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LAHEY-PLEA (SECOND UPDATE) May-6-2011 (570 words) With photo posted May 4. xxxi

Canadian bishop pledges healing in diocese rocked by child porn charges

By Brian Lazzuri
Catholic News Service

ANTIGONISH, Nova Scotia (CNS) -- Antigonish Bishop Brian Dunn recommitted himself to working to bring healing, reconciliation and reform to the diocese after his predecessor pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography for the purpose of importation.

Bishop Dunn told media May 5 that he was inspired by the courage and example of people who remain active in the Catholic Church, especially in his diocese.

"To those who have found it necessary to absent themselves from our faith communities, I will continue to work to regain your trust and remind you of how much we miss your presence," he said.

A day earlier, former Antigonish Bishop Raymond Lahey pleaded guilty to charges stemming from his September 2009 arrest at the airport in Ottawa, Ontario, after nearly 600 pornographic images and 60 videos involving boys as young as 8 were found on his laptop. However, he told the judge he was not guilty of possession with the intent to distribute.

At his request, the bishop went directly to jail, even though a date had not been set for his sentencing hearing.

The same day, the Vatican and the Canadian bishops reiterated their opposition to all sexual exploitation, and the Vatican said it would continue its canonical process against Bishop Lahey.

Under the Vatican norms, offenders can be dismissed from the priesthood if found guilty of "the acquisition, possession, or distribution ... of pornographic images of minors under the age of 14, for purposes of sexual gratification, by whatever means or using whatever technology."

In Antigonish, Bishop Dunn's remarks were the first on his predecessor's legal situation since the charges were laid and Bishop Lahey resigned.

"This is indeed a very sad day as we witness one of our church leaders convicted of these very serious charges connected with child pornography," Bishop Dunn said.

"Here in this diocese we are particularly aware of the harm that occurs when minors are sexually exploited. The Gospel calls us to respect the human dignity of every person," he said.

The Diocese of Antigonish is gathering $18 million in funds to settle a class action sexual abuse lawsuit and address the allegations of those who opted out of the class action suit.

Ron Martin brought forth the class action suit on behalf of all people who were sexually assaulted by any priest of the diocese between Jan. 1, 1950, and final approval of the lawsuit. The agreement was signed by Bishop Lahey, less than six weeks before his arrest.

Bishop Dunn spoke about his year and a half in the diocese.

"One of the aspects of my ministry has been to deal with the response to Bishop Lahey's charges. I have certainly come to appreciate how deeply this has affected so many people and at so many levels. This incident, along with the cases of sexual abuse of children by some clergy of the diocese, has clearly caused many to question their relationship to the church."

He said the situation is especially difficult because leaders are called to have good morals and provide good examples.

Bishop Dunn reached out to sexual abuse victims.

"So many of you bravely came forward with a sincere desire for justice, truth and reconciliation, I am sure that the matters that are being addressed today were particularly hurtful to you when first discovered, and I am sorry that you now have to reopen some of your brutal pain."

END


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