A test for the church

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The Ottawa Citizen

06 January 2012


It might have shocked some to see disgraced Catholic Bishop Raymond Lahey walk out of an Ottawa courtroom this week after being sentenced to time served for possession of child pornography. But that doesn’t mean his sentence was too lenient.

The court conferred an appropriate sentence on Lahey, who had been in jail for eight months, and faces restrictions on his behaviour that extend for the next 20 years. But now it is up to the Catholic Church to take action that restores the faith of members disillusioned and shaken by the actions of Lahey and other members of the Catholic clergy.

Lahey’s case is intrinsically shocking. In possessing images of children being abused he was contributing to their victimization and revictimization. And not only is he a Catholic bishop, but he is the one who, as bishop of Antigonish, Nova Scotia, negotiated a multimillion-dollar settlement for victims of child sexual abuse by clergy.

When Ontario Court Justice Kent Kirkland pronounced the sentence of 15 months which, with enhanced credit for time served, would mean Lahey was free to go, one man in court erupted with a profanity-laced outburst. The man later said he had been sexually abused by priests in Alfred.

It it not surprising people who have been affected by the sexual abuse scandal would feel betrayed and angry. That is something the Church must address.

When Lahey was arrested while returning from a trip abroad in September 2009, police found 588 child pornography images, along with 63 videos and several stories with themes of slavery. Lahey pleaded guilty in May and voluntarily surrendered. The court ruled that the mandatory minimum of one year was not enough in Lahey’s case. Having now served time in jail, he will be placed on probation for two years and his name will be on the national sex offenders registry.

Earlier this year, the Catholic Church’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith approved new rules that make it a crime under canon law to possess child pornography. Lahey’s will be the first case dealt with under those laws. It is an opportunity for the Catholic Church to reach out to people harmed by the ongoing sex scandals involving clergy. Lahey’s case makes it clear there is plenty of work yet to be done.

3 Responses to A test for the church

  1. Sylvia says:

    Part of the anger which prompted the man’s outburst was the 15 month sentence with 2:1 credit which allowed Lahey to ‘walk’ right then and there.

    Yes, the Church must reach out to those who have been betrayed and/or abused by clergy, and a good start in this case is defrocking the bishop. But, the judiciary also must put words into action. It is not good enough to talk and chatter away about the horrors of child porn – sentencing must reflect the horror of the crime.

    Sentencing for child porn can range from a minimum of one year to a max. of ten. Lahey ‘got’ 15 months. Why not at least five years? Why not six?

    Fifteen months, with 2:1 credit for time served. Why a measly 15 months?

    What’s the message?

    This from a judge who could not bear to look at the picture of the gagged and hog-tied nude boy?

    Lahey is out and about now. In time, by the grace of God and by at least year’s end, he will be MR. Raymond Lahey. And he will still be out and about. He should be behind bars for a few years, either as Bishop Raymond Lahey or as MR. Raymond Lahey.

  2. JG says:

    If you can look back on the brief media coverage of “that man” who was probably escorted outside by the security robots after his Court room outburst, your first impression, your first biased look would be to question his sanity…to look down on him because he didn’t have that “fresh” , “clean” look displayed by the “baby face bishop”…
    Financial and personal issues!!!…be honest with yourself and reject the “first impression”…Look back! I am/have gone through the exercise…

    How many young boys, how many young girls have been “re-classified” by our society, with the assistance of the old clergy and the “new” clergy(medical gurus!)??…
    How many because they were acting “strange”, “different”, were sent back to the “abusing” clergy by parents who just didn’t understand…
    How many were labeled as “mental” cases, filled with pills and prayed for every Sunday morning….Because they weren’t like the others…
    How many the victims of the clergy in our society???…locked away, not believed, not hired, called names, looked at with our “better than thou” attitude…Let’s be honest!

    How many homeless, drug addicts…”brown paper bags”, grocery cart pushers…
    while priests, bishops and Rome lived in opulence, got fat and filled the coffers of the “Holy” bank with billions and billions of faithful sacrifices…
    The Catholic Church, previously “my church” as well, doesn’t have enough money, art, paintings or class to even begin to repairs the evil it has inflicted on the victims, their families and our society in general.
    It was one year ago today that Rob Talach informed me the “church” had lied to me , my family and to everyone who read their advertising in all the New Brunswick media and beyond.
    The proposed settlement is a farce and anything but a sign of repentance or reparation by this 2000 year old sect. I have changed a lot in a year but I feel it is a blessing from beyond. The veil has been lifted and the church’s mask is so transparent now.
    It is just a bigger sect with more time on their record…The “Message” should have changed the world but from the beginning they chose to look after their needs first…Not much has changed in 2000 years…today “someone” would try to make some money off the “internet” with such a good idea…
    Priests, bishops, popes,…time for them to beg for food, for shelter, for social status…
    They have started practicing already by making us believe they are victims…
    Lahey victim of addiction!?…He is/was not a representative of any Heavenly Power, he is not a “Mr.” Lahey…The only “Mr.”, was escorted out of the court house in Ottawa…
    What a sick mess they have made of the lives of so many.

  3. JG says:

    …”that man”…MR. Roger Touchette.
    He and the other victims need to be called “Mister”, or “Miss”, or “Misses” …Enough of their dignity has been taken away in their lifetime. We all need to start paying them, the victims, back with a little dignity. We know the church won’t do it!…
    A resolution for the new year…

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