01/07/2012 03:44 EST | Updated 03/08/2012 05:12 EST

Bishop Raymond Lahey: Child Pornography Offence Prompts Church To Reaffirm Moral Commitment


ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - A Newfoundland archbishop is reaffirming his church's commitment to ensuring a safe environment for parishioners just days after a disgraced clergyman was sentenced for importing child pornography.

Martin Currie, the archbishop of St. John's, spoke about Roman Catholic bishop Raymond Lahey in a statement made during a church service Saturday evening.

Currie said the church has a thorough screening process and is dedicated to making sure its officials are not involved in crimes like Lahey's again.

"This archdiocese is committed to establishing safe and supportive communities for our young people and vulnerable adults," Currie said.

"Through our screening process, we continue to take steps to create a secure environment for all members of the church."

Lahey, a former parish priest in Newfoundland and more recently the bishop of Antigonish, N.S., was caught with hundreds of pornographic photos of young boys at an Ottawa airport in September 2009.

Currie asked church members to stand against "all that harms or degrades human beings," and reiterated Lahey's impending removal from the clerical state.

"The church will impose this or other penalties," he said.

Anne Walsh, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said it is not known when such penalties could come down.

She added that Currie's statement will also be read at mass on Sunday and posted on parish bulletin boards.

Lahey, 71, pleaded guilty last May to one count of importing child pornography and voluntarily went to jail.

He was sentenced earlier this week to 15 months in jail, but is free on probation because of credit for time already served.

Following the sentencing, the diocese of Antigonish also released a written statement outlining how the incident has rocked the community.

"This entire matter has caused a great deal of hurt, disappointment and anger within and outside of our diocese,'' Bishop Brian Joseph Dunn said in the statement.

"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.''

Of the 155,000 pornographic images found on Lahey's laptop and handheld device, 588 photos and 63 videos were of young boys engaged in various sexual acts, including some involving bondage and torture.