Muted reaction to Lahey sentencing

Andrew Robinson
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RC Church hopes to move on from prominent bishop’s child porn conviction

Archbishop Martin Currie

St. John’s Archbishop Martin Currie is of two frames of mind when it comes to the sentencing of Bishop Raymond Lahey for importing child pornography.

“Today is a day of sadness, really,” he said on Wednesday upon learning of Lahey’s 15-month jail sentence, which he has already completed because of double credit received for remaining in jail after entering a guilty plea in May.

“It’s a day of sadness for myself and for the church in Newfoundland, Canada and Antigonish (N.S.), and for Lahey’s family.”

While the initial shock came more than two years ago when Lahey was first charged after he was caught with hundreds of pornographic photos of young boys, Currie said he hopes the sentencing will provide a sense of conclusion for those affected by Lahey’s conviction.

Prior to becoming bishop for the Diocese of Antigonish in 2003, he spent 17 years in the same position in western Newfoundland for the Diocese of St. George’s.

He also spent time as a department head for religious studies at Memorial University.

Church strengthening screening; increasing accountability

As a bishop in Newfoundland and Labrador, Currie said he used to meet with Lahey twice a year. He knew him well, and would sometimes phone Lahey to discuss matters of faith.

“He was a highly intelligent man,” said Currie. “He was a scholar and greatly respected by bishops in Canada and by universities for his knowledge.”

But Lahey’s downfall due to crimes of a sexual nature is not the first such case for a leader within the Catholic Church. His story is now one among many others from around the world.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, sexual abuse allegations that surfaced in 1989 against Christian Brothers at Mount Cashel Orphanage in St. John’s — with some cases dating back decades — resulted in its closure a year later.

Civil suits followed, and since then several criminal and civil cases involving sexual abuse have been made against priests who have served in the province.

Currie said the Catholic Church is making efforts to ensure those who serve in prominent roles are adequately screened psychologically. Candidates for the priesthood go through a full day of psychological tests and questioning, according to the archbishop.

Additionally, he said a human formation counsellor is employed at the seminary.

“In order to be a good priest, we say they first have to be a good human being. They need to have all the good human qualities that are essential.”

Peers are asked to submit information while they are initially placed in a pastoral setting to help the church determine whether the candidate is a stable and mature one.


Moving on

Currie is hopeful the church can steer people away from a mindset that may have instilled previous men of faith with the notion their existence was on a unique and privileged level as a man of God.

“Many times when people are abused, people will say, ‘Priests, etc., they were next to God in their communities.’ You’d often hear that expression. Now we are trying to (tell) priests that they need to be accountable and they need to be transparent. These are the kinds of things we’re trying to work on now, because often in the past, priests were seen to be on a pedestal and they were somehow separated from the communities they served in and the families they came from. We have learned a healthy priest comes from a healthy family and a healthy community.”

He said trust no longer automatically comes with the position of priest.

“Trust cannot be attributed by a person’s position. Trust, today, must be earned.”

Currie added having a healthy theological foundation is not enough and that one must be a healthy, whole human being.

Whether Lahey remains a bishop much longer is doubtful. A canonical disciplinary process is already underway by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Currie said the group made of cardinals, archbishops and bishops in the Vatican may choose to either dismiss him from the clerical state, sentence him to a life of prayer or penance in a monastery, or direct  him to privately seek penance while not being allowed to identify as a cleric by name, address or association.

“I know ever since the initial guilty plea and even before that, the church has begun the proceedings of gathering information,” said Currie. “I think they will probably proceed as quickly as possible.”

Lahey was succeeded in Antigonish by Bishop Brian J. Dunn, who is originally from St. John’s. In a news release issued Wednesday, Dunn said Lahey’s ordeal has caused a great deal of hurt, disappointment, and anger for those within and outside the diocese.

“Church leaders are called to provide good examples and to show moral integrity in their lives,” he said.

“When they commit serious moral failures, this can have a significant impact on the faith community. This is especially so when it involves the crime of child pornography.”

He went on to express “regret that so many people have been disturbed and upset by these sad events.”

Twitter: TeleAndrew

— With files from The Canadian Press

Organizations: RC Church, Catholic Church, Christian Brothers Canadian Press

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Antigonish, Canada Vatican

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Recent comments

  • kasco
    January 06, 2012 - 06:07

    Until those who knew of Lahey,s crimes are brought before the Court to answer for their crimes nothing will change. From the Pope down, all have the same line, we did not know what was going on. As a institution I have lost all respect for the Catholic Church. They knew and refused to do anything about it! SHAME ON THE LOT OF THEM and shame on us for not demanding a full investigation and the laying of charges against all who were involved.

  • Lost faith
    January 06, 2012 - 05:22

    I was raised a catholic but no longer go to church. The RC church is no different than a mafia style gang organization set out to pilfer the poor and protect psychotic priests. The oath of celibacy, which was invented by the church has either attracted pedophile males to become priests or made normal males into pedophiles. Until the pope removes the oath and allows priests to marry and have normal human lives, there will always be pedophiles in the RC organization.

