8 Nov 2010

Nova Scotia diocese won't pay legal bills of former Bishop charged with child porn possession

National Post - Canada October 7, 2009

Unclear what action Church took after Bishop Lahey allegations

by Charles Lewis | Holy Post blog

There are likely only two men who can say how seriously the Catholic Church took allegations of possession of child pornography by one of its bishops more than 20 years ago, but it is also likely that neither man will be forthcoming soon.

Bishop Raymond Lahey, who was charged two weeks ago with the possession and importation of child pornography, was accused in 1989 of having similar material in his home by a boy who had visited him -- a few years earlier -- when he was a parish priest living just outside of St. John’s. He is refusing comment on all of the allegations against him, none of which have been tested in court.

The boy’s accusations were brought to the former Archbishop of St. John’s, Alphonsus Penney. By the time the allegations were raised, Father Lahey had moved up the ranks to become Bishop Lahey in charge of the Diocese of St George’s on the west coast of Newfoundland. Archbishop Penney is now in poor health, according to those who know him, and could not be reached for comment.

In 1991, Archbishop Penney resigned as archbishop after a scathing Church report called him incompetent for the way he handled the sexual abuse scandal in Newfoundland.

So the key question remains unanswered: What, if anything, did Archbishop Penney do in 1989 when he was told about pornographic pictures at the home of a bishop?

“It’s possible something happened, but I just don’t know,” said Archbishop Martin Currie, who now oversees the Archdiocese of St. John’s. “What Penney did, whether he spoke to anyone, I don’t know. The proper response today, if the allegation was true, would be to ask for the man’s resignation.”

Shane Earle, a man who was horribly abused at the Mount Cashel Orphanage, and eventually was a key witness at the Hughes Inquiry, which looked into the abuse at the Christian Brothers school, said he found pornographic images in Bishop Lahey’s home in the mid-1980s.

He said Bishop Lahey was a trusted friend who understood what the boys at Mount Cashel had been through and it was not unusual to visit the priest for the weekend. But during one visit Mr. Earle said he found graphic pictures of aroused teenage boys in the priest’s bedroom. He did not confront the priest, but said it was one of the worst shocks of his life.

“I was scared. At a low point in my life. I couldn’t tell him what I found. I couldn’t rationalize what I saw. Nothing made sense,” he said in an interview yesterday.
A few years later, he said, he told a local parish priest, Father Kevin Molloy, what he saw at Bishop Lahey’s home.

Over the past 20 years, Mr. Earle, 43, who now lives in Halifax, said he believed that Bishop Lahey had changed.

“I have been at a stage of forgiveness with him for a long time. When he became bishop [of nearby Antigonish] I thought that this was a changed man. Because I do believe that everyone should be offered a second chance. We all make mistakes in our lives.”

He said he was not all that surprised that Bishop Lahey paid a crucial role in humanely settling sexual abuse allegations against the Church, a $15-million deal that was finally settled in August.

“I remembered as a child how concerned he was about child abuse so I knew there was a side of him that could be an asset to this whole process.”
Fr. Molloy, who now lives in Florida, said yesterday that when he learned of the allegations from Mr. Earle, he immediately went to Archbishop Penney and told him about the allegations. Then he called Bishop Lahey.

“I told Archbishop Penney ‘I have some very bad news for you.’ I told him but we didn’t discuss it further. The ball was in his court and was up to him to do what he wanted with it. Archbishop Penney would have not discussed it with me. He was the head honcho.

“I then called Lahey and told him what I found out. He didn’t argue, he didn’t make any explanation he just asked me if anything new came up would I call him and I told him I surely would. I didn’t attempt to give him guidance or counselling. And then I didn’t hear anything ‘till last week.”

After that, Fr. Molloy said he had no idea what happened.

“I don’t know if Lahey got help, I wasn’t privy to that. It was not up to me to call Lahey back and ask him what he was doing [or ask him] ‘are you still reading that stuff?’ ”

Mr. Earle said that ultimately he was disappointed that Fr. Molloy did not keep pushing. But Fr. Molloy said that he did all he could do under the structure of the Church.

“I never gave it a thought,” said Fr. Molloy. “I believed it was taken care of by my phone call.”

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Canwest News Service - October 4, 2009

N.S. diocese won't pay former bishop's court costs

HALIFAX, N.S. — The former Roman Catholic bishop accused of child pornography crimes has not asked the church in Nova Scotia to help pay his legal bills — nor would the church provide such help if asked, a Catholic official said Monday.

"One of the most pressing questions in the past few days has been whether the Diocese of Antigonish would assume legal costs for the defence of Bishop (Raymond) Lahey.

The bishop has not requested that the diocese meet his legal costs.

"If that request were made, it would be declined by the diocese," said Archbishop Anthony Mancini, the most senior Catholic clergyman in Nova Scotia, in a statement issued Monday afternoon.

Lahey was freed on bail last week in Ottawa after being charged on Sept. 25 with possession and importation of child pornography.

The day after he was charged, he resigned as the bishop of Antigonish, where he was in the midst of overseeing an historic, $15-million, out-of-court settlement with victims who were sexually abused as children by a former priest of the diocese.

Questions have since been raised about who is funding Lahey's legal defence.

The Diocese of Antigonish has published policies saying it is required to provide legal support to employees who are charged with a crime.

Lahey, who is living at a monastery in rural New Brunswick while awaiting his trial, is no longer a diocesan bishop. It's not clear if he remains an employee of the church.

In his statement Mancini declined to comment further on the matter, except to say that the church was convening a group of specialists to provide "appropriate care" to members of the diocese, particularly past victims of abuse, "who have been affected by the charges concerning Bishop Raymond Lahey."

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