MANCHESTER, N.H. (CBS) — A one-time top church official in New Hampshire was hauled off to prison in handcuffs following three guilty pleas in court Wednesday in Manchester, New Hampshire.
"By pleading guilty today, I publicly acknowledge that I broke the law in New Hampshire," said Monsignor Edward Arsenault.
Prosecutors say Arsenault stole about $185,000 from the Diocese of Manchester, as well as the estate of a deceased priest, and Catholic Medical Center.
The crime was enough to push at least one woman to leave the Catholic Church.
"To tell you the truth, the best part of the day was to see those handcuffs go on his wrists," said Marge Thompson who attended the sentencing hearing.
Part of the money stolen, according to prosecutors, was used to fund a lavish lifestyle for Arsenault and a male musician with whom he had an adult relationship. The musician, identified as Luke Parkin, lives in Florida but is believed to have ties to Massachusetts.
Church officials have called it an "inappropriate relationship" for a priest.
"In general he used the money for entertainment purposes," said Jane Young, New Hampshire Assistant Attorney General. "For going out to dinner, for travel, for himself and another individual. There was extensive travel throughout the country."
In a statement, the current bishop of Manchester, Rev. Peter Libasci, said "This is indeed a sad day…I ask that you keep in prayer those who have been affected by Msgr. Arsenault's conduct, particularly his brother priests and those who worked closely with him. I also ask that you pray for Msgr. Arsenault. He has made some terrible mistakes, and he will be held accountable for them."
Arsenault was sentenced to four years in prison and was ordered to pay $300,000 in restitution to the various parties.
"I'm truly and sincerely sorry for what I did," said Arsenault. "And I apologize to the many people who have been harmed by my actions, including the priests and the faithful."
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