Bishop facing child porn charges gets bail
Last Updated: Thursday, October 1, 2009 | 1:44 PM AT
Bishop Raymond Lahey, centre, is seen with his lawyers, Michael Edelson, left, and Vincent Clifford, at their offices in Ottawa on Thursday. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)Bishop Raymond Lahey was released on $9,000 bail after turning himself in to Ottawa police on Thursday afternoon to face charges of possessing and importing child pornography.
The Roman Catholic cleric, who resigned his post in Nova Scotia on the weekend before news of the charges broke, has been ordered to stay away from parks and from children. He is not allowed to use the internet, and while he is free he is to stay in Rogersville, N.B. The town is the site of a Trappist monastery.
His next court date is Nov. 4 in Ottawa.
A Canada-wide arrest warrant had been issued for Lahey, 69, who brokered a $15-million settlement for victims of sexual abuse by priests of the diocese of Antigonish in Nova Scotia.
Lahey was returning to Canada on Sept. 15 when he was detained at Ottawa International Airport. Canada Border Services agents checked his laptop and found images "of concern," Ottawa police said in a release.
Lahey was allowed to leave, but his computer and other media devices were seized. Police alleged a forensic examination ultimately found child pornography.
On Friday, Ottawa police charged Lahey with possession of child pornography and importation of child pornography.
The next day, he resigned as bishop of the diocese of Antigonish, citing the need for "personal renewal."
Anthony Mancini, the archbishop of Halifax who is overseeing the Antigonish diocese, went to Sydney on Thursday to speak with Lahey's former parishioners and hold a news conference.
"I am well aware that everyone is in shock," said Mancini.
"I am concerned with all who are trying to find any meaning in this devastation. I do not have the solution to this problem or the capacity to take away the pain or the means to erase this tragedy."
Mancini has said he wasn't aware of the charges against Lahey until Wednesday.
In a letter to parishioners in Newfoundland — Lahey's native province, where he was also a bishop — the Archbishop of St. John's, Martin Currie, wrote that child pornography is equivalent to child abuse and exploitation.
"These latest allegations are another setback for the Roman Catholic Church in Newfoundland and Labrador, a church in which we have been trying to restore people's faith after years of scandal," he wrote.
Ronald Martin said his faith was shattered when he learned of the allegations.
Martin launched a class-action lawsuit on behalf of himself and others who were sexually abused by priests in the Roman Catholic diocese of Antigonish. He met with Lahey, then bishop of the diocese, many times over the years to reach a deal.
"The one thing I said to the bishop from the very beginning was that I do not want the survivors revictimized, and I think yesterday was the ultimate revictimization for every single one of us," Martin told CBC News Thursday.
In St. Peter's, Cape Breton, many parishioners were shocked to hear about the charges against Lahey. Some are already upset that they have to help pay for the $15-million settlement, one woman told CBC News.
John McKiggan, the lawyer behind the class-action suit, fears the allegations against Lahey may reflect poorly on the settlement.
"These unfortunate charges have now raised questions about a process to do right, and that's unfortunate," he said Thursday.
The settlement, approved by a Nova Scotia court on Sept. 10, has been described as the first time the Roman Catholic Church has apologized and set up a compensation package for complainants without fighting the charges in court.
Rev. Paul Abbass, spokesman for the diocese of Antigonish, said Wednesday the charges would not affect the legal obligations of the diocese to the settlement.
Lahey was appointed bishop of the Antigonish diocese in 2003 by Pope John Paul II. The Vatican accepted his resignation.
Before that, Lahey served as bishop for the diocese of St. George's in Corner Brook, Nfld. He was also a priest and pastor in the archdiocese of St. John's and a professor of theology at Memorial University in St. John's.
Lahey is a graduate of the Saint Paul University seminary in Ottawa, the Gregorian University in Rome and Cambridge University in England.
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