OTTAWA – Raymond Lahey, the retired bishop of Antigonish, N.S., who was convicted of importing child pornography, has been laicized by the Vatican.
A statement on the website of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops May 16 said the conference learned from the Vatican that "Raymond Lahey has been dismissed from the clerical state."
As such, he loses all rights and duties associated with being a priest, except the obligation of celibacy, said the bishops' statement.
"Raymond Lahey has accepted the Decree of Dismissal, which also requires him to pray the Liturgy of the Hours in reparation for the harm and the scandal he has caused, and for the sanctification of clergy," the statement said.
The 71-year-old former bishop pleaded guilty in May 2011 to the charge of possession of child pornography for importation.
He was released from prison Jan. 4 after the judge gave him double credit for eight months already served. The judge also imposed a period of 24 months probation with strict conditions on him.
In an interview, Archbishop Richard Smith, CCCB president, said, “It’s clear that this is the right decision and it sends the right signal.”
Child pornography is directly linked to child sexual abuse, he said. For any ordained person, especially a bishop, to be found guilty of possessing child pornography and bringing it into the country “is really beyond the pale.”
Smith said the CCCB had no role in the laicization of Lahey as it has no authority over any bishop.
The Holy See launched its own canonical investigation and made the decision to laicize the former bishop, he said.
“This is a horrible thing that has brought great sadness to the Church and my heart aches particularly for the people of the Diocese of Antigonish,” said Smith, a native of Nova Scotia.
The archbishop said his heart aches for children and others who are hurt by child pornography.
Despite the anger and shock they may feel, Catholics should also find it in their hearts to pray for Lahey’s healing, he said. “We are called by the Gospel to reach out in love and mercy to him as well.”