8 Nov 2010

Catholic bishop behind recent historic clergy abuse settlement in Nova Scotia is charged with child pornography

The Vancouver Sun - Canwest News Service October 1, 2009

Ex-bishop surrenders on child porn charges

By Richard Foot | Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA — A former Roman Catholic bishop in Nova Scotia turned himself in to Ottawa police Thursday afternoon and was in custody in the central station cellblock.

Raymond Lahey, 69, who stepped down abruptly on Saturday as the bishop of Antigonish in Nova Scotia, faces charges of possession and importation of child pornography.

Wearing a collared shirt and sweater under a tan jacket, a grim-faced Lahey said nothing as he entered headquarters with his lawyer, Michael Edelson.

Edelson also gave no comment.

An arrest warrant was issued on Wednesday for Lahey, who is well known in Nova Scotia for having orchestrated a high-profile apology and a $15-million, out-of-court settlement to victims who were sexually abused as children by a former priest in the Diocese of Antigonish.

Lahey was overseeing the progress of the settlement, and raising compensation funds from Catholic parishes in his diocese, when he resigned mysteriously on the weekend.

Parishioners learned on Wednesday that two weeks earlier his laptop computer had been seized at the Ottawa airport as Lahey was re-entering the country.

Ottawa police say Lahey "triggered" the interest of Canada Border Services agents at the airport, who conducted a secondary search of his computer.

Police say authorities seized Lahey's laptop, which allegedly contained images of child pornography, and also a number of thumb drives — small portable plug-in devices that store digital pictures and information.

Soon after entering police custody, Const. Alain Boucher said Lahey was "being processed," meaning the charges against him will be read prior to the standard procedure of fingerprinting and photos.

Time permitting, a bail hearing could be held Thursday, said Boucher. "It could be later today, and, if not, it will be first thing in the morning."

Anthony Mancini, the archbishop of Halifax and the most senior Roman Catholic in Nova Scotia, told a news conference in the Diocese of Antigonish Thursday afternoon that he wanted to "give today a pastoral message of care and concern and support for all who have been touched by the events of these last few days."

Mancini said it was not his role to speak about Lahey or to speculate about the allegations.

"I would like to say that I am here as a bishop. I am not a lawyer, I'm not a judge, nor am I a policeman. So I don't really have any answers to any questions that might be surfaced that have to do with some of those particular concerns that you may have."

Mancini said he wanted to "bring whatever health and care I can to everyone concerned in this time of need and in this time of difficulty."

Det. Dan Melchiorre, the lead investigator on the case and a member of the Ottawa Police High Tech Crimes Unit, said Lahey was not previously known to the Ottawa Police, nor was he a target of its ongoing, anti-child porn investigation, prior to his arrival at the airport.

With files from Richard Foot, Canwest News Service

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CBC News - Canada September 30, 2009

N.S. bishop wanted on child porn charges

Church officials, community react with shock

'Is there anyone left that we can believe?'— Anthony Mancini, archbishop of Halifax

Ottawa police have issued an arrest warrant for a Roman Catholic bishop from Nova Scotia facing child pornography charges.

Raymond Lahey, a native of Newfoundland who was with the Antigonish diocese until his sudden resignation on Saturday, currently can't be found, Ottawa police Const. Jean-Paul Vincelette said Wednesday.

Sgt. Brigdit Leger of the Halifax RCMP said Ottawa police officers have spoken with Lahey, though they do not know where he is.

A spokeswoman for Anthony Mancini, the archbishop of Halifax who is overseeing the Antigonish diocese until a replacement for Lahey is named, said Mancini spoke briefly with Lahey by phone after learning of the charges through the media, but he did not know Lahey's whereabouts.

Lahey was re-entering Canada at the Ottawa International Airport on Sept. 15 when members of the Canada Border Services Agency pulled him aside for a secondary examination, according to a release from Ottawa police. Officers found images on Lahey's laptop computer "that were of concern."

He was released at the time. The computer was seized and police said a subsequent forensic examination of the computer revealed child pornography.

Lahey was charged on Sept. 25. No court date has been set.

The former leader of the diocese of Antigonish is perhaps best known as the man who helped broker a $15-million settlement with people who said they had been sexually abused by priests in the diocese, in some cases dating back to 1950. That settlement was approved by a Nova Scotia court on Sept. 10.

Ron Martin, lead plaintiff in the class-action suit that led to the settlement, reacted with shock when he learned of the pornography charges. Martin said over the phone that he needed to speak with his lawyer and declined further comment.
Sudden resignation

On Saturday, Lahey, 69, announced his resignation as bishop of the Antigonish diocese, which the Vatican accepted. In a letter to parishioners, Lahey said he needed time for "personal renewal."

"While I will no longer be with you on this journey, I am confident that your faith and compassion will continue to sustain you as they have always done," he wrote at the time.

Mancini, who is heading to Sydney on Thursday to speak with Lahey's former parishioners and hold a news conference, said he didn't know of the charges against Lahey until he was contacted by CBC News.

"I didn't know what the nature of the resignation, what the reasons were," Mancini said. "And so, now I know what the reasons are."

Mancini said he was concerned about how this would affect the credibility of the church.

"Shocked, hurt because it impacts on me as a leader who was trying to do my job." he said. "So, honestly, part of my concern is, is there anyone left that we can believe?

"I think many will see this as something that will make the church less credible than we are. It certainly reminds us all that if ever we thought that we had a perfect church, we certainly don't," Mancini said.

Rev. Paul Abbass, spokesman for the diocese of Antigonish, said the charges would not affect the legal obligations of the diocese to the multimillion-dollar settlement.

"Will this hurt the survivors yet again? I think, absolutely, it will," he said.

Lahey was named to the position of bishop of the diocese of Antigonish in 2003 by Pope John Paul II. He once served as a professor of theology at Memorial University in St. John's.

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