Innocence lost

Pam Frampton
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"He does not believe who does not live according to his belief."

- Thomas Fuller (1608-1661), English author and preacher

On Aug. 7, 2009, Bishop Raymond Lahey read an apology as part of a $15-million settlement for victims of sexual abuse at the hands of Roman Catholic priests in the Diocese of Antigonish, N.S. It is excerpted here in italics.

A scant month after reading it aloud, he was arrested at an Ottawa airport carrying a laptop full of child porn and a bag of sex toys.

On Wednesday, as news came that Lahey was free to leave an Ottawa courtroom after being sentenced to time served, you could forgive people's anger.

The statement he made in 2009 sounds particularly hollow now, given that all the while he was privately aiding and abetting child sexual abusers by viewing their disgusting portfolios in order to satisfy his own sexual desires.

You can call it "viewing" child pornography if you wish. I prefer to call it what it is: people who like child porn get off on seeing children being raped and tortured and humiliated and emotionally scarred for life and don't do anything to stop it. In fact, the trend among child pornographers is to trade those repulsive images like some kind of bubble gum sports cards.

A bare-buttocked boy being paddled by a man dressed as a monk. Naked children in sexually explicit poses draped in crucifixes and rosary beads.

Well, this is what Lahey was into, even as he put on his sombre, benevolent bishop's face and apologized to the news cameras for the shameful conduct of some of his ordained brethren.

Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for your presence here today. I am Bishop Raymond Lahey of the Diocese of Antigonish. Before I say anything else here today, as bishop of Antigonish, I want to formally apologize to every victim and to their families for the sexual abuse that was inflicted upon those who were entitled instead to the trust and protection of priests of the Church.

I want them to know how terribly sorry we are, how wrong this abuse was, and how we are now attempting to right those wrongs. Money can never compensate fully, but we are trying throughout this process to be fair, responsible, respectful and, most of all, compassionate.

Above all, we want to do the right thing.

If this was your own son or daughter, your brother or sister, your mother or father who was abused, you would expect and demand nothing less.

Well, Lahey's victims weren't my sons or nephews, but they were children who were stripped of their innocence, and that makes me give a damn. We all should. They deserve no less than justice, and justice wasn't served here.

Eight months in prison for viewing hundreds of instances of child sexual abuse and doing nothing about it except striving for his own sexual gratification is not justice. Pleading guilty and agreeing to start serving jail time before he was even sentenced is not proof of remorse. It could simply be that Lahey was given sage legal advice: say the right things; do the right things; get out of jail sooner.

I feel great sympathy for Lahey's family, whom I hear are good people. His shame is not their shame. It is entirely his own.

In December, Andrew Seymour reported in The Ottawa Citizen that Crown prosecutor David Elhadad said Lahey's stature as a bishop placed him in a position of trust.

Lahey's defence lawyer, Michael Edelson, argued that Lahey would have had to be in a position of trust in relation to the child porn victims.

But he was in a position of trust, as an adult who was all too aware of the horrors these children were being subjected to and who not only did nothing, but enjoyed and was excited watching their pain and terror unfold.

And no ordinary adult, he was - still is, for now - a Roman Catholic bishop, a person whose spiritual and moral leadership members of the faith are supposed to look to for inspiration and guidance.

Instead, he is someone - for all his denial of being a pedophile - who took sensual pleasure in seeing the holy objects and images of his faith used to defile children.

And despite Lahey's seeming remorse and his previous apology to abuse victims, Seymour reported during Lahey's sentencing hearing Dec. 20 that the bishop had agreed during psychological testing to statements such as "child molesters get longer sentences than they really should" and "children don't say no to molesters because they are curious about sex and enjoy it."

Spiritual role model, indeed.

It's cold comfort to victims or parishioners or outraged members of the public if Lahey's sentence is deemed reasonable by the Criminal Code of Canada. How does it stack up against his moral code? Contrast his words with his deeds and you might find an answer:

Sexual abuse, indeed any abuse, is wrong. It is a crime, and it is a serious sin in the eyes of God. I want to assure you that for some time our Diocese, like others throughout Canada, and like other organizations, have been proactively taking steps to protect children and youth. That responsibility has been accepted and embraced by both our priests and our parishioners. We hope never again to have to face such reprehensible misconduct.

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.

In Antigonish, cash-strapped parishioners were left to foot the $15-million bill for priests' transgressions.

In the case of Lahey's porn stash, countless children will continue paying for the rest of their lives. Many of them are still likely being raped and tortured and used as fodder for countless others' twisted desires.

Lahey has himself, in part, to thank for that.

Pam Frampton is The Telegram's story editor. She can be reached by email at Twitter: pam_frampton


Organizations: Ottawa Citizen

Geographic location: Antigonish, Ottawa, Canada

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Recent comments

  • Trisha
    January 10, 2012 - 22:31

    To me it does not matter who this man is, or what career he has. Sexual abuse, child porn, all falls under the same sort of thing. Some child had to suffer for him to get his pornography. He had sex toys, we all know why. My children were victims of sexual abuse at 18 months and six years old. To my children and family it did not matter who or what he done as a career. All that mattered is the damage he done, and that we continue to live with each day. It don't matter if a person saves lifes for a living the minute they hurt a child in a sexual manner they destroy lives. The other sad thing is how the Justice system fails over and over and over. Who cares how much money it cost to keep sickoos like this off the streets, just do it. Protect our innocent little souls. The Justice system dragged us in and out of court for almost three years to slap the perv on the wrist, and he will be out before the blink of an eye. We moved because we don't want him to know where we live because of threats we made. We left all our family and friends behind, to try and protect our children. All because our justice system wont keep these sick monsters locked up. It's a sad country we live in. Lahey, like all the others should never see the light of day again, if nothing else just keep them locked away...

