‘Repugnant’ acts denounced
Fri, May 6 – 10:18 AM
By AARON BESWICK Truro Bureau
ANTIGONISH — Collecting child pornography is an “affront to the principle of human dignity,” says the leader of the Diocese of Antigonish.
Bishop Brian Dunn made the comment Thursday during a news conference held one day after Bishop Raymond Lahey, his predecessor, pleaded guilty to a charge of importing child pornography.
“We especially find repugnant any forms of child sexual exploitation because of the lasting consequences that these have on the gift of childhood,” said Dunn. “Here in this diocese, we are particularly aware of the harm that occurs when minors are sexually exploited.”
Dunn said he was “surprised” and “disturbed” by the revelation that Lahey had collected almost 600 images and videos of young boys, some estimated to be about eight years old, performing various sexual acts. None of the boys were from the local diocese.
Dunn said prison time would be “appropriate” for Lahey.
On Wednesday, the Ottawa judge hearing Lahey’s case granted the bishop’s request to go straight to jail. The bishop faces a mandatory minimum sentence of one year in jail and a maximum of 10 years. Sentencing has not yet been scheduled.
After leaving prison, Dunn said, Lahey will face either an administrative or ecclesiastical court, which can hand out punishments ranging from defrocking to penance.
“So many of you bravely came forward with a sincere desire for justice, truth and reconciliation,” said Dunn in a special message to the victims of sexual abuse at the hands of Antigonish diocese priests.
“I am sure that the matters that are being addressed today were particularly hurtful to you when first discovered and I am sorry that you now have to reopen some of your initial pain.”
Philip Latimer is one of those reliving that pain. Latimer said he and three of his brothers were abused by a priest while growing up in Havre Boucher.
He stood outside the news conference weighing Dunn’s words.
“It’s an apology and a step in the right direction,” Latimer said of Dunn’s apology. “What else can the diocese do?”
Latimer was disappointed that Lahey wasn’t immediately defrocked.
Contacts in Ottawa told him that Lahey had performed mass while waiting his court date, something Latimer said was “morally and ethically very wrong.”
As for his own faith, Latimer said that it remains strong.
“My personal faith between the Lord Jesus and myself is not affected,” he said.
“It is unaffected by those who claim to represent God while satisfying their own selfish desires.”
Despite his strong personal faith, Latimer said he hasn’t been to church in decades.
Latimer has launched his own lawsuit against the diocese.
It is separate from the class action launched by victims of sexual abuse by diocesan priests that Lahey helped settle for $15 million. The settlement was reached just days before Lahey’s September 2009 arrest at an Ottawa airport.
More than 70 claimants came forward to join the class action, many of whom had discussed their personal torture with Lahey.
On top of the $15 million for the class action, the diocese is seeking to raise an additional $3.5 million to cover individual lawsuits such as Latimer’s.
Rev. Paul Abbass said Thursday that about $4 million has been raised from the various parishes, another $3 million by liquidating the diocese’s investments and, to date, about $2 million from selling church properties.
Abbass said he is hopeful the diocese will raise the remaining money without selling parish halls, but that option remains as a last resort.
The diocese will make its first $5-million payment on the class action on May 31, another on Nov. 1 and the final one in 2012.
Last October, the diocese implemented an extensive protocol that, among other things, says diocese staff may not be alone with young people and vulnerable adults. Background checks also became mandatory for diocese staff.