Posted: May 5, 2011 5:25 PM AT
Last Updated: May 5, 2011 7:28 PM AT
A bishop in Nova Scotia apologized to victims of clerical sexual abuse on Thursday, particularly those involved in a settlement negotiated with the help of his disgraced predecessor, Bishop Raymond Lahey.
Bishop Brian Dunn — the current leader of the diocese of Antigonish — said during a news conference that despite Lahey’s child pornography conviction there was no deception in the $15-million settlement he helped negotiate.
“So many of you bravely came forward with the sincere desire for justice, truth and reconciliation. I’m sure that the matters that are being addressed the last couple of days were particularly harmful to you when first discovered and I am sorry that you now have to reopen some your initial pain,” said Dunn.
“Let me assure you that this diocese has, over the past year, continued to seek our shared goal of reconciliation and we will do everything within our power to continue along this path.”
Lahey, 70, pleaded guilty Wednesday to possession of child pornography for the purposes of importation to Canada. He waived his right to bail and asked to begin serving time immediately to get credit after sentencing.
Lahey was charged in September 2009 after he was arrested at the Ottawa airport while returning to Nova Scotia from a trip to Europe. He was flagged for a secondary inspection and border services officials found images and videos of child pornography on his laptop.
Less than two months prior to his arrest, Lahey had announced the successful negotiation of a landmark settlement with people who said they were sexually abused by priests going back to the 1950s.
In August 2009, Bishop Raymond Lahey (left) announced a landmark $15-million settlement for victims of sexual abuse. (CBC)He was not implicated in the allegations, but apologized to the victims and said they were entitled to the trust and protection of priests in the church.
On Thursday, Dunn admitted there had been “troubled times” at churches and a decline in attendance at some parishes, though he said he was not sure how much Lahey’s case had been a factor.
“As I’ve gone around in the last year, many people are very upset by the charges and are devastated by the experience of the bishop being charged,” said Dunn.
“I’ve heard from various priests that this is a difficult time in the parish of trying to assist people to come to terms with this in terms of our leadership.”
Bishop Pierre Morissette, the president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, told CBC News on Thursday that Lahey will be tried by the church after he has served his time in custody.
Morissette said the disgraced bishop will become the first Canadian bishop to go through the canonical trial process, which could result in Lahey being expelled from the church.
Dunn said it would be up to the Vatican and the Holy See to decide the appropriate punishment, which could include anything from a dismissal from the clerical state to a time of prayer and penance.
“The Vatican and the Holy See, through the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is the group that has the authority to deal with a bishop in this situation. So they will initiate the appropriate response,” he said.
Lahey’s next court appearance is set for May 26.