Vatican could discipline disgraced Canadian bishop

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Bishop convicted on child porn charge faces ‘canonical penalties’

CBC News

Posted: Jan 5, 2012 7:46 AM NT

Last Updated: Jan 5, 2012 7:44 AM NT

Raymond Lahey walks quickly past reporters Wednesday after leaving an Ottawa courthouse a free man.Raymond Lahey walks quickly past reporters Wednesday after leaving an Ottawa courthouse a free man. (CBC)

Top Roman Catholic church officials are expected to discipline a Canadian bishop convicted of importing child pornography.

Raymond Lahey, 71, the former head of the Diocese of Antigonish in Nova Scotia was sentenced Wednesday to 15 months in prison and two years probation.

He was released from custody Wednesday afternoon because he received a two-for-one credit for time served since he pleaded guilty eight months ago. At a hearing in December, Lahey apologized for his actions.

Lahey pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography for the purpose of importation to Canada.

Lahey, originally from Newfoundland and Labrador, was caught in 2009 at Ottawa’s airport after authorities checked his personal computer and found a large cache of child pornography.

‘Life of prayer and penance’

In Newfoundland, Martin Currie, the archbishop of St. John’s, said Catholic officials in Rome are responding to the case.

“The Vatican has informed us that they are looking toward any possible disciplinary canonical penalties that the church itself may impose,” he said.

“There are three possibilities. First would be dismissal from the clerical state altogether. Secondly, he could be sentenced to a life of prayer and penance in a monastery, which in a sense would be house arrest. A third would be that he may be able to celebrate eucharist privately, but he would not be able to identify himself as a cleric by title, by address or by association.”

Lahey was a parish priest in eastern Newfoundland beginning in the early 1960s. He was a bishop in the western Newfoundland diocese of St. George’s between 1986 and 2003 and in Antigonish, N.S., until 2009.

Lahey stepped down as bishop of the Antigonish diocese in September 2009, before the charges against him became public. His resignation came just weeks after he announced a $15-million settlement between the diocese and dozens of victims who had been sexually abused as children by priests.

Currie says he will make a statement to parishioners at Sunday mass on Jan. 8.

Currie said the statement will express regret and assure people the church is working to ensure its officials aren’t involved in crimes like Lahey’s again.

11 Responses to Vatican could discipline disgraced Canadian bishop

  1. Sylvia says:

    The court was told yesterday that Lahey had personally written to the Holy Father to ask that he, Lahey, be laicized/defrocked. That was nearly a year ago. To date there has been nor response.

    Now Archbishop Currie tells us that: “The Vatican has informed us that they are looking toward any possible disciplinary canonical penalties that the church itself may impose.”

    This sounds like two different versions of events. Did or did not Bishop Lahey personally request laicization? If yes – and since Lahey himself was consulted in court on the issue that would seem to be the case – why is ‘the Vatican’ looking at what “disciplinary procedures” it may impose? Why are Church officials in the Vatican not busily deciding if they will or not (1) acknowledge and (2) comply with Lahey’s request for release?

    What exactly is going on?

  2. Sylvia: Remember that the Church has a court system which, like its civil counterpart has steps and procedures. Lahey may well plead guilty there too at which point his punishment will be applied. It most likely would be that he will be defrocked but there are other options (sent to a monastery for example). Just saying you want out doesn’t short-circuit the process any more than it does in the civil system.

    I think (but I am not 100% certain) that this is what’s causing the confusion. Put another way, I sure HOPE this is the case. It would be very wrong for Lahey to be spared the process just because his lawyer said that he wants out.

    Fr. Tim

    • Sylvia says:

      My problem Father is with the perception that the Vatican initiated a process apart from and independent of Lahey’s request to be ‘defrocked.’

      And it wasn’t a case of Lahey’s lawyer saying that Lahey wants out. Mr. Edelson (Lahey’s lawyer) consulted with Lahey during the proceedings. The message was that Lahey had written to the Holy Father nearly a year ago and, to date, there has been no response.

