CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Pope Francis has dismissed a Roman Catholic priest from New Hampshire who was convicted of stealing $300,000 from a hospital, a bishop and a deceased priest's estate.
Monsignor Edward Arsenault, who served as the face of the church in the state during a sex abuse scandal, pleaded guilty to three theft charges in 2014. He was transferred Tuesday to home confinement and is up for parole Feb. 19, 2018.
The Diocese of Manchester said Friday that Arsenault was removed from the priesthood Feb. 28 and no longer has "faculties to act, function, or present himself as a priest."
"Dismissing a priest from the clerical state is very serious and taken very seriously by the Holy See," said Father Georges de Laire, the diocese's vicar for canonical affairs, who conveyed the decision to Arsenault on Thursday.
"It is not a decision that is reached lightly as it implies pain for the former cleric and those who may have been affected by him," he said.
A lawyer for Arsenault declined to comment.
Prosecutors said Arsenault billed the church for lavish meals and travel for himself and often a male partner.
He was convicted of writing checks from the dead priest's estate to himself and his brother and billing a hospital $250 an hour for consulting work he never did.
Arsenault held senior positions in the New Hampshire diocese from 1999 to 2009. He had been the top lieutenant for then-Bishop John McCormack, handling both a clergy sexual abuse crisis in New Hampshire and orchestrating the church's new child protection policies.
In 2009, Arsenault became president and CEO of Saint Luke Institute in Maryland. He resigned in 2013 as allegations arose over the misuse of church funds.
The investigation did not involve Saint Luke, a prominent education and counseling center based in Silver Spring, Maryland, with sites in other parts of the United States and in Britain. The center treats priests with a range of mental illnesses and has played a key role in addressing the problem of sexually abusive clergy.
This story has been corrected to show Arsenault was removed from priesthood on Feb. 28, not Feb. 29.