DOVER, N.H. (AP) – The parish council at St. Charles Borromeo church says the Catholic diocese should reimburse it for the expense of doing without their priest for nine months while he was suspended.

Rev. Paul Gregoire was reinstated in August after allegations that he molested a girl nearly 30 years ago were deemed groundless.

In a letter to Bishop John McCormack distributed to parishioners this weekend, the council accused McCormack of botching the investigation and keeping Gregoire off the pulpit longer than necessary.

They want to be reimbursed $14,600 – its cost of hiring interim priests in Gregoire’s absence.

Rev. Ed Arsenault, a diocese spokesman, said the bishop will respond to the council’s letter privately. He would not say whether the diocese would reimburse the church.

The letter charged that McCormack was aware early in the investigation that the charges were baseless, when he received letters from the accuser’s relatives disputing the story.

“This fiasco should have ended at that time, but you chose to extend it for seven more months,” the letter reads in part.

“I don’t think we are trying to make a point,” Thelma Anne Gitschier, the council secretary, told the Concord Monitor.

“We have our pastor back, and that is what we wanted. I think we are just trying to get back on our feet. We are seeing if the diocese will help us.”

The parish council is not asking the diocese to reimburse it for a 30-percent drop in offerings during the time Gregoire was suspended.

McCormack has taken credit for the decision to reinstate Gregoire, a scenario Gregoire and the parish council have challenged. They say the Vatican ordered the reinstatement after Gregoire appealed to Rome.

After his reinstatement, Gregoire circulated his private correspondence from the Vatican and said he had seen no evidence of McCormack’s support.

Gregoire’s letter from the Vatican says Vatican officials cleared him and granted his appeal because they didn’t see enough evidence to support the allegation.

The Vatican letter does not acknowledge any support for Gregoire from McCormack. But a diocese spokesman has said McCormack has documents that demonstrate he supported Gregoire’s reinstatement. He has declined to release those documents.

AP-ES-10-04-03 1404EDT

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