CCN PHOTO | DEBORAH GYAPONG
Bishop Raymond Lahey (centre) heads to the Ottawa courthouse May 4 accompanied by his lawyers.
OTTAWA — Bishop Raymond Lahey pleaded guilty to the importation of child pornography May 4 and asked to go directly to jail, even though a date has not been set for his sentence hearing.
The former bishop of Antigonish, N.S., faced two child porn charges, but the Crown and defence counsel agreed to drop the more serious charge of possession of child pornography for the purpose of transmission.
They also agreed on a set of facts that were summarized in the courtroom, but have been sealed from the public because of the child porn content.
Det. Andrew Thompson, the Ottawa police officer who did the forensic exam of Lahey’s laptop and other electronic devices, gave brief descriptions of some of the 588 images and 60 videos he found that depicted boys as young as eight to 10 engaging in sexual acts with each other or adult males.
Thompson also found pornographic stories on the bishop’s hard drives – one running to 300 pages in length — that he categorized under five themes: mastery and slavery involving adults and young boys; humiliation of young boys; torture of young boys; sex acts between young boys; and degradation of young boys or forcing sex acts on them.
Bishop could be expelled from priesthood
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE
VATICAN CITY — The Vatican will continue its process against a Canadian bishop who pleaded guilty in a civil court to possession of child pornography, the Vatican spokesman said.
Bishop Raymond Lahey pleaded May 4 to the charge of possession "for the purposes of importation child pornography in the form of graphic computer images."
Jesuit Father Frederico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, issued a statement May 4 saying, "The Catholic Church condemns sexual exploitation in all its forms, especially when perpetrated against minors."
"Although the civil process has run its course, the Holy See will continue to follow the canonical procedures in effect for such cases, which will result in the imposition of the appropriate disciplinary or penal measures," Lombardi said.
In May 2010, the Vatican altered the way it handles priestly sex abuse cases, streamlining disciplinary measures, extending the statute of limitations and defining child pornography as an act of sexual abuse of a minor.
Under the Vatican norms, offenders can be dismissed from the priesthood if found guilty of "the acquisition, possession, or distribution . . . of pornographic images of minors under the age of 14, for purposes of sexual gratification, by whatever means or using whatever technology."
Lahey resigned as bishop of Antigonish after his arrest.
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement after the hearing condemning "all forms of sexual exploitation, especially involving minors."
It said the conference would "continue to work to prevent such behaviour and to bring healing to the victims and their families."
"Recognizing the confusion and anger that this case has engendered among many of the faithful, we underscore our pastoral concern for those who have experienced great pain as a result of these events," the bishops said.
"In a special way, our thoughts and prayers are with the people of the Diocese of Antigonish and all the Atlantic region."
Lahey, who wore a tweed jacket, beige pants and carried a small blue bag, sat calmly in the packed courtroom. He refused to answer questions as he entered the courthouse.
The judge said he was satisfied Lahey was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Forensic psychiatrist Dr. John Bradford was unable to come to court May 4. A date needs to be set for his cross-examination before sentencing will take place. Lahey’s lawyers will be in court May 26 to determine a date for a sentence hearing.
The bishop faces a minimum mandatory sentence of one year in jail and possibly up to 10 years.
“My client feels very deeply and profoundly remorseful for what he has done,” defence counsel Michael Edelson told the court May 4.
Lahey was waiving his right to bail, the lawyer said. “He is asking to be incarcerated this morning to signal to the court the sincerity and genuineness of his remorse.”
Lahey smiled a couple of times at his defence counsel, and then waited for a police officer to escort him out of the courtroom.
On Sept. 15, 2009, a Canadian Border Services (CBSA) agent flagged Lahey for a secondary search when he returned to Canada aboard a flight from London. He had been travelling alone and his passport showed he had visited Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Germany.
According to the statement of facts, when asked what he did for a living, he replied he was a priest who did missionary work.
The agent asked him about what electronic gear he was carrying and noted how Lahey’s demeanour changed from being “calm, friendly and forthcoming,” to “nervous, quiet and resisting eye contact” when she asked him about whether he had a laptop.
A preliminary inspection revealed images of young males engaged in sex acts. The Ottawa police were contacted and continued the investigation.
Lahey denied to the CBSA agent an interest in child pornography but admitted an attraction to young males 18 to 21, as well as those older than that.
The bishop may face further canonical penalties. The highest canonical penalty Lahey could face is dismissal from the clerical state, what used to be called defrocking, said Father Frank Morrissey, a leading canon lawyer.
Ontologically, Lahey remains a priest forever, but he would no longer be considered a cleric, Morrissey said.
“He could be deprived of the right to take part in any meeting of conference of bishops or an ecumenical council or a papal audience, or they could forbid from exercising any public ministry and make that a perpetual penalty.”
Further penalties will all be at the level of the Vatican, he said.