New Hampshire Bishop Faces Sexual Abuse Lawsuit
A New Hampshire Catholic bishop is facing accusations of child sexual abuse. The alleged abuse occurred in New York in the 1980s.
In July 2021, a survivor filed a priest abuse lawsuit against the bishop of the Diocese of Manchester. The lawsuit accuses Bishop Peter Labasci, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in New Hampshire, of sexually abusing the plaintiff as a teenage boy. According to the lawsuit, Labasci reportedly abused the survivor while serving as a priest in the New York Diocese of Rockville Centre.
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Survivor Files Lawsuit For Abuse & Negligence
The unnamed survivor filed the lawsuit on July 14, 2021. In the lawsuit, the survivor accuses Labasci of child sexual abuse in 1983 and 1984. The survivor was between 12 and 13 years old when the abuse occurred.
Labasci was ordained in 1978. At the time of the alleged abuse, he was a priest in the Diocese of Rockville Centre. He was stationed at the Saints Cyril and Methodius Catholic Church and its affiliated school.
The lawsuit was filed in New York under the state’s “look back” window. Apart from naming Labsci as a defendant, the lawsuit accuses the church and school of negligence regarding Labasci’s abuse. The Sisters of St. Joseph, a Catholic women’s congregation involved with the school, is also listed as a defendant.
A negligence claim holds an individual, company or institution responsible for injuries that result from a failure to act with a reasonable level of care. Negligent acts can form the foundation of civil lawsuits and criminal charges.
The Diocese of Rockville Centre was not named in the lawsuit, as the diocese has already filed for bankruptcy protection. However, the diocese did respond to the lawsuit filing.
Rockville Centre Diocese Reports Lawsuit To Vatican
The Diocese of Rockville Centre took action following the announcement of the recent lawsuit against Labasci. The diocese reported the lawsuit to the Vatican. Diocesan officials also notified the Suffolk County District Attorney.
In the past, the Diocese of Rockville Centre was named in more than 200 priest abuse lawsuits filed during New York’s “look back” window. To handle the growing number of lawsuits, the diocese filed for bankruptcy in October 2020.
Bishop Labasci Denies Claims Of Abuse
In 2011, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Labasci as the bishop of the Diocese of Manchester in New Hampshire. Labasci has remained in the position since his appointment. In 2019, the Diocese of Manchester released a list of accused priests. The list included incidents as far back as 1950. Labasci was not among the 73 named priests.
Labasci denies the accusations and filed a request to have the lawsuit dismissed. He also requested compensation for legal fees from the survivor. Labasci’s legal response to the lawsuit did not contain any evidence of his innocence.
Following the lawsuit filing, Labasci remains active in his position as bishop. Victim advocates have criticized Labasci for not stepping down from his role during the legal proceedings.
“We worry that allowing the Bishop to remain in ministry may further endanger young lives in New Hampshire. We hope that the Bishop’s Metropolitan or the Vatican intervene to correct this troubling situation immediately.”
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Fisher, D. (2021, September 2). Bishop Libasci asks judge to dismiss sex abuse lawsuit. The Conway Daily Sun.
Gold, M. (2020, October 5). Facing 200 Abuse Claims, Diocese Becomes U.S.’s Largest to Seek Bankruptcy. The New York Times.
Rogers, J. (2021, July 26). N.H. Bishop Accused Of Sexual Abuse In 1980s. Maine Public.
Penn State Law eLibrary. (N.D.) Catholic Dioceses in Bankruptcy. Retrieved November 24, 2021.
(2021, July 25). New Hampshire bishop denies allegations of past sexual abuse. The Associated Press.