought against the diocese since the 2019 passage of a New York law that gives victims the right to sue over decades-old sexual abuse by clergy members, teachers and other adults.

The Diocese of Manchester, meanwhile, has launched a public effort to address past abuse. In 2019, it released the names of 73 priests who had been accused of sexually abusing children as part of what it called an effort to take accountability for abuse that stretched as far back as 1950.

Most of the named priests have died, and others either left the ministry or have been banned from public ministry as priests.