Raymond Lahey, the disgraced Roman Catholic bishop who admitted he was addicted to looking at child pornography, has been released from prison after being sentenced to time served.
He was sentenced Wednesday to 15 months in prison and two years probation but received a two-for-one credit for time served. Lahey pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography for the purposes of importation to Canada.
Lahey, 71, a Newfoundlander and former head of the Diocese of Antigonish in Nova Scotia, was caught in 2009 at Ottawa's airport after authorities checked his personal computer and found a large cache of child pornography.
Terms of Lahey's probation include:
- Being subject to a computer search at any time at work or home.
- Advising his probation officer if he leaves Canada for more than 48 hours.
- Forfeiting electronic devices seized at the airport when he was arrested.
After the hearing adjourned, Lahey's lawyer Michael Edelson said the disgraced Catholic bishop's career with the church is over. Lahey contacted the Pope about leaving the Catholic diocese about a year ago but did not hear a response, Edelson said.
"It's not within his control, but he did ask, as I said, to be reduced to layman's status," the lawyer told the throng of reporters gathered outside the courthouse. "It hasn't happened yet."
Edelson said his client understands the conditions of his sentence and has taken responsibility for his crimes.
"The sentencings in virtually every one of these cases essentially marks a person for life, especially with all the ancillary orders. As a result, you become a social pariah," he said.
"He's taken responsibility and I think he's now living with what he's done and he realizes what his life is going to be like as a result of what he's done. And he's resigned to his fate."
Bishop of Antigonish responds to verdict
In a written statement, the current bishop of Antigonish said many people have been disturbed and upset by Lahey's case.
"This entire matter has caused a great deal of hurt, disappointment and anger within and outside of our Diocese," said Bishop Brian Joseph Dunn.
"Church leaders are called to provide good example and to show moral integrity in their lives. When they commit serious moral failures, this can have a significant impact on the faith community. This is especially so when it involves the crime of child pornography."
The Crown's case involved 588 photos and 63 videos, with the Crown pointing out that some involved adolescent boys engaged in sex acts while wearing a Crucifix and rosary beads.
Some of the images shown to the judge depicted scenes of bondage, featuring young men who were bound and on all fours.
At a sentencing hearing in December, Lahey apologized for his actions, describing himself as a man who became addicted to internet-based porn "on an indiscriminate basis."
Lahey, whose career included serving as a bishop in western Newfoundland before moving to Nova Scotia, said he wanted others to learn from his mistakes.
On the streets of Antigonish, some parishioners said the case against Lahey had shaken their faith in the church.
"This has been kind of a nail in the coffin for organized religion for me," said Ryan Smith. "I feel like if you can't trust the highest people in the church then who can we trust?"
Antigonish — nicknamed "Little Vatican," is considered one of the most religious communities in Nova Scotia.
At St. Francis Xavier University — which has a practice of automatically naming the bishop of Antigonish as the school's chancellor — some students said it was unfair that Lahey had been released from custody.
"Child pornography is one of the worst crimes, especially for someone who holds that kind of position," said Lauren Chisholm.
Lahey stepped down as bishop of the diocese in September 2009, before the charges against him became public. His resignation also came just weeks after he announced a $15-million settlement between the diocese and dozens of victims who had been sexually abused as children by priests.
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