Diocese comments on Vatican dismissal of Lahey

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The Casket (Antigonish, Nova Scotia)

Posted on May 16, 2012

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishop’s announced Wednesday that the Holy See has dismissed Raymond Lahey (centre), former Bishop of Antigonsh, from the clerical state. (CCN file photo)

Former Diocese of Antigonish Bishop Raymond Lahey has been dismissed from the clerical state. The announcement was made by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) Wednesday afternoon.

Lahey, who pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography for the purpose of importation last May, had been sentenced to 15 months in prison and two years probation Jan. 4. Since he had opted go directly to jail before sentencing, the judge agreed with Lahey’s lawyers’ arguments that he should get two-for-one credit. Having served eight months, Lahey has been free from jail since.

Bishop Brian Dunn, who replaced Lahey, issued a statement regarding the dismissal which he called “one of the most serious penalties that the Church can impose.”

“This will mean that he will no longer function as a cleric, will no longer have the rights and duties of being a cleric, is not permitted to exercise any ecclesiastical offices or functions and is not permitted to preside at any of the sacraments or religious services.”

Dunn noted that any sacraments Lahey performed prior to the Vatican’s decision will remain valid and effective. He said the decision reminds people of the harms of pornography.

The Vatican’s decision also concludes both the criminal and canonical processes connected to Lahey’s crimes.

“It remained for the Holy See to follow the canonical procedures in effect for such cases to determine what appropriate disciplinary or penal measures would be imposed,” the CCCB’s statement said.

In addition to losing his clerical rights and duties, Lahey will no longer be able to wear clerical attire. He will also be required “to pray the Liturgy of the Hours in reparation for the harm and the scandal he has caused, and for the sanctification of clergy.”

The CCCB release said Lahey has accepted the Decree of Dismissal. Lahey’s probation includes stipulations such as a computer search at any time at work or home, having to advise his probation officer if he leaves Canada for more than 48 hours and the forfeiting of electronic devices seized at the airport when he was stopped.

On Sept. 15, 2009, a Canadian Border Services (CBSA) agent flagged Lahey for a secondary search when he returned to Canada aboard a flight from London. He had been traveling alone and his passport showed he had visited Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Germany.

A preliminary inspection revealed images of young males engaged in sex acts. The Ottawa police were contacted and continued the investigation, finding several more images.

Det. Andrew Thompson, the Ottawa police officer who did the forensic exam of Lahey’s laptop and other electronic devices, gave brief descriptions of some of the 588 images and 60 videos he found that depicted boys as young as eight to 10 engaging in sexual acts with each other or adult males.

He also found pornographic stories on the bishop’s hard drives — one running to 300 pages in length — that he categorized under five themes: mastery and slavery involving adults and young boys; humiliation of young boys; torture of young boys; sex acts between young boys; and degradation of young boys or forcing sex acts on them.

Bishop Dunn’s statement addressed the parishioners of the diocese.

“However, much hurt, sadness and anger continue to be present in the hearts of many as we reflect on these events,” Dunn wrote. “The lives of many have been seriously altered as a result of the challenges that have arisen.”

He asked all those in the diocesan family to continue to work together to renew the Church. The diocese is preparing for a Diocesan Renewal Congress to take place in October 2013. Parishes are seeking input from parishioners and the diocese conducting surveys through its website and Facebook page.

“We continue to offer opportunities in the parish and the diocese to re-establish and deepen the relationships with all who are connected with our Church,” Dunn said. “May we all depend on the power of the Risen Lord to bring us hope and new life as we continue to move through this tragic situation that has marked our diocese.”

With files from Deborah Gyapong

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