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    Worcester bishop pleads guilty to refusing breathalyzer test

    McManus told police he had a glass of wine and a drink with dinner, a report says.
    McManus told police he had a glass of wine and a drink with dinner, a report says.

    Bishop Robert J. McManus of Worcester, charged last week with drunken driving and leaving the scene of an accident in Rhode Island, pleaded guilty to refusing a breathalyzer test Tuesday and will lose his license for six months, authorities said.

    McManus, who was arrested after failing three field sobriety tests, must pay more than $900 in fines and court costs, complete 10 hours of community service, and enroll in an alcohol education program.

    “All of this is standard for a first offense,” said Craig Berke, a spokesman for the Rhode Island court system.


    The plea was made before a magistrate at the state’s traffic tribunal, which has jurisdiction over civil traffic offenses.

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    Authorities said it was common in such pleas for the drunken driving charge to get dismissed. McManus will also lose his driving privileges in Massachusetts for six months.

    A spokesman for McManus, Ray Delisle, said the loss of ­license will not prevent ­McManus from carrying out his duties as head of the Catholic Diocese of Worcester.

    McManus was arrested in Narragansett May 4 after allegedly hitting a car in traffic and driving away. When police questioned him, his speech was slurred and his eyes were “severely bloodshot,” according to a police report.

    McManus told the officer “he may have hit a vehicle, but he didn’t realize he did,” the ­report stated. Police said it took him 15 seconds to retrieve his wallet from his pocket and that he was unable to count. The officer halted a sobriety test, saying that because McManus was so unsteady he feared he might fall.


    According to the report, McManus told police he had a glass of wine and a mixed drink with a steak and pasta dinner in Providence. He ­refused a breathalyzer test.

    Police were alerted to the accident by a Warwick police dispatcher, who called 911 to report that he was the victim of a hit-and-run accident. He followed the car for 2 miles until it arrived at the home of ­McManus’s siblings.

    At his arraignment last week, McManus, 61, pleaded not guilty.

    In a statement, McManus said he made a “terrible error in judgment” by driving after consuming alcohol. “There is no excuse for the mistake I made, only a commitment to make amends and accept the consequences of my action.”

    “More importantly,” he said, “I ask forgiveness from the good people whom I serve, as well as my family and friends, in the Diocese of Worcester and the Diocese of Providence.”


    McManus, who has led the Roman Catholic Diocese since 2004, declined comment through a spokesman. His lawyer could not be reached for comment.

    Last year, McManus drew controversy when Anna Maria College, a small Catholic school near Worcester, rescinded a speaking invitation to Victoria Reggie Kennedy at the bishop’s urging.

    Through a spokesman, McManus said his actions were consistent with the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ statement “that Catholic institutions should not honor Catholics who take positions publicly which are contrary to the Catholic faith’s most fundamental principles.’’

    In 2007, McManus asked the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester not to rent space to a conference on teen pregnancy because representatives from Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts were expected to attend.

    Peter Schworm can be reached at ­Follow him on Twitter @globepete.