The Boston archbishop has launched a church investigation into allegations that New Hampshire Bishop Peter Libasci groped an altar boy decades ago, the archdiocese signaled last week.
In an email, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston said the matter has been referred to the Washington-based apostolic nuncio, which is the point of contact between American dioceses and the Vatican.
The referral follows a 2019 change in church law that governs how claims of abuse against bishops are handled, according to Terrance Dillon, a spokesman for the archdiocese.
The 2019 change to Church law calls for an archbishop to investigate allegations of abuse by a bishop. The archbishop is supposed to make regular updates to the Vatican, and then render a final report and recommendations.
It was unclear from Dillon’s email how far the process has gone.
Libasci’s attorney, Michael J. Connolly of Boston, said the bishop has not been informed of an investigation, “but once he is, he plans to fully cooperate. He has absolutely nothing to hide.”
In July, Libasci was named in a suit filed in a New York state court by a former altar boy at the Long Island parish where Libasci used to serve as a priest. The allegations date to the mid-1980s, nearly four decades ago.
The lawsuit was filed after New York officials passed the Child Victim’s Act, which temporarily lifted the statute of limitations for victims to file sexual abuse complaints.
Libasci previously has denied any wrongdoing, and Connolly said a filing due Tuesday in response to the lawsuit will contain “an across-the-board denial of the allegations.”
Libasci continues to perform his duties, including administrative items, saying mass, administering the sacraments and teaching, according to the Diocese’s Bevin Kennedy.
Libasci, 69, has been the Bishop of Manchester since 2011. He has been tough on abusers and launched a web page that lists all priests credibly accused of abuse. He also instituted a policy that calls for priests to be temporarily removed from their duties if allegations are deemed accusation is plausible or have the semblance of truth.
Kennedy said the policy only applies to priests, not the bishop.
“A bishop is only answerable to the Holy See,” she said.