Child porn charges loom in background of Canadian bishops’ meeting

CORNWALL, Ontario – As Canada’s bishops met for their annual meeting, the knowledge that one of their colleagues had been charged with child pornography loomed in the background.

Giving his final president’s report, Archbishop V. James Weisgerber of Winnipeg, Manitoba, said the late-September charges against Bishop Raymond Lahey of Antigonish, Nova Scotia, were “especially painful, because of the seriousness of the charges and also because it involves a former member of our assembly, an episcopal colleague, a close associate and, for many of us, a friend.”

The charges of possessing and importing child pornography merit thorough investigation by competent authorities, Archbishop Weisgerber told about 90 bishops Oct. 19 at the beginning of their weeklong meeting. He reminded them of the presumption of innocence until the charges are proven.

“As bishops we are united in concern and prayer for each other and for all of those whose lives are impacted by the crime and sin of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse,” he said. “These include the victims and their families; the local community and society in general; the Christian community in a special way; and also the perpetrators, as well as anyone who has been accused, whether justly or unjustly.”

He reaffirmed the bishops’ commitment to safeguarding against violations of human dignity in the priorities they agreed on 20 years ago, noting that their 1992 document, “From Pain to Hope,” continued to be an important pastoral resource.

In a speech the same day, the outgoing Vatican ambassador to Canada, Archbishop Luigi Ventura, mentioned Bishop Lahey’s situation without naming him. Archbishop Ventura, who has been named nuncio to France, said he had shared with the bishops, their priests and the church “the tears and cry of suffering” of Archbishop Anthony Mancini of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Archbishop Ventura quoted Archbishop Mancini’s late-September statement, which said, “At this time when so many hearts have been broken we need to know again, or for the first time, the healing grace of God’s love.”

Archbishop Weisgerber also mentioned allegations that the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace was working with international partners that advocate for abortion rights or contraception.

“Development and Peace has clearly indicated that it wishes to respond to new questions and concerns and is already reviewing the effectiveness of its contractual arrangements with other groups, its surveillance of projects that it financially assists, as well as its mechanisms for ensuring cooperation and communication with local bishops and other episcopal conferences,” he said.

The archbishop, who will end his term as conference president at the end of the assembly Oct. 23, said Development and Peace had the opportunity to renew itself in light of Pope Benedict XVI’s latest encyclical, “Caritas in Veritate” (“Charity in Truth”), which highlights the interdependence of nations.

Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.