Bishop Raymond Lahey, the former Antigonish bishop, 71, pleaded guilty last May to possession of child pornography for the purpose of importation. Photo by Deborah Gyapong

Psychiatrist says disgraced Bishop Lahey not a pedophile

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  • December 23, 2011

OTTAWA - Disgraced Bishop Raymond Lahey engaged in a number of homosexual “one-night stands” before settling into a 10-year relationship with a man, according to testimony Dec. 19 at Lahey’s sentencing hearing on child pornography charges.

Court also heard that Lahey has an addiction to Internet pornography but is probably not a pedophile and poses a next-to-zero chance of offending sexually or violently against children, according to a forensic psychiatrist. Dr. John Bradford, who examined Lahey, said Lahey has gay sadomasochistic fantasies where he is the submissive partner, although Lahey claims he has never acted on them.

The former Antigonish bishop, 71, pleaded guilty last May to possession of child pornography for the purpose of importation. He opted to go directly to jail before sentencing and has served seven and a half months.

Lahey will be sentenced on Jan. 4, and he could be released that day. He is facing a one-year mandatory minimum sentence. The Crown is seeking an 18-22 month sentence and two years probation. Lahey’s lawyers argued for the minimum sentence. They also said Lahey is entitled to a two-for-one credit for time already served, and the judge agreed. So he could be freed because of the time served since he went directly to prison after his May conviction.

Prosecutors have argued that Lahey was trying to manipulate the system by going into custody early so that he could benefit from the two-for-one credit, a premise Lahey's lawyers rejected.

 

The Truth in Sentencing Act, which abolished double credit for jail time served prior to sentencing, was passed in February 2010. But because Lahey was charged in September 2009 he should be exempt from the new law, his lawyer argued.

In a sexual history inventory, Lahey revealed to Bradford that he had engaged in “a number of one-night stands” before settling into a “longstanding relationship that has lasted 10 years.” Lahey said he hopes to continue the relationship when he leaves prison.

His attorney, Michael Edelson, told CCN he knew about the romantic relationship and said the other man was not a cleric but a “civilian.”

Bradford said he believes Lahey is not a pedophile. He described Lahey’s sexual interest as a “strange mix of homosexual masochism and hebophilia,” which is an attraction to peri-pubescent or post-pubescent boys. Lahey had no personality disorder, and while he showed some signs of cognitive distortion, the psychiatrist did not think he needed psychiatric treatment.

Lahey, who has been in isolation in the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre, seemed to have lost about 20 to 30 pounds. The tweed jacket he has worn to hearings hung off him. Edelson said he had concerns about his client’s health. Lahey sat behind the glass in the prisoner’s box, arms crossed, for most of the proceedings.

Bradford said that Lahey’s age and his decreased sex drive as a result of the trauma of his incarceration has greatly reduced the likelihood of him posing a danger to children or teens.

Edelson compared Lahey’s position to the plight of the character in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter. Instead of wearing a scarlet “A” for adultery, Lahey will forever wear the initials “CP” for child porn, he said, adding that Lahey has been “hounded” by the media.

“This has been an enormous fall from grace,” he said, speaking about the bishop’s loss of his position, his reputation, his stature in the community that he will never regain.

Edelson said that of the 588 child porn images on Lahey’s computer, only 285 were possessed knowingly, since many were in the temporary cache. Lahey had over 155,000 images on his computer of pornography, making the child porn amount less than one per cent of the total amount.

Crown attorney David Elhadad said Lahey’s lawyers minimized the gravity of the charges. The images on Lahey’s computers included adolescent boys as young as 12 engaged in graphic sex acts. He noted the images were downloaded on several different dates and said Lahey would not have stopped if he hadn’t been arrested.

There is no evidence Lahey paid for child pornography, or that he knew how to use sophisticated file-sharing equipment, Edelson said. He also spoke of the good the bishop had done, his academic accomplishments and character references from people who had known him for decades.

Among the many mitigating factors in Lahey’s life is the $13-million settlement he arranged for victims of sexual abuse in the Antigonish diocese, a settlement that was widely hailed as compassionate and fair, Edelson said.


Question is will Lahey be defrocked?

CATHOLIC REGISTER STAFF

No one questions that Bishop Raymond Lahey will not ever again exercise any form of ministry within the Catholic Church. But that a man who was found with 600 pornographic images on his computer hard drive, who fantasizes about sado-masochistic sex, who has carried on a 10-year, secret homosexual relationship and before that a series of one-night-stands is still a priest and a bishop will enrage many and scandalize others.

There is a canonical process by which Lahey may be laicized — the canon law process popularly known as "defrocking."

Being dismissed from the clerical state is a penalty for grave offenses. Possessing pornography was formally added to the list of grave offenses under Church law in 2010.

A laicized priest remains a priest in terms of the indelible priestly character conferred at ordination. However, once laicized a priest or bishop may not present themselves publicly as a priest or representative of the Church. Laicized priests may not perform any role reserved to priests.

In the case of a penitent who faces the immediate prospect of death, a laicized priest is obliged to confer absolution. Laicized priest may also baptize or witness a wedding — religious functions which are permitted to lay people.

There have been a couple of notable cases of bishops laicized in recent years. Zambian Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo was laicized in 2009 because he persistently advocated for married priests in defiance of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. When Paraguayan Bishop Fernando Lugo was elected president of his country in 2008 the Vatican acceded to his request for laicization.

The canonical process to laicize Lahey cannot begin until after his sentencing in civil court.

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