Antigonish bishop expected to surrender to police on child pornography charges

  • October 1, 2009
{mosimage}OTTAWA - Antigonish Bishop Raymond J. Lahey turned himself in to Ottawa police Oct. 1 to face charges of possession and importation of child pornography.

He appeared in court later that day and was released on $9,000 bail and put under strict conditions that include staying away from the Internet. His next court date is Nov. 4. In the meantime, he must
stay in Rogersville, N.B.

Lahey, 69, who had been the subject of a Canada-wide warrant for his arrest since Sept. 25, surrendered in the company of his lawyers.

“He was placed under arrest and escorted for processing,” said Ottawa Police spokesperson Constable Jean-Paul Vincelette. The processing includes paper work, fingerprinting and photograph
taking. Then he will be taken to the Ottawa courthouse for a bail hearing.

Lahey, 69, who abruptly resigned as bishop of the Nova Scotia diocese for “personal reasons” Sept. 26, was detained Sept. 15 at Ottawa airport by the Canada Border Services Agency after officers
conducted a preliminary search of his computer and discovered “images of concern,” said Vincelette. Officers seized Lahey’s computer and other “media devices” for further forensic investigation and
released the bishop.

On Sept. 25, Ottawa police laid charges in an Ottawa courtroom and issued the arrest warrant.

In August, Lahey had announced a more than $13-million settlement of a class action lawsuit for clergy sexual abuse dating back to the 1950s. He had been widely praised for his pastoral concern and
pursuit of justice in the historic agreement.

Pope Benedict XVI accepted Lahey’s resignation Sept. 26 and appointed Halifax Archbishop Anthony Mancini as Antigonish’s apostolic administrator. Mancini appointed Fr. Paul Abbass as the
diocesan spokesperson.

The charges, which became public Sept. 30, have left shock in their wake.

“I am shocked and saddened by this devastating news,” Mancini said in press release issued Sept. 30. “For the priests and people of Antigonish diocese, this is a terrible moment.”

Mancini told the Halifax Chronicle Herald newspaper Sept. 30 that he had spoken to Lahey on his cellphone for a few minutes earlier that day after learning about the charges.

“He certainly indicated to me that he was not feeling very good at this point,” the archbishop told the newspaper. He said he did not know where the bishop was though he thought he was still in
Canada. He also expressed concern for his well-being, though indicated Lahey had a duty to turn himself in.

In a television interview with CTV News Sept. 30, Mancini said the Pope must have known the grave reasons behind Lahey’s resignation, but that he and he others in the Antigonish hierarchy were
unaware of them.

Abbass told CTV Newsnet that he and others in the diocese were experiencing a sense of disbelief. Abbass said there had been speculation that maybe Lahey was unwell, or experiencing stress.

“I don’t think anybody would have imagined this scenario,” he said.

St. John’s Archbishop Martin Currie issued a statement Oct. 1 saying there is shock, sadness and anger over the charges. There is sadness because of the battle the church in Newfoundland and
Labrador has faced in restoring trust after years of scandal, he said. And there is “anger because of the nature of the allegations: child pornography is child abuse and exploitation.”

“We must now wait for this matter to work its way through the court process,” he said, urging people to pray for all concerned, including Lahey.

“This situation will stir up in people, again, all of the history of abuse that has gone on in the past,” Currie said. “People become disillusioned.”

“If you can't trust the chief shepherd, who can you trust?” he said. “For now we put our trust in God and pray that, together, we can rebuild that trust again.”

Lahey became bishop of Antigonish in 2003 after 17 years in the diocese of St. George’s, Nfld. Prior to his election to the episcopate, he served as a priest in the St. John’s diocese and taught at
Memorial University.

(With files from Brian Lazurri.)

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