      If Lahey truly wants to be defrocked then, in light of the evidence in court, there should surely be no need for any great deliberations or tugging of hair to determine what if any discipline should be meted out?

      What, I wonder, did he say in his letter?

      No matter – I think I would be much more comfortable if Vatican officials et al admitted that Lahey has asked to laicized and that the authorities are currently considering his request. Unless both Lahey and Edelson were lying through their teeth in court, those seem to be the facts

    • Larry Green says:

      How can you even suggest that “ the churches court system “ should be regarded with any seriousness or legitimacy the status of – counterpart to the civil system – ? It’s another disgusting arrogant undertaking from groundless superiority .
      It would take a hell of a lot more than a guilty plea from the child porn Bishop to convince this so called ” civil counterpart court ( cockamamie , demented mockery of justice )” that this beast of a Bishop is just that… beast of a bishop. Keep it in the vatican, we don’t want it breathing among us. Let it have it’s white collar , it’s peacock attire and let it teach at the seminary. Make it a pope . Who knows , that may very well have been done already. That’s the only thing we haven’t heard yet . Brace yourselves !

      • MikeMc says:

        I have been bracing myself for that very thing! The truth will eventually come out. I’m quite sure the present Pope had known about all this as a Cardinal. What he did or didn’t do is documented there (Vatican), I’m sure.

  3. One other quick point: if he applied to be defrocked, why was he living in an Oblate residence? If a priest applies to be released from his vows, he must cease living in Church property asap. If he actually did ask to be removed from the clerical state he should have been made to move out. I’m fairly sure that going to jail doesn’t count!

    Fr. Tim

    • Larry Green says:

      Why would you be asking that question here? That sounds more like a question a lay person would ask a priest. Maybe that’s why pope has no answers…. he’s asking too. Oh well , I suppose as long as one is asking questions , there is the appearance of no connection between he and the problem .

  4. MikeMc says:

    Wow! When I look at Lahey’s photo above, I ask myself “Is this the man I knew?” Spoke with him often and enjoyed his rapport with my class. They enjoyed his discussions (confirmation class) and his humour and his “never mightier than thou” attitude. You asked these teens, “Who confirms you?”…and of course they all respond, “The Bishop”. But he would say, “No, God confirms you – the bishop is just his instrument.”
    And now to see him like this. I feel sad for sure. But I am also aware that he was leading a double life. I remember the first Mass he said in our parish as the new Bishop. His sermon described his earlier life working with the CN rail…and he felt he was “called to the Priesthood.” At that time we all still felt men were mysteriously called by God to serve in its Priesthood and it was a life of celibacy. Tough thing to do…..but they didn’t become a priest the next day after that “call”. It would be years before ordination.
    My point ? Is all this a sham about the priesthood? Is celibacy unnatural? Perhaps forced on them who do wish to do good? Was Lahey already “bent” before he even became a priest? Was he troubled by his insecurities as a young man? Or was he planning this at this time in his life? Access to kids, confessions, possible abuse? The Mount Cashel situation and his involvement there certainly have yet to fully come to light.
    Then as I read through Sylvia’s site at other priest abusers and all the “sending them around” to places like Southdown and eventually other parishes, I truly begin to see a greater picture evolving here. And I wonder if it wasn’t for the public outcry and the courts if this would still be happening today! Thank God it has stopped! If Rome sends this man to a life of pennance and prayer in a monastery, do you think Lahey will go? I think it would only make his life more miserable. No, allow him to live out his days quietly….and hopefully monitored…so he will not abuse again. That’s about all we can do. Does he get a pension from Halifax/Rome/Newfoundland etc? I don’t know.
    But I do know this man has been disgraced publicly and the earthly punishment that is about to begin, has to be gut-wrenching. I mean it all strated that day at the airport and hasn’t stopped. It will continue in some form for sure.
    As for the RC Church and reading connections like Bishop Currie and his connections to Fr Michael Walsh in St Brendans etc, I see it all CONTINUES and will continue. There are so many other examples at this site that Sylvia has so amazingly presented and documented. I seriously question the RC church- from the present Pope on down. I’ve said before, I’m sure there are papers and evidence in the Vatican vaults that are either being destroyed (for the supposed sake of the Church) or hidden. I’ve also said there is enough gold on the Vatican “walls, paining frames and rings” to help abuse victims get back a life. The victims, of course, will never regain that childhhood innocense, but they can be helped.
    It’s time authorities get into these vaults and filing cabinets of Bishops’ and Cardinals’ palaces and reveal not only the abuse scandals, but the TRUTH about how the priesthood has conducted itself over many many years. Alcohol, tobacco, vacations, salaries, mansions,…..the best that money can buy.
    As for former Bishop Lahey, I feel saddened but also very realistic and aware of the RC Church and where it is going and where it has come from.
    Sylvia, keep up the good work. I will now leave this site and only return now and again. It’s just too much all at one time. But I hope your revelations/documents/and people’s reactions continue to wake up not only Catholis but all people…..and bring help to victims in whatever way it can.

