Mallick: Addiction Doesn't Excuse Disgraced Bishop Raymond Lahey

By Heather Mallick
Toronto Star
January 5, 2012

Bishop Raymond Lahey leaves the Ottawa courthouse on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2012, after he was sentenced to 15 months in jail and 24 months probation for importing child-pornography. He was released, as he has already served his time.

It was a big win for addicts everywhere. Disgraced Catholic Bishop Raymond Lahey Wednesday talked a court into letting him off with time served for storing 155,000 pornographic images of young boys on his computer and handheld. He just couldn't help himself.

"I have come to recognize that I became addicted to Internet pornography on a very indiscriminate basis," Lahey, 71, told the nice judge.

"This was an addiction powerful enough that, despite my own distaste for it and my own internal convulsions, I could not break it."

Convulsions indeed. Lahey's massive stash included 63 videos of bondage and torture, replete with rosary beads, crucifixes and monks beating naked boys with paddles. Lahey, whose computer was examined at Ottawa airport after officials noted his repeated trips to Southeast Asia and other countries rife with industrial child porn, was in the grip of the demon "addiction."

But so is everyone now. Addiction is a casual word used to excuse the pleasure forced in this ample age on helpless people by food, sex, work, coffee, gambling, rye and ginger, shopping, cosmetic surgery, Satanism, wheat flour, love, arson, notoriety, paint thinners, exercise, work, cheap thrills, etc. As if these things stood in doorways with a glint in their eye and offered you free samples.

Addiction is a profitable, rehab-financing word for "habit." And, if men like Lahey didn't have this habit, it wouldn't be profitable for children to be sodomized on film. This is the prosecutor's motivation here (hopelessly addicted to protecting children), in case you're puzzled that Lahey was convicted despite not appearing in the porn himself.

No one knows what created Lahey's attraction to pedophilia, but his "addiction" is his excuse for pure fun. People like this sort of thing, if this is the sort of thing they like. I am always puzzled by the conservative clamour for more consumer choice. We are spoiled for choice. I choose puce-toned nail polish and a mordant view; Lahey chooses Argyle sweater vests and Catholic-themed child torture. Are we both victims of the free market?

Blaming the thing itself is not helpful, unless you're an old bishop in Ottawa — who has been told to stay away from playgrounds, but strangely, not computers — in which case, it's a brilliant move.

I'm addicted, too. Pity me. On Boxing Day, I began watching The Killing, (Forbrydelsen), a Danish TV murder drama that I bought in a DVD box set for my husband (to whom I am addicted, although the addiction literature presumes I have resented him from the start) for Christmas. I spent 20 hours hunched in front of the TV shouting at a certain Det.-Insp. Lund, "Watch out, he's behind you!" until I became ill from tension and eyestrain. But I didn't go to the doctor, because what are doctors but addiction enablers?

The release of discovering the true killer was addictive. I have now ordered Forbrydelsen from Europe and a backup all-regions DVD player at great expense, but I am hooked on Scandinavian detectives in their unfortunate fisherman's knits. I blame the producers, Danmarks Radio. It's not my fault.

And it's not the baby-faced bishop's fault either.

"Disgraced bishop Lahey may face Vatican discipline,"'s inadvertently amusing headline read. The church is famous for its "addiction" to laxity in this field. They have had years since his arrest to deal with an employee who, by chance, oversaw a church sex abuse settlement in his own Antigonish diocese.

Lahey's defence lawyer said the poor man, now being sued , is wearing a scarlet letter, but one of the prosecutors, David Elhadad, said acidly that the victims of child pornography bear "marks that are invisible to the naked eye but are of psychological harm, knowing that their photographed and videotaped sexual encounters are out there for eternity. They are the true victims."

And addicted to it now, no doubt.


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