Bishop on probation

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St. John’s Telegram

05 January 2012

Steve Rennie

A disgraced Roman Catholic bishop who got caught with hundreds of pornographic photos of young boys walked out of an Ottawa courthouse  Wednesday after being sentenced to 15 months in jail and two years’ probation.

Because Ontario Court Justice Kent Kirkland gave Raymond Lahey, who was bishop in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, double credit for the eight months he has served since last spring, the cleric has finished his jail sentence and was released on probation.

Lahey, 71, didn’t say a word to the throng of journalists waiting for him as he left the courthouse, got into a waiting car and was driven away by an unidentified woman.

Kirkland also imposed a series of stringent probation rules.

Among other things, Lahey had to submit a DNA sample and register as a sex offender. He will also have to allow searches of his personal and office computers when required by the authorities.

Lahey has also been ordered to keep away from swimming pools, daycares and schools.

“The most difficult task for a judge in determining an appropriate sentence is the balancing of the fundamental principles … while at the same time infusing the nature and character of the offender,” Kirkland said.

“This task is particularly onerous here. On one hand, the sexual exploitation of children is an offence that cries out for significant reprisal.

“On the other hand, the personal circumstances of this offender, who accepts responsibility for his wayward conduct, defies the urgency of incarceration.”

Images, stories included torture

Lahey pleaded guilty last May to one count of importing child pornography and voluntarily went to jail.

He was arrested at the Ottawa airport in September 2009 after customs authorities found hundreds of pornographic photos of young boys on his laptop and a handheld device.

Of the 155,000 pornographic images found on Lahey’s laptop and handheld device, 588 photos and 63 videos were of young boys engaged in various sexual acts, including some involving bondage and torture.

The court heard Lahey’s collection included pornographic photos featuring Catholic imagery, including young boys wearing crucifixes and rosary beads engaged in sex acts, and a man dressed as a monk hitting a young boy’s bare buttocks with a paddle.

Among the contents of Lahey’s laptop were pornographic stories about children which, like some of the photos, depicted torture.

A psychiatrist told the court the bishop is not a pedophile.

At a sentencing hearing last month, Lahey offered an apology to his church and to victims of child pornography.

When he was arrested, he was bishop of Antigonish, N.S. and chancellor of St. Francis Xavier University there. He had been actively involved in the settlement of a $15-million, class-action lawsuit brought by former child sexual abuse victims in the Antigonish diocese. He apologized to the victims and said they were entitled to protection from priests.

Lahey’s lawyer, Michael Edelson, said the bishop’s church career is over. Lahey contacted the Vatican a year ago about resigning, but he has not yet received a response.

“He did ask, as I said, to be reduced to layman status,” Edelson said. “It hasn’t happened yet.”

Crown attorney David Elhadad said the sentence sends a message that harsh penalties await those who commit child-porn crimes.

“The collectors of this filth are a vital part of the evil menace it represents, and they bear responsibility for its malignant growth, right along with its creators,” Elhadad said.

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