    • trish
      January 11, 2012 - 21:20

      When I wrote this I meant we moved away from our home town because of threats he made against us. Mychildren and myself. We will always live in fear.

  • shirley ryan A
    January 09, 2012 - 12:29

    as usual , a slap on the wrist, lock him up throw away the key, or tie him up in public and give him to the families of the abused, it is not goin to stop unless something harsh is done, harsher than 8 months in lock up, harsher than what those poor little children suffered and will forever have etched in their memory, sick, psycho, cruel horrifying sickos

  • JuneAnnette
    January 07, 2012 - 17:54

    The Clergy Abuse SCANDAL continues to unfold and pedophilia plague within the Roman Catholic “church” continues to rage. The intense scrutiny their monstrous crimes are receiving by the media, publicly subjecting them to the same humiliation, shame, reproach, and degradation in the eyes of the worldwide community which they themselves imposed upon their innumerable powerless and vulnerable victims whom they callously and mercilessly sexually raped and molested, in what they themselves reckon to be the “Worst Crime”, exacts a kind of poetic justice if nothing else. And while these criminals may well elude real justice here and now, it is certain they will one day be held accountable. They will not escape the Divine Justice that awaits them when they will be summoned to appear before the Highest and Heavenly Court that presides over all! In truth . . . the foundations of the self-proclaimed “one true church of Jesus Christ” are crumbling / collapsing under the insupportable weight of the rot and corruption that lurks beneath the surface of its’ pretentious pious exterior. The consistent pattern of lying, deceit, secrecy and cover up that has characterized the manner in which the clergy abuse scandal has been addressed by those who have the spiritual rule simply cannot be reconciled with the teaching of Christ and evinces a worldly spirit rather than a Christlike spirit. We are exhorted in God's Word to “try the spirits whether they are of God.” (1 John 4:1 ) A religious institution that has consistently been proven to place its' corporate image and the reputation of her priests above the welfare of children provides compelling reasons to opt out. Those who have studied the matter out and examined the stats and facts for themselves are leaving and taking both their children and their pocket books with them. Those truly “tethered to the truth” and guided by the Holy Spirit are compelled to leave.” (John 14:16-17; 16:13) “For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) (Eph. 5:9) Many former Roman Catholics like myself have long since renounced the counterfeit religion of Rome to embrace the religion of Christ and to serve Him in sincerity and in truth!

  • Jerome
    January 07, 2012 - 10:02

    Is Raymond Lahey a Sicko, or just sick? We all have heard - especially in recent years, how mental illness is not treated the same way as an illness that can be observed by X-ray, MRI or Cat-scan. Mothers who have murdered their children have been found "fit to stand trial" and sentenced to terms equivalent to a Clifford Olson. Does anyone actually believe that a mother, with all the motherly instincts inherent in such, would take the lives of her own offspring if there was not some, (as yet undiagnosed) psychological problem? An adult, whether it be a clergyman, doctor, lawyer, teacher, etc., are not acting in a normal, sane way, when they abuse children. It will probably be decades before science gives us the answers as to why seemingly "normal" individuals behave in such abhorrent ways.

    • joen Fagan
      January 07, 2012 - 17:13

      Psychology HAS given the answers, basically that we have a number of brain circuits and due to either neurological or psychological reasons, at times we are unwilling or unable to suppress some of them. This is true of all of us - all of us have done the equivalent of making new year's resolutions and we know what usually happens watching as we do things we do not want to do. And sex is a very strong and recurring drive that can often overcome the inhibitory circuits. I have known first hand of 3 pedophiles who have committed suicide when being "outed". These were all people who had done much good and clearly had massive shame and remorse. On the other end of the continuum are the psychopaths who have no moral scruples at all and their whole personality is totally centered around their pleasure with no thought of anyone else, in contrast to the suicides who fought as hard as they could, but at times unsuccessfully against their urges. The psychopaths we will not be able to reclaim; I have some hopes that the remorseful ones for whom the abuse is only part of their personality structure will be able to be healed.

    • trish
      January 10, 2012 - 22:42

      Jerome, it does not matter if they are sick, sickoo, perv or pedophile. If innocent children are harmed at their hands, they need to be kept locked away. Jail, mental hospital whatever, the system needs to step up to the plate and protect the innocent little souls of our world, not let these sick or sickoos destroy little lives. I think if you think of a child in a sexual nature, you then should be kept away from children forever. You cant make a gay man strait, or a strait man gay, as you cannot change a child molester. Do all the counseling you want you can't change a persons sexual nature. thats commonsense.

  • Kathleen M Williams
    January 07, 2012 - 09:13

    If this doesn't wake the catholics up then nothing will. I was a practicing Catholic for over 60 years, now I am embarassed for ever being so involved with that organization. Is it not timely that the Vatican announced the installation of a cardinal from Canada at the same time that the case of Lahey is a hot topic? Shrewd political move. The catholics are so brainwashed that they don't even demand that these perverts be defrocked but will allow them back in the church. The Catholic could recover some of it's respect if they would get rid of the perverted priests and allow women to take a greater role in the church.