Public not happy with Lahey sentence

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The Cape Breton Post

04 January 2012

By Greg McNeil – Cape Breton Post

SYDNEY — Raymond Lahey’s sentence, handed out in an Ottawa court on Wednesday, was too light, according to an informal survey of area residents.

The former bishop of the diocese of Antigonish was sentenced to 15 months in jail and two years probation based on his 2009 arrest for possessing pornographic photos of young boys. He pleaded guilty in May to possession of child pornography for the purpose of importation.

“The issue here seems to be that the crime is more heinous in a sense because of the circumstances,” said Scott Stewart, chair of the department of philosophy and religious studies at Cape Breton University.

“He’s not just a priest, but a bishop, and I guess also the fact that he was in the middle of settling an abuse case, so certainly was aware of the problems with that. I guess (I’m) disappointed that those extra factors weren’t calculated into the penalty.”

When he was arrested, Lahey 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.

Philomena Sutherland said she was disgusted by the sentence.

“It’s a good thing I wasn’t the judge,” she said. “He had a good lawyer who knew he would get double time.”

Because Lahey was given double credit for the eight months he has served since last spring, he has been released on probation.

That was a troubling point for many.

“We put people in jail for fraud for longer than that,” said Chris, who asked that his last name not be used. “I think he should be put in danger for a lot longer.

“He stayed in custody because he knew he would get double time.”

Many said they also worried that others in the church would be judged by Lahey’s conviction.

“The sentence should have been longer,” said Jody Sutherland.

“All those good priests out there trying to hold it together, I feel sorry for them.”

No matter what the charge, Stewart said the church suffers bad publicity whenever cases such as Lahey’s make the news.

“I’m not a Catholic, but the Catholic community I know has  suffered a lot in this diocese by having to sell a lot of its property,” the professor said, referring to the settlement of the $15-million class-action lawsuit brought by former child sexual abuse victims.

“That’s had a pretty negative impact on a lot of lives, outside of the young boys that were used to make the videos and pictures and so on.”

The entire matter has caused a great deal of hurt, disappointment and anger, according to a statement from the diocese of Antigonish.

“Church leaders are called to provide a good example and to show moral integrity in their lives,” Bishop Brian Dunn said in the statement.

“When they commit serious moral failures, this can have a significant impact on the faith community.”

Dunn added that the diocese is committed to establishing safe and supportive communities for young people and vulnerable adults.

“I regret that so many people have been disturbed and upset by these sad events.”

gmcneil@cbpost.com

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Comments

  • Username
    FRED
    – January 5, 2012 at 08:41:01

    Another white collar crime let them go with a slap on the hand .

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  • Username
    RICKFROMSCOTCHTOWN
    – January 5, 2012 at 06:39:02

    this is another slap in the face for capers first priests here molested boys,then the church sold off properties that hard working people payed their tides to buy over the years then the guy who was in charge of the settlement was found guilty and given a token sentence in court just leaves a sour taste in everyones mouth no wonder why the catholic church is losing thier flock in droves

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