New Hampshire Bishop Sued On Sexual Abuse Allegations From 1980s

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An approximately 50-year-old Long Island resident is accusing the Roman Catholic bishop of Manchester, New Hampshire of “fondling and groping” the person’s genitals on “numerous occasions” when the accuser was about 13, according to a lawsuit.

On one occasion, according to the complaint, an assault took place in the sacristy while the accuser was attempting to prepare the altar for Mass.

Libasci was stationed at a church in the town of Babylon, New York, which is at about the midway point of Long Island, when the incidents are alleged to have occurred around 1983 or 1984. The parish sponsored a Catholic school run by an order of nuns. The plaintiff attended the school, according to the lawsuit.

A spokesman for the defendant, Bishop Peter Libasci, whose diocese consists of the entire state of New Hampshire, provided a statement to New Boston Post on Thursday afternoon, several hours after the news was reported by WMUR. (The story was first reported by NH Reporter.)

The diocesan official said by email:


The Diocese of Manchester was informed of the filing of a civil lawsuit wherein Bishop Peter A. Libasci was named. This lawsuit alleges sexual abuse of a minor dating back to 1983/84 in the state of New York. At this time, the status of the Bishop remains unchanged. Following standard protocol, the matter has been reported to civil authorities.

Because this is an ongoing matter and out of respect for the individuals involved, the Diocese will not be providing additional information at this time but will provide updates when we are able to do so.


Libasci, 69, has served as bishop of Manchester since 2011.

Libasci’s predecessor in New Hampshire, Bishop John McCormack, now 85, came under fire for the way he handled clergy sex abuse cases during the 1980s and 1990s while he was an archdiocesan official under the then-archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Bernard Law. McCormack was also sharply criticized for the way he handled clergy sex abuse cases in New Hampshire as bishop.

“Obviously, the Diocese of Manchester is one of the more troubled Catholic jurisdictions in the United States,” said C.J. Doyle, executive director of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts, in a written statement Thursday.

Doyle said Libasci has had a mixed record as bishop in New Hampshire from his point of view.

“Orthodox Catholics have conflicted views of Bishop Libasci. He has been supportive of the right to life and has been generous in providing and sustaining the traditional Latin liturgy in his diocese,” Doyle said in the statement.

But Doyle said the bishop has also taken what he called “harshly punitive measures” against a traditionalist religious order, the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

The Vatican rejected an appeal by the religious order earlier this year. The dispute is largely over the meaning of the Church’s teaching that there is no salvation outside the Church.

As for the accusations reported publicly today, Doyle said his organization “hopes and prays for justice for all parties in this lawsuit.”

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday, July 14 in a trial court in Suffolk County, which covers the eastern half of Long Island in New York state.

If a Church investigation takes place, it may involve the archdiocese of Boston.

A document issued by Pope Francis in May 2019 (called Vos Estis Lux Mundi) provides that when a territorial bishop who is not an archbishop is accused of sexual abuse, the metropolitan of the province is the ordinary investigator for the Church. Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston, is the metropolitan of the Church’s Ecclesiastical Province of Boston, which includes the Diocese of Manchester.


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