A Roman Catholic priest told parishioners he was in love with an underage girl with whom he had an inappropriate relationship more than 20 years ago.
The Rev. James Haller, 66, resigned Thursday as priest at St. Peter Church. He has been barred from functioning as a priest.
A lawyer for the now-grown woman revealed the relationship to Manchester Diocese lawyers last weekend. She also has met with the state attorney general’s office.
In his resignation letter Thursday, Haller said he had planned to marry the girl.
”I was unable to make the decision to leave the priesthood, and the relationship ended,” he wrote.
The diocese has offered counseling services to the woman and to parishioners. The relationship occurred before Haller became priest at St. Peter 17 years ago.
In his letter, Haller asked parishioners for prayers and forgiveness. Besides resigning from the priesthood, he resigned from his administrative position at the Manchester East Deanery.
Neither the attorney general nor diocese spokesmen would reveal the girl’s age at the time of the relationship, except to confirm that she was younger than 18.
It is the ”first and only” report of such misconduct by Haller, a diocese statement said.
In a statement Saturday, Bishop John McCormack said he was deeply saddened by the situation.
”While it is difficult to bear this news about someone who, in many other ways, has served the Church so faithfully, we need to remain faithful to our commitment that even one instance of abuse of a minor is unacceptable in priestly ministry,” McCormack said.
Early last week, Haller met with the Rev. Edward Arsenault, the diocese’s delegate on sexual misconduct cases. Arsenault said he decided the woman’s story was credible and recommended to a diocese review board and McCormack that Haller be banned from functioning as a priest.
McCormack accepted the recommendation. ”This case is closed,” Arsenault told The Union Leader.
Attorney General Phil McLaughlin would not comment on the case.