Innocence Lost

By Pam Frampton
The Telegram
January 7, 2012

"He does not believe who does not live according to his belief."

- Thomas Fuller (1608-1661), English author and preacher

On Aug. 7, 2009, Bishop Raymond Lahey read an apology as part of a $15-million settlement for victims of sexual abuse at the hands of Roman Catholic priests in the Diocese of Antigonish, N.S. It is excerpted here in italics.

A scant month after reading it aloud, he was arrested at an Ottawa airport carrying a laptop full of child porn and a bag of sex toys.

On Wednesday, as news came that Lahey was free to leave an Ottawa courtroom after being sentenced to time served, you could forgive people's anger.

The statement he made in 2009 sounds particularly hollow now, given that all the while he was privately aiding and abetting child sexual abusers by viewing their disgusting portfolios in order to satisfy his own sexual desires.

You can call it "viewing" child pornography if you wish. I prefer to call it what it is: people who like child porn get off on seeing children being raped and tortured and humiliated and emotionally scarred for life and don't do anything to stop it. In fact, the trend among child pornographers is to trade those repulsive images like some kind of bubble gum sports cards.

A bare-buttocked boy being paddled by a man dressed as a monk. Naked children in sexually explicit poses draped in crucifixes and rosary beads.

Well, this is what Lahey was into, even as he put on his sombre, benevolent bishop's face and apologized to the news cameras for the shameful conduct of some of his ordained brethren.

Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for your presence here today. I am Bishop Raymond Lahey of the Diocese of Antigonish. Before I say anything else here today, as bishop of Antigonish, I want to formally apologize to every victim and to their families for the sexual abuse that was inflicted upon those who were entitled instead to the trust and protection of priests of the Church.

I want them to know how terribly sorry we are, how wrong this abuse was, and how we are now attempting to right those wrongs. Money can never compensate fully, but we are trying throughout this process to be fair, responsible, respectful and, most of all, compassionate.

Above all, we want to do the right thing.

If this was your own son or daughter, your brother or sister, your mother or father who was abused, you would expect and demand nothing less.

Well, Lahey's victims weren't my sons or nephews, but they were children who were stripped of their innocence, and that makes me give a damn. We all should. They deserve no less than justice, and justice wasn't served here.

Eight months in prison for viewing hundreds of instances of child sexual abuse and doing nothing about it except striving for his own sexual gratification is not justice. Pleading guilty and agreeing to start serving jail time before he was even sentenced is not proof of remorse. It could simply be that Lahey was given sage legal advice: say the right things; do the right things; get out of jail sooner.

I feel great sympathy for Lahey's family, whom I hear are good people. His shame is not their shame. It is entirely his own.

In December, Andrew Seymour reported in The Ottawa Citizen that Crown prosecutor David Elhadad said Lahey's stature as a bishop placed him in a position of trust.

Lahey's defence lawyer, Michael Edelson, argued that Lahey would have had to be in a position of trust in relation to the child porn victims.

But he was in a position of trust, as an adult who was all too aware of the horrors these children were being subjected to and who not only did nothing, but enjoyed and was excited watching their pain and terror unfold.

And no ordinary adult, he was - still is, for now - a Roman Catholic bishop, a person whose spiritual and moral leadership members of the faith are supposed to look to for inspiration and guidance.

Instead, he is someone - for all his denial of being a pedophile - who took sensual pleasure in seeing the holy objects and images of his faith used to defile children.

And despite Lahey's seeming remorse and his previous apology to abuse victims, Seymour reported during Lahey's sentencing hearing Dec. 20 that the bishop had agreed during psychological testing to statements such as "child molesters get longer sentences than they really should" and "children don't say no to molesters because they are curious about sex and enjoy it."

Spiritual role model, indeed.

It's cold comfort to victims or parishioners or outraged members of the public if Lahey's sentence is deemed reasonable by the Criminal Code of Canada. How does it stack up against his moral code? Contrast his words with his deeds and you might find an answer:

Sexual abuse, indeed any abuse, is wrong. It is a crime, and it is a serious sin in the eyes of God. I want to assure you that for some time our Diocese, like others throughout Canada, and like other organizations, have been proactively taking steps to protect children and youth. That responsibility has been accepted and embraced by both our priests and our parishioners. We hope never again to have to face such reprehensible misconduct.

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.

In Antigonish, cash-strapped parishioners were left to foot the $15-million bill for priests' transgressions.

In the case of Lahey's porn stash, countless children will continue paying for the rest of their lives. Many of them are still likely being raped and tortured and used as fodder for countless others' twisted desires.

Lahey has himself, in part, to thank for that.



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