For years, as a high-ranking Catholic diocesan official, Fr. Edward Arsenault handled (or mishandled) dozens of reports about predatory priests. In the media (and by survivors), “as the face of the church in (his) state during the sex abuse scandal,” he was criticized for being insensitive and secretive. Then, Arsenault got into more trouble. Not for molesting anyone. But for stealing about $300,000 from a hospital, his diocese, and the estate of a fellow priest. He was convicted and spent several years in prison.
Now, here’s where it gets interesting. When he came out, he moved, changed his name, and stayed ‘under the radar’ until this week, when a newspaper revealed that he now heads two New York City charities doing business with the city (in other words, with the public’s tax dollars). We at Horowitz Law are specialists in clergy sex crimes and cover-ups. As reported, the former priest is now named Edward Bolognini and heads two nonprofit organizations in New York City, with lucrative city contracts. Bolognini had been a well-known figure in New Hampshire as the Manchester diocese spokesman in the early 2000s. After his sins, and pleading guilty in court, he served four years in prison, spending some of that time in home confinement. He was released in 2018. Pope Francis had booted him from priesthood in 2017. So why are we blogging here about a priest/thief once named Fr. Edward Arsenault and now calling himself Edward Bolognini?
Because this particular priest also ran the most preeminent church-sponsored ‘treatment’ for child molesting Catholic clerics. And more importantly, a number of predator priests have done exactly what this convicted cleric did; change his name after being caught breaking the law (often moving to another state or the country, making it even harder and less likely for others to learn of their past misdeeds or monitor their current misdeeds). And because we all need to be reminded of how shrewd and determined wrongdoers, especially child molesters, and their enablers, can be.
Other clerical wrongdoers who’ve changed their names include the following, each of whom is either a proven, admitted, or credibly accused abuser.
- Fr. Bernardine George Dyer (of the archdioceses of Washington DC, San Francisco, and New Orleans and the dioceses of Providence, Montreal, Charleston, St. Petersburg, Brownsville, Galveston, Oakland, San Diego, Knoxville, Birmingham, and in Belgium) changed his name and/or now goes by Fr. George Dyer and Fr. George P. Dyer. He’s a Dominican cleric and is on the ‘credibly accused’ lists in the dioceses of Brownsville and Richmond and the archdiocese of Chicago.
- Fr. James F. Beine (of Missouri, Nevada, Illinois, and West Virginia) changed his name to Mar James. After being ousted by his Catholic supervisors, Beine taught in public schools and tried to get a teaching license in another state. He faced at least 36 accusers and was convicted twice: on possession of child porn and for exposing himself to three students. Both were later overturned. At least two dioceses list him as ‘credibly accused’ of abuse.
- Fr. Carmine Sita (of New Jersey and Missouri) changed his name to Gerald Howard. After pleading guilty in 1983 to giving a boy drugs and molesting him, he was sent to a church-run ‘treatment’ center, then to central Missouri, where he molested, and was convicted, again.
- Br. Robert Noel Brouillette (of Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, Illinois, Washington, and Missouri) changed his name to Robert Sullivan. In 2022, he was reportedly living at a church-run ‘treatment’ center near St. Louis but not on the Missouri sex offender registry, and the local sheriff’s office said his whereabouts were unknown and they think he’s “dodging” registering).
- Br. Joe Gutierrez (of California) changed his name to Jesse Gutierrez-Cervantes. He’s on the Oakland diocese’s ‘credibly accused’ list and has been repeatedly sued for abusing children. And no one should be surprised that this name-change tactic is also used by clerics who engage in sexual misconduct with adults.
- Br. Wladyslaw Gorak (of New Jersey) changed his name to Walter Fisher. In 2005, he was convicted of stalking a woman, and two dioceses settled a case stemming from his misconduct.
We should be clear: No one (as best we can tell) has accused Fr. Arsenault of abuse. But his case is a reminder that in a shocking number of instances, clerics who ignored or concealed child sex abuse by their colleagues suffer few or no consequences and are often able, because of their shrewdness and determination, to ‘bounce back’ and regain positions of power.
Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by religious authority figures and other clergy. If you need a lawyer because a member of a religious organization sexually abused you, please contact our law firm at 888-283-9922 or email sexual abuse lawyer Adam Horowitz at [email protected]. Our lawyers have decades of experience representing survivors of clergy sexual abuse nationwide. We can help.