This is the text of a Letter to the Editor by Cheryl Helena Delacroix Thomson which appeared in the Saturday 18 September 2010 edition of the St. John’s Telegram.
Re: Most Reverend Martin W. Currie
Three months ago, the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of St. John’s released a Statement of Defense in the civil suit launched by Todd Boland, who is seeking damages against it, as well as Bishop Raymond John Lahey personally, in connection with Mr. Boland’s allegations of abuse from the ages of 11-14. According to the claim, Boland was abused by then Father Lahey several times over four years in the early 1980s while he was at the Mount Cashel Orphanage. The accusations include simulated anal intercourse and fondling.
Bishop Raymond John Lahey was serving in the early 1980s as Vicar-General of St. John’s, as well as Pastoral Priest at Mount Cashel. Both his religious and academic credentials were well-respected. Born in 1940 and educated at the University of Ottawa, Father Lahey was also employed for four years by Memorial University as Head of the Religious Studies Department, 1978-1982. But his reputation was to be publicly tarnished later in 1989 at the original Mount Cashel inquiry. Mr. Shane Earle has stated that he then testified that while being alone one afternoon in the residence of Bishop Lahey, he saw pornographic magazines featuring male teenagers, and a collection of similar videos, in the priest’s bedroom. Bishop Lahey served as the Pastor of St. Peter’s Parish in Mount Pearl in the mid-1980s.
A criminal case is also pending against Bishop Lahey for transporting child pornography into Canada on his laptop computer, as reported by Canada Border Security at the Ottawa Airport, upon his arrival from London, England, in September 2009.
This letter is being written to respectfully request that Archbishop Currie comment publicly, certainly not about this pending lawsuit and its specifics, nor on the criminal prosecution of Bishop Lahey, but instead about another matter entirely, with which Bishop Lahey is only peripherally concerned, if at all.
The documented records strongly suggest that both Bishop Lahey and Archbishop Currie are acquainted with Father Michael J. Walsh, a retired elderly priest who is still officially recognized as an acting member of the clergy, being presently incardinated in Grand Falls, Newfoundland, in the Diocese of St. John’s. Today he also holds the office of Associate Judicial Vicar of the Diocesan Marriage Tribunal, in the Archdiocese of Halifax.
Father Walsh is a convicted child molester. At trial in Grand Falls in 1991, he was found guilty of six counts related to the sexual abuse of teenaged boys, while two additional counts were dropped by the Crown. The offences dated from the mid-1980s, in Grand Falls and in the Buchans.
However, subsequent to his sentencing, in 1997, he moved to Halifax. At the time, Archbishop Currie was the Rector of St. Mary’s Basilica in Halifax, as well as Chancellor and Vicar-General. He also served as Chaplain for the RCMP in the Archdiocese of Halifax. In the year 2000, convicted child molester Father Walsh was incardinated in Halifax.
After Archbishop Currie’s departure from Nova Scotia, also in the year 2000, to assume duties as Bishop in St. John’s, Father Walsh continued to exercise the full faculties of the priesthood in Halifax, including celebrating the Mass. Visitors from Newfoundland who attended a Mass at St. Mary’s Basilica, and recognized Father Walsh as the celebrant, reportedly walked out of the church. An account exists of a second similar incident.
Father Michael J. Walsh also served for a time as Chaplain at Victoria General Hospital, as recently as 2004, providing spiritual counsel to the sick and dying, and their relatives, and children.
As late as September 2005, he performed a Funeral Mass at St. Peter’s Church in Dartmouth for the family of the late William Bartlett “Bill” Emberly, a veteran of World War II. I was able to personally confirm this information. The fact that there is another Father Michael Walsh, twenty years younger, serving in the Archdiocese of Halifax, makes careful and meticulous research of the facts necessary, but eyewitness testimony is relatively easy to obtain, considering the obvious difference in the ages of these two individuals.
The Archbishop of Halifax from 1998 to 2007 was Terrence Prendergast, subsequently named Archbishop of Ottawa in 2007, as Archbishop Anthony Mancini assumed office in Halifax that same year.
