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Audit says diocese flouts abuse guides

CONCORD, N.H. -- The Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester still doesn't meet abuse- prevention requirements negotiated with the attorney general's office more than four years ago, and its leaders flout court- approved standards, according to an independent audit released yesterday.

The audit noted there are "critical gaps" in programs to protect children from sexual abuse and said church leaders have been reticent in complying. The 117- parish diocese relies too heavily on self-reporting and self-policing, the audit said . Auditors criticized the "tone at the top," particularly in regard to the Rev. Edward Arsenault, who heads efforts to prevent and report sexual abuse.

"In conducting this year's audit, KPMG encountered resistance from certain corners of the diocese, most notable from . . . Father Edward Arsenault," Attorney General Kelly Ayotte said. "Since Father Arsenault is the face of the program to many of the employees and volunteers within the diocese, his attitude to the program is very important in terms of the reflection of the diocese's overall commitment to the process."