InDepthNH.org - New Hampshire Center for Public Interest Journalism [Barrington NH]
September 1, 2021
By Damien Fisher
Manchester’s Bishop Peter Libasci is asking a judge to dismiss the sex abuse lawsuit against him, saying in a response filed on Tuesday that none of the allegations are true.
Libasci was named in the lawsuit filed in July, accused of abusing an altar boy during the 1980s when Libasci was a parish priest in the Diocese of Rockville Centre.
Libasci has maintained his innocence since NH Reporter first broke news of the lawsuit, filed in the Suffolk County Supreme Court in New York. The answer to the lawsuit, written by Boston attorneys Michael Connolly and Stephen Rosemarino, with the law firm of Hinckley, Allen & Snyder, denies all of the allegations and demands that the case be dismissed. Libasci is also seeking to recover attorney fees from his accuser.
The legal response to the allegations offered by Libasci’s lawyers does not give any evidence to back the claims of his innocence, though in general, that is rare at this stage in such lawsuits. The accuser’s complaint also did not provide details much further than the accusation that he was groped by Libasci at around the age of 13, and the statement that church officials should have known Libasci should not have been around children.
The lawsuit is being brought under New York’s Child Victims Act, which extended the statute of limitations for victims to bring such lawsuits. The Diocese of Rockville Centre has already filed for bankruptcy due to sexual abuse lawsuits involving clergy.
Libasci served as the auxiliary bishop in Rockville Centre. He’s been the Bishop in Manchester for the last 10 years, taking over for scandal-plagued Bishop John McCormack who was found to have helped former Boston Archbishop Bernard Cardinal Law cover up decades of sexual abuse.
Bevin Kennedy, the current media representative for the New Hampshire diocese, declined to comment on the ongoing, parallel Church investigation into the claims against Libasci.
Under the Vos estis protocols put forward by Pope Francis in 2019, bishops accused of abuse are subject to a new form of discipline from Rome, including a Church investigation conducted within 90 days of the accusation being made.
Such Vos estis investigations are typically conducted by the local metropolitan, in this case, Archbishop Sean Cardinal O’Malley in Boston. Boston officials have declined to comment on the matter, and representatives for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have yet to return calls from NH Reporter.
Libasci cannot be removed from his post absent an order from Pope Francis, as only the Pope can remove any Bishop under Roman Catholic law.