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May 07. 2013 8:03PM

Former Manchester chancellor received $170k a year after leaving diocese

MANCHESTER - The former high-ranking Catholic Church official now under investigation for improper use of church funds earned a $169,900 salary at his job at a Maryland treatment facility, where he abruptly resigned last week.

The Rev. Msgr. Edward Arsenault earned the salary as president and chief executive officer of St. Luke Institute, residential and out-patient clinic for clergy, priests, nuns and brothers in need of mental health and spiritual treatment, wellness and educational programs.

On Monday, the Diocese of Manchester announced that it had suspended the priestly privileges of Arsenault while investigations proceed into possible illegal use of church funds and an inappropriate adult relationship on his part.

Just days before the announcement, Arsenault resigned the job at St. Luke, which he had held since October 2009. Arsenault has also resigned as chairman of the board of St. Luke Centre, a sister institution in Manchester, England.

The New Hampshire Union Leader accessed St. Luke's financial statements through Guidestar.org, a website that tracks financial reports of tax-exempt institutions. The salary was for the 12-month period that ended June 30, 2011.

"Priests who hold executive positions in fields such as health care and academia typically are paid a salary commensurate with that field during their service," said Susan Gibbs, a spokesman for St. Luke.

In its latest filing with the IRS, the organization reported annual revenues of $6.4 million. The non-profit organization describes itself as Catholic, run by a priest and a lay board. It treated about 500 patients in its last fiscal year, Gibbs said.

Gibbs said Arsenault maintains a home in the greater Washington, D.C., area.

Given the allegations against Arsenault, Gibbs said St. Luke's has hired an outside firm to conduct a forensic audit of the organization. Annually, an outside firm audits St. Luke's books and has found nothing amiss, Gibbs said.

"Just out of good stewardship, we are going to have another audit done," Gibbs said.

The salary at St. Luke pales in comparison to what Arsenault earned as a New Hampshire priest. Even though Arsenault had extensive administrative responsibilities in the Diocese, his salary was $19,652 when he left New Hampshire for St. Luke, according to information provided by the Diocese.

Diocesan clergy take vows of chastity and obedience. Only priests who join orders, such as the Benedictines or the Franciscans, take vows of poverty.

The diocesan salary applies to priests working inside the Diocese, Donovan said. New Hampshire has two other priests who earn an outside salary; both are military chaplains and earn a salary based on their rank, he said.

"Priests don't make a lot of money as priests, but if you're the head of an institution - Boston College, Notre Dame - they make more than $20,000, $25,000," Donovan said.

The previous president/chief executive at St. Luke, Msgr. Stephen Rossetti, earned $211,000 in the year before Arsenault's arrival. He is taking the job of interim president.

mhayward@unionleader.com


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