The lessons of the Bishop Lahey scandal
March 6, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The internationally-reported child porn possession case of Bishop Raymond Lahey of Antigonish, Nova Scotia is indeed a sad one for the Catholic Church. Yet from it, many valuable lessons can and should be learned, not only for the benefit of the Church, but also for the building of a culture of life.
Bishop Lahey was caught with child porn on his computer at the airport in 2009. Of the 155,000 pornographic images on the computer, 588 photos and 63 videos depicted young boys in sexual acts. Lahey was sentenced this past January 4th to eighteen months in prison, but was released right after the trial since he was given two-for-one credit for the 8 months in jail he had already served.
Lahey told the court that he was a homosexual and had been in a steady homosexual relationship for 10 years. He hoped, he said, to return to this relationship after prison.
One of the first lessons to glean from this sad story is the need for effective action by fellow clergy when they have knowledge of grave scandalous actions by their brother priests or even their bishops. How many of his fellow clergy, his brother bishops, his close friends and colleagues knew of Bishop Lahey’s dark secret - not only the porn addiction, but also his homosexual relationships and his repeated trips to Thailand, widely known as a major destination for those wanting to engage in pedophile adult/child sex?
It defies reason to conclude that none of Lahey’s fellow clerics, and even brother bishops, knew that there were sexual problems. There were likely more than a few who were aware that something was seriously amiss for a number of years.
In fact, Bishop Lahey’s problem with pornography, and other clerics having been advised of it, dated back more than 20 years. A few short years after Lahey was ordained auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of St. George, Newfoundland, a sexual abuse victim found pornography at Lahey’s house and reported it to a priest. In 1989 Shane Earle told Fr. Kevin Malloy of his find. Malloy reported it to then Archbishop Alphonsus Penney, but the trail ends there.
Since pornography is not illegal the police were not involved.
This brings us to the matter of sexual impropriety on the part of major church leaders in general. For practical purposes limiting this article to the leadership of the Catholic Church, let us assess some of the major damage that has occurred as various bishops lived out their elevated role in the Church while at the same time living lives steeped in sexual scandal.
The occurrence of these sexual scandals is not nearly as rare as it should be - that is, they should never occur. Just a few months ago, Los Angeles auxiliary Bishop Gabino Zavala resigned after admitting to fathering two children who are now teenagers. LifeSiteNews readers will recall Bishop Zavala for his address in 2009 when, as the head of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference communications committee, he expressed grave concern about Catholic blogs.
“We are particularly concerned about blogs that engage in attacks and hurtful, judgmental language,” he said. “We are very troubled by blogs and other elements of media that assume the role of Magisterium and judge others in the Church. Such actions shatter the communion of the Church that we hold so precious.”
It appears that the bishop may have been more discomforted about his inability to control the uncompromising fidelity and whistleblower revelations published on the Catholic blogs than he was about the uncharitable discussions that occasionally occur on some of them.
Devastation of the Faith
The quintessential example of the damage that can be caused by a bishop living a double life was that of Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland. Throughout his 25 years as a powerful bishop in the United States he created havoc for faithful Catholics. In 2009, he admitted in an autobiography that he was an active homosexual.
At the time, Michael Rose, author of Goodbye, Good Men, which chronicled how faithful Catholic men had been turned away from seminaries, said Weakland’s revelation was not surprising at all.
“What is most disappointing,” Rose told LifeSiteNews at the time, “is that his sexual perversions and obsessions colored the way he led the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, turning it during his long tenure there into a bastion of liberalism that encouraged dissent from the teachings of the Church on sexual issues and a host of others. Gay ministry and radical feminism were welcome while orthodoxy was maligned.”
In addition to a false liberal vision of the Church, Archbishop Weakland supported and failed to discipline dissident left-leaning clergy who distorted the faith. One such Catholic leader, Daniel Maguire, was a tenured professor at the Jesuit Catholic Marquette University in Milwaukee and is renowned for his effort to show that the Catholic faith justifies abortion.
During his episcopal career, Weakland held a variety of key positions in the US hierarchy, including chairman of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ ad hoc Committee on Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy. As a liturgical expert and musician, he was a leading figure in the US Church’s ruling liberal elite that worked to suppress traditional forms of music and liturgy.