  • Mindy
    January 05, 2012 - 16:29

    Eastcoast --you need to be educated on the subject/s before making a comment. The sentence was not enough and we may not know all of the story but to have photos and travel in the areas that he did I would bet all I have that along the way there was HURT. I was an abused female at a young age and the person responsible no longer walks this earth. I said nothing I. live with it everyday of my life, to this day only three people know. . The only thing that I'am thankful for is that he suffered long and hard (medical reasons) before his final day came. So Mr. Lahey maynot be behind bars but if there is any justice to be had maybe he too will suffer long and hard..

  • Not Enough Time
    January 05, 2012 - 14:26

    Eastcoast I think you need to look at the definitions of homosexual and pedophile. HUGE difference. A homosexual is certainly not doing anything wrong. Lahey had pornographic pictures of CHILDREN on his computer not adult males. To imply that Lahey's crime had to do with him being gay is outrageous and sickening. The fact that you seem to think that looking at pornographic pictures of innocent children is okay, that no one was hurt by this and that this behavior is associated with homosexuality is very disturbing.

  • Anon
    January 05, 2012 - 14:04

    Beware the hidden surprises in the bill that will likely come out to increase sentences for offenders such as Lahey, A reactionary public is a dangerous tool in the hands of a maniac like Harper.

  • Get real
    January 05, 2012 - 13:28

    Hey Eastcoast, you sound like such an idiot. Open your eyes. Lahey was charged and convicted in this country for the crime of trying to import child pornography. That's what our justice system had to deal with. It is not in Canada's jurisdiction to investigate what disgusting things Lahey was up to in those other countries. Now ask yourself why he was so anxious to travel to those countries when he could obtain his sick photos easily without travelling. Ask yourself if anyone in those countries, any young boys, were hurt. Put yourself in those victims' shoes. Also, if you are a Catholic church paying member, ask yourself how Lahey had the means to travel so often and to get his laptop full of this sick stuff and to do God only knows what else? Your church money well spent again.

  • John
    January 05, 2012 - 13:17

    To East Coast - The effects of abuse DO NOT go away once the assault is over; they last a lifetime even with therapy especially Male Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA). This is in a large part due to the way males are reared up - be strong, don't worry about it, get over it, etc. Yes treatment helps one cope with and learn how to live a "normal" life for abuse victims. Female survivors also react to stress and trauma differently further complicating treatment - each sex needs methods of counselling specifically by sex. Consequences include addictions, criminal activity, maritial problems, self esteem problems, work problems, fear of many different events, lack of trust, etc. Yes, some abused do become abusers, some are homosexual; the same as the rest of Canadian society. These people do not do this because they were abused, in fact research suggests otherwise. Canadian research has stated that about 14% of males and 33% of females have suffered or will suffer abuse of some kind. NL needs to recognize that sexual abuse does occur and get appropriate treatment protocols and the necessary professional services. Right now, males are in the same position as females were 30 - 40 years ago when it comes to abuse. People need to do research and learn about what SURVIVORS of both Male and Female CSA face not only from the abuse but also as a result of the way society views Males and the differences in treatment required by each sex.

  • monastery equals house arrest
    January 05, 2012 - 13:08

    "sentance him to a life of prayer or penance in a monastery" Some would see this as sheltering him, but t is not. It is basically house arrest and will keep him from access to the internet or school playgrounds to watch more teen boys. To just keick him out of the Church all together would be to let him roam the streets.

  • I.M.Reasonable
    January 05, 2012 - 12:55

    For Lahey's "addiction" to child pornography he got nothing more than a slap on the wrist. Shame on you Kent Kirkland! As long as there are pedophiles out there, and as long as they are not punished, then the children's pain is perpetuated. Justice Kirkland is as guilty as Lahey. Some people are stunned by the fact that so many Catholic authorities are involved in this kind of behaviour. These people have accepted an unnatural lifestyle by abstaining from sex. Catholic priests and nuns and bishops, etcetera, can continue to serve the Lord and help others without having to live this abnormal lifestyle. The Catholic church must evolve and remove this restriction, and only then will the abnormal behaviour stop.

  • Disgusted
    January 05, 2012 - 12:30

    OMG I read all the comments, number one people like Lahey don't get married, and if they did they would still do the same things, he's a sick man he needs help, big time help. Alsoeastcoast said he never hurt any children, yes he did by doing what he did. Also Currie said they might make him go in a monistery and pray for the rest of his life"""LOL"""Put him in a pen with the general population and let him deal with that, actually the Judge, I use the word lightly, gave him a slap on the hand he used to scroll throught the 1000's of pic's he had. Just the look of the ""man"" I could use a better word but not here, makes me sick.