  5. Sylvia says:

    MikeMc

    I often look back and wonder how I might have dealt with what I now know 20 years ago. I have had the ‘good’ fortune learning a little bit of the scandal at a time, probably from the time I reluctantly realized that a priest I once knew was living a double life.

    I often say that I believe these men have hijacked our Church. I do believe that, -to the depth of my being. There are good priests in the Church and there always have been – those who have lived and live both celibate and chaste lives. They suffer greatly for the sins and crimes committed by their peers. The faithful everywhere suffer too: the victims of predatory clergy suffer, as do parishioners who can no longer trust their bishop to ensure that the priest in the sanctuary – or wherever he may be – is NOT a known or convicted sexual predator.

    The suffering will not abate until such time as Church officials decide to actively purge the priesthood of all clergy who have lived their lives as wolves in sheep’s clothing.

    Yes, it’s sad to see a man like Lahey fall to such depths of depravity. However, Bishop Lahey has proven himself unfit to lead a flock, and equally unfit to serve as a priest in the Roman Catholic Church. He should not be allowed to remain in the priesthood. As a layman he can lead a life of prayer and penance, but, please, not as a priest.

    You mention Bishop Lahey saying that it is God who confirms, not the Bishop. Perhaps this was preparatory to the day when many bishops chose to abdicate that role and turn it over to priest? I don’t know what’s been happening in that vein in Newfoundland, but I do know that many years ago it became the norm in the Archdiocese of Ottawa for priests to confirm.

    Anyway MikeMc, my final thoughts: hold on to your faith. You still have it, hold on tight. And fight the good fight where and when you can to protect our children and restore the sanctity of the priesthood.

  6. Terranovan says:

    I understand from talking to people who lived in the diocese of Bp. Lahey when he was in Newfoundland that he treated orthodox Catholics with disdain. Maybe some of them will send in their stories. There are markers for the sort of activities Bp. Lahey engaged in. Often decadent clergy have been liturgists, Barry Glendinning for example. They must pervert the liturgy so that it will not assail their consciences. No silence is permitted as it might give them a minute in which to consider their disordered lifestyles. Often they are dissidents preaching against Church teachings that are in opposition to their thinking and way of life if they are not preaching vapid contentless homilies as they cannot teach the truth.

    The reaction of the authorities is more than disgusting. They are sad. They should be mad. The absence of anger is troubling. I’ll say no more.

  7. Cheryl-Helene Thomson says:

    Archbishop Currie of Newfoundland – ha – probably didn’t even know that Lahey had ever written to Rome. I wouldn’t be surprised. If he doesn’t bother read the news himself, but relies on an assistant to keep him informed on whatever – he was just misinformed and gave an interview accordingly. I don’t think we have to look for any hidden significance here. Just more irresponsible carelessness (and I-could-care-lessedness) from one of the Canadian Church’s stalwart leaders. And you’re right on the money, Terranovan. The underhanded, crass treatment of orthodox Catholics in the St. John’s diocese is so blatant and patently stupid that it would be funny if it weren’t so disgusting. Currie pretends to be a ‘moderator,’ but he feeds on this misery like a leech, for his own aggrandizement.

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