For years he was known as Rev. Msgr. Edward J. Arsenault III, the highest-ranking priest in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester. He will probably be called other things in prison.
Arsenault was sentenced last Wednesday to 4 to 20 years in New Hampshire State Prison for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Diocese, Catholic Medical Center in Manchester and the estate of the late Msgr. John Molan. He was ordered to repay $300,000 to his victims.
Arsenault stole by deception and trickery, skills he exhibited publicly for many years during his decade as a senior official in the Diocese of Manchester. During the priest sex abuse scandal, Arsenault was the Diocesan Spin Doctor. As the official spokesman, he misled the flock, the families and the media with masterfully crafted messages of misdirection and misinformation.
In that time of great pain and turmoil, he had the option of helping the victims. He did not have to be complicit in the bishop’s campaign to protect himself and the institution by hiding the truth, denying the great evil that had been committed, and dodging responsibility. But Arsenault worked with vigor and enthusiasm to deny justice to the sexually abused. He willfully sinned against the innocent.
So it was doubly insulting to see his attorney portray his service during that time as a factor to be weighed in his favor. “During the tumultuous years that the church sex abuse scandal was going on, Mr. Arsenault was the person who held the diocese together,” attorney Cathy Green said. Still he spins and deceives.
For theft of money, Arsenault will spend years answering to New Hampshire’s civil authorities. For enabling the theft of innocence, he will answer to a higher authority, one who has punishments more terrifying than temporary confinement in a concrete cell in Concord.