It is my hope that the help of Archbishop Prendergast could also be obtained, to ascertain his version of these events, as well.
The Catholic constituency of Atlantic Canada, and the public-atlarge here in Newfoundland, would benefit, I believe, from a personal explanation from Archbishop Currie as to the reason why he supported Father Michael J. Walsh in his ministry in Nova Scotia from 1997-2000. It would also be helpful to have his comment on the fact that Father Walsh, being originally incardinated in Grand Falls, then incardinated in Halifax some years after his criminal conviction, previously serving the diocese as a priest while the Archbishop was Chancellor and Vicar-General of Halifax, is currently now incardinated once again in Grand Falls.
The peripheral involvement of Bishop Raymond John Lahey in the matter of Father Walsh is only of interest in so far as both Fathers Lahey and Walsh served as priests in Newfoundland for twenty-plus years during the same time period. Then, while Father Walsh was incardinated in Halifax and performing the duties of the priesthood there beginning in 2000, Father Lahey was transferred to Nova Scotia and became the Bishop of Antigonish in April 2003.
Father Walsh and Bishop Lahey were both in Nova Scotia in 2003-2004. Certainty about the exact year Father Walsh moved back to Newfoundland, or if indeed he now resides in Newfoundland, has been difficult to obtain. The assistance of Archbishop Currie in providing necessary clarification would be appreciated.
Ironically, it was as Bishop of Antigonish in 2009, prior to his arrest, that Bishop Lahey struck the deal for payment of an $18.5 million sexual abuse settlement, which now involves the sale by his former diocese of 400 local properties, ranging from parish and community halls to unoccupied houses and rectories. The class action suit named six priests specifically from the Diocese of Antigonish, with sexual abuse allegations covering the years 1950-2009. Father Michael J. Walsh was not among them. He was incardinated in Halifax, not Antigonish, and only later incardinated for the second time in Newfoundland, again during Archbishop Currie’s current term.
It is interesting that Archbishop Currie, ex-Bishop Lahey, Bishop Terrence Prendergast, and Father Michael J. Walsh, are all contemporaries. In the circles in which they have all been active as priests in Atlantic Canada, it would seem reasonable to believe that the background, actions, and respective characters of Bishop
Lahey and Father Walsh would be familiar to the entire group.
It is documented that one of the two Principal Co-Consecrators present at the original ordination in 2001 of Archbishop Currie as Bishop of St. John’s, Newfoundland, was none other than Bishop Raymond John Lahey himself.
I am sure that Archbishop Currie is well aware that the clock has run out for cover-ups of paedophile priests. Events worldwide bear witness to the fact that full transparency is required from the Catholic Church, particularly from those in high office, and delays are not now acceptable.
To help the Archbishop in considering his response to the issues raised here, I would respectfully suggest some questions he might address:
(1) Did Father Walsh celebrate the Mass at St. Mary’s Basilica while Archbishop Currie served as the Rector?
(2) Did Father Walsh fill in at other churches in Nova Scotia, to replace priests during holidays or other absences – while Archbishop Currie served as Vicar-General of the Halifax Diocese?
(3) Were any parishioners in Nova Scotia told that Father Walsh was a convicted child molester?
(4) Who made the decision for Father Walsh to become Chaplain at Victoria General Hospital, Halifax?
(5) Were Victoria General Hospital officials advised of Father Walsh’s criminal conviction?
(6) What specific priestly duties has Father Walsh performed recently in Newfoundland?
The Canadian Press, April 9, 2010, quotes Archbishop Currie as follows:
“And I want to say as a church, we stand with all those who now are trying to promote the rights of children to be full human persons, alive in every way.” However, I really must take exception to the way that statement is phrased. I believe that mothers and fathers in Canada require their children to reach maturity and the age of consent, before considering their youngsters’ rights to be “alive in every way.”
In that same statement to the Canadian Press, Archbishop Currie, acknowledged the worth of providing a voice “for all those who have lost their childhood innocence to the tragedy of sexual abuse.” This letter may perhaps provide him with a framework for adding his own voice, loud and clear, to the growing chorus.
Cheryl Helena Delacroix Thomson Pouch Cove, NL