April 20, 2006

Separation of church and state over audits

Monitor staff

April 16. 2006 12:00PM

When the state released the results of its first audit of New Hampshire's Roman Catholic diocese, Attorney General Kelly Ayotte said three more would follow. The audits are a key component of the 2002 agreement that spared the diocese from criminal prosecution despite decades of protecting sexually abusive priests.

But the Rev. Edward Arsenault - the diocese's top official for sexual-abuse issues - said he understood the agreement differently. The audits would end in December 2007, no matter how many had been conducted, Arsenault said.

That was late last month. Senior Assistant Attorney General Will Delker has said the audits should extend beyond the 2007 deadline because church protests over the cost and the nature of the audits delayed their start by a year and a half. But the attorney general's office does not believe the issue needs to be resolved immediately, Delker said Friday.

David Braiterman, the Concord lawyer who represents a coalition of organizations and individuals who want the church to comply with the spirit of the agreement, said the question is too important to wait. Given both the deficiencies revealed by the first audit and the church's attempts to limit that audit, Braiterman said, the state should not wait to make sure that four audits can be performed.

Posted by kshaw at April 20, 2006 01:59 PM