Another example of such devastation was the case of Springfield Illinois Bishop Daniel Ryan. When Bishop Ryan was accused of homosexual sexual misconduct he at first vehemently denied the charges, but a Church investigation revealed that many of the accusations were accurate.
In Bishop Ryan’s diocese a prominent abortionist was employed by the local Catholic hospital as chief OB/GYN while carrying on his abortion practice at his abortion mill across the street. For four years Angela and Daniel Michael, pro-life activists and parents of 11 children, urged Bishop Ryan to put an end to the scandal to no avail.
Bishop Lahey himself was reported in 1992 to have attended with all the priests of his diocese Enneagram lectures. (a New-Age practice condemned by the Church )
In South Africa the auxiliary Bishop of Cape Town was an active homosexual. In his diocese Dignity Masses celebrating homosexuality went on unchallenged. A group called Roman Catholic Faithful found evidence exposing Bishop Reginald Cawcutt as participating in a homosexual sex website. In addition to nude and graphic photos of the Bishop, his foul rants against Pope John-Paul II and then-Cardinal Ratzinger were also revealed. However, only two years later, in 2002, when an expose on the findings was run in the media, did the Bishop resign.
All of these situations were likely known by others for years, but no one took strong action to put a halt to the scandals and the resulting harm to individuals and the faith in the respective dioceses.
An additional sinister danger compounding the problem of bishops involved in sexual scandal is the potential for blackmail.
Weakland’s case exemplifies the scenario. In 2002, the Vatican quickly accepted his resignation after it came to light that he had made a $450,000 payoff, from diocesan coffers, to former Marquette University theology student, Paul Marcoux who had accused Weakland of sexual assault. It was later revealed that Marcoux and Weakland had engaged in a mutually consensual homosexual relationship ended by Weakland in 1980.
Blackmail was also suspected in the 2005 resignation of Argentine Bishop Juan Carlos Maccarone. The then-Bishop of Santiago del Estero was forced to resign after a video was sold showing the Bishop in sexual activity with a 23-year-old man - Alfredo Serrano.
In another case the Bishop of Minas in Uruguay, Francisco Domingo Barbosa Da Silveira, was forced to resign in July 2009 after facing extortion by two men who filmed their sexual interactions with the bishop.
Culture of fear
One of the major road-blocks to having such scandals avoided and put to a swift end is the culture of fear created by these scandalous clergy and Bishops. Bullying and other strong-arm tactics are often employed in cowing faithful, orthodox clergy, and even fellow bishops into silence. This has actually been rather common, as LifeSiteNews has learned to its dismay over the years.
The 2006 investigative report issued by his own former Diocese of Springfield noted that Bishop Daniel Ryan had “engaged in improper sexual conduct and used his office to conceal his activities.” He had fostered “a culture of secrecy ... that discouraged faithful priests from coming forward with information about misconduct.”
But there is more than fear which dissuades faithful priests and bishops from exposing the scandal or their brother clergy. A misguided sense of personal loyalty, false charity, and an all-too-convenient rationalization that avoiding needed corrective action is in fact a way of guarding the faith, often come into play.
As we have seen over and over again regarding the numerous cases of grave and ongoing sexual scandal, these sentiments are terribly misguided and in fact accomplish the opposite of what they propose.
Obviously when such abuses are dealt with, charity is extended to the victims of abuse. But beyond this, it is true friendship and charity not only to the Church, but also to the offender, to expose him to the proper authorities in order that the offender may be relieved of his duties.
Bishops and other clergy involved in such scandal do themselves and the faith much harm in living double lives. In exposing the scandal and having the offender relieved of his duties, the courageous and determined whistleblower performs an act of charity for his brother clergy. The offender is enabled to seek the forgiveness and help which he needs to overcome his addictions and live out his life (and afterlife) in peace.
Our Lord Himself warned of the seriousness of religious leaders leading the faithful astray. “It is impossible that scandals should not come: but woe to him through whom they come,” He said. “It were better for him, that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should scandalize one of these little ones.” (Lk 17:1-2)