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Church officials alerted to pornography allegations against bishop 20 years ago

Bishop Raymond Lahey arrives at a police station in Ottawa October 1, 2009. Lahey, a former Canadian bishop who oversaw the settlement of sex abuse allegations against the Roman Catholic Church, is facing child pornography charges, police said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Chris Wattie (CANADA CRIME LAW RELIGION)


Two decades ago, a young man poured his heart out in Rev. Kevin Molloy's Portugal Cove rectory.

Father Molloy said he was "appalled" to hear about the pornographic images the man allegedly found, as a teenager in the home of a fatherly clergyman, who would befriend boys at Newfoundland's Mount Cashel home and often take them out to movies or to his home for the weekend.

"Just the fact that he was a priest and this young boy would find this kind of material in the priest's rectory appalled me terribly," Father Molloy told The Globe and Mail in an interview Monday night.

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Father Molloy immediately told then-Archbishop Alphonsus Penney about the allegations about what had been found in Rev. Raymond Lahey's house. Then he phoned Father Lahey, who was in Cornerbrook at the time.

"I said, 'Bishop Lahey, I'm calling you on a very serious matter…' He was quite aware of what I was saying."

In the middle of the Mount Cashel sexual-abuse inquiry, Father Lahey knew exactly the kind of trouble that kind of discovery could cause, Father Molloy said.

"He said to me, 'Would you keep in touch with me if anything were to come up?'"

Nothing happened, until Father Lahey was arrested and charged last week with possessing and importing child pornography.

Father Molloy, who now has a parish in Tarpon Springs, Florida, hasn't spoken with Father Lahey since that phone call in 1989, and was "in shock" when he found out about the child pornography charges last week.

"What really bothers me is that more than 20 years ago ... I had called him on this issue of pornography and obviously he didn't pay any attention."

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The young man, Shane Earle, was 16 when he alleges he found the catalogue of photos in Father Lahey's home of sexually aroused teenage boys.

"It changed everything for me. I couldn't talk about it, I couldn't rationalize it," he said in an interview yesterday. "[Father Lahey]was probably the one person I really trusted. ... When you have that level of trust there, that's the last thing you would expect to experience."

For years, he couldn't tell anyone. But in 1989, as the inquiry into the sexual abuse he experienced at Mount Cashel got under way, he came forward.

Mr. Earle says he can't understand why nothing happened until the former bishop was charged last week.

Mr. Penney, who could not be reached last night, resigned in 1991. He quit after an inquiry, which he had established, criticized his failure to deal with the problem of sexual abuse by clergy. The inquiry found that he had heard allegations against priests who were later convicted of abuse.

Any action he took against Father Lahey is unknown.

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Father Lahey's career flourished. By the time the complaint was made he was serving as bishop of St. George's, on the western side of the province. He spent years there and was later made bishop of Antigonish. He resigned last month, a day after being charged.

Michael Edelson, Father Lahey's lawyer, said last night he had no comment on Mr. Earle's allegations.

The immediate distress at Father Lahey's arrest has been furthered by his recent role in brokering an historic $15-million settlement with victims of alleged sexual abuse, in which he was not personally implicated, going back decades. Allegations of misconduct on his part have infuriated parishioners.

"I don't see that I'd want to give five cents to pay for the defence," Teresa MacCormac said from Antigonish Monday. "We have to get some kind of confirmation that if we're paying for the upkeep of the church we're not paying for the sins of these men. No way, let him find a way."

Many parishioners had said last week that they would hold back during collection. After Sunday masses at St. Ninian's Cathedral in Antigonish several said they had given less. But it was not immediately known whether the total fell short of the $8,082 raised the previous weekend.

Questions were immediately raised after Father Lahey surrendered to police last week about who would be funding his court battle.

On Monday Archbishop of Halifax Anthony Mancini, who has temporarily taken over administration of the Antigonish diocese, moved to defuse the controversy.

"The bishop has not requested that the diocese meet his legal costs," he said. "If that request were made, it would be declined by the diocese."

The Archbishop also announced that "a group of competent individuals" would be convened to help provide care and assistance to those suffering as a result of the church's sex scandals.

On Sunday, in an anguished message read at every mass in the province, Archbishop Mancini compared the fallout of the latest of these scandals to the crucifixion.

"I have cried and I have silently screamed, and perhaps that was my prayer to God: Why Lord? What does all this mean? What are you asking of me and of my priests? What do you want to see happen among your people? Is this a time of purification or is it nothing more than devastation."

Police in St. John's told CBC Monday they were unable to find any record of Mr. Earle's claims.

For Mr. Earle, who said he spent decades doing his best to put years of abuse out of his mind, last week's charges were a rude and traumatic awakening as to how little has changed.

"What we're dealing with today gives every indication that nothing happened, nobody followed up. I don't know if it was that nobody believed me at the time, but here we are 20-odd years later dealing with the same issues."

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About the Author

Oliver Moore joined the Globe and Mail's web newsroom in 2000 as an editor and then moved into reporting. A native Torontonian, he served four years as Atlantic Bureau Chief and has worked also in Afghanistan, Grenada, France, Spain and the United States. More

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