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N.H. diocese official says church did not cover up circumstances of priest's death
By J.M. Hirsch, Associated Press, 07/27/02
MANCHESTER, N.H. -- A top official with the Diocese of Manchester told parishioners Saturday that the church did not try to cover up the circumstances of their priest's death, nor did it oust a potential whistle-blower.
The Rev. Edward Arsenault, the diocesan chancellor, addressed the congregation of St. Pius X, where the Rev. Richard Connors was assigned at the time of his death in November 1999.
Another priest has filed a lawsuit accusing Bishop John B. McCormack and other church officials of trying to keep him silent about a child pornography collection discovered in Connors' residence after his death. The Rev. James A. MacCormack alleges that church officials disposed of the pornography before police had an opportunity to see it and ruined his career as part of the alleged cover-up.
But Arsenault denied the accusations.
"There was not a cover-up of any criminal behavior, nor any cover-up of a hidden lifestyle," he said Saturday. "There is not nor has there ever been a relationship between or drawn between Father Dick's death and Father MacCormack's personal issues."
Arsenault said last week that adult homosexual pornography -- but no images of children -- were found in Connors' room. He told parishioners only that "inappropriate adult materials" were disposed of to spare them unnecessary pain.
"I'm sorry that the revelation of the disposal of this material has caused some people to question the intentions of Bishop McCormack and other priests," he said.
Arsenault also assured parishioners that he had read the police report on Connors' death, which said he died of natural causes at a Derry home where residents said he had gone to buy a dog. But Arsenault failed to mention that the report also said Connors was partially clothed and had a black leather device tied around his genitals at the time of death.
"I am angry and saddened that the circumstances of our friend Father Dick's death have been altered by some and interpreted incorrectly by others," he said.
Arsenault said he also is disturbed by the tactics of MacCormack's lawyer and that the diocese is considering "appropriate remedial action."
Last week, Arsenault said Connors was living an "immoral life." But on Saturday, he praised Connors as a dedicated and hard-working "priestly man who served us."