  • Toby Flanderson
    January 05, 2012 - 12:06

    Disgusting, 15 months...............our justice system is horrible. You can't rehabilitate someone for liking young boys and looking at pictures of young boys in 15 months. Horrible.

  • Mer wid
    Mer wid
    January 05, 2012 - 11:53

    To Eastcoast Please DO NOT confuse a homosexual man with a pedophile. It is very well known...Men who travel to Thailand /Malaysia are NOT looking for other men! They seek children!!! Nor do they have to travel to Thailand /Malaysia to acquire pictures of children. They go to for sexual gratification...with children!!! As another poster stated, "They should pass Bishop Lahey's picture around in Thailand /Malaysia and see who comes forward."

  • mer wid
    mer wid
    January 05, 2012 - 10:53

    The man who gave Bishop Lahey 'time served'....Justice D. Kent Kirkland was this year’s recipient of the (CAS) Society’s Outstanding Leadership in Child Welfare award. This annual award is presented to an individual, group or organization whose endeavours, within the County of Hastings, have contributed to the achievement of excellence in the protection of children and the promotion of their well-being within their families and communities. (This is protecting our children? Something is wrong. Something is very wrong!)

  • Jeremiah
    January 05, 2012 - 10:13

    For "EASTCOAST"How can u say "he didn't hurt anyone". What about the children in the pictures? He supports the market for this kind of garbage, so he hurts the children. He is a "buyer", a consumer. Just as guilty as the molester.

  • JMPA
    January 05, 2012 - 10:04

    "Candidates for the priesthood go through a full day of psychological tests and questioning, according to the archbishop." Its a little too late for that...the new candidates are about questioning and checking those already serving...along with those working in the archdiocese office. “Church leaders are called to provide good examples and to show moral integrity in their lives,” he said.... Then lead by example and pay what is long overdue to the victims of sexual abuse by members of the clergy in this province. How do you expect us to believe your comments given the church's reluctance to be accountable. These boys had their lives ruined by your priests, when all along it was known what priests were doing, but instead you shuffled them to another parish to abuse some other innocent kids. Shame on the Catholic Church in this province for not being truthful, open and honest to all of us. And you wonder why your churches are full of older people....from a wiser catholic woman, who believes how you treat people and live your life each day matters more than going to church.

  • grant
    January 05, 2012 - 09:02

    Of the hundreds of years of the catolic church, there would have to be millions and millions of little boys, some lots of them without parents or anyone else to turn to, was abused and tortured by the church, i say the church because they are the church. anyone who contributes to the catholic church is supporting these crimes. Who paid his salary when he was in jail? whos paying him now?. the people who support the church.

  • wayne
    January 05, 2012 - 08:41

    Archbishop Currie's comments made a lot of sense. Crime and immorality is not the sole pervue of Roman Catholic clergy. Just look at the hate spewed by the pastors of the Westboro Baptist church in the US. I do believe however that the Roman Catholic church should abondon the doctrine of celibate, male oly clergy. They are the only denomination who has it. None of the other "catholic" sects make this restriction and among these, the various Orthodox churches have roots just as old as Roman Catholicism. This was an invention of man in the 11th century.

  • Mr. T
    January 05, 2012 - 08:37

    If Mr. Currie wants priests to come from a "Normal Family", then allow them to marry and have children, also allow women to enter the clergy. The last time I checked women are the fundamental backbone of a family. There is no better way to become part of the community than to be a part of everyday family life.This organizations foundation is is their own fault, and it is well deserved. East Coast, this is a case of CHILD Pornography, not just Pornography....get a clue.

  • Eastcoast
    January 05, 2012 - 07:59

    I have to say for the first time in all these Catholic wrongdoings, I do have some empathy for Bishop Lahey. It has never been said that he physically or psychologically hurt any young boys. It appears he is a homosexual who had some pornographic images on his computer. He didn't hurt anyone and now he is paying the price for all those before him. Archbisop Currie stated "In order to be a good priest, we say they first have to be a good human being. They need to have all the good human qualities that are essential". I know plenty of homosexual men who are "good human beings" So does that mean they won't admit any homosexuals to the priesthood? Do they really think they are going to get heterosexual males to take on that role? Get real!

    • to Eastcoast
      January 05, 2012 - 08:40

      Homosexuals like grown men and images of grown men... Images of grown men were not found on his computer. On his computer were images of children. 155,000 images of children. He is not a homosexual, he is a monster!

    • DAB
      January 05, 2012 - 09:56

      @Eastcoast, CHILD pornography is not an indication of homosexuality but pedophilia.

  • Robert
    January 05, 2012 - 07:19

    Perhaps what is most alarming about this story is that "it has happened again" and yet again the person had to get caught with hands in the cookie jar. The RC church could go a long way of establishing some credibility by purging those still "on the job". Given the events all around the world (this is not unique to NL/Canada) it is reasonable to assume that these people still operate despite church officials having knowledge that something is not right.