Canadian bishop pleads guilty in child porn case

Posted May 04, 2011, at 4:01 p.m.

OTTAWA, Ontario — A Canadian Roman Catholic bishop pleaded guilty Wednesday to importing child pornography, prompting the Vatican to say it, too, would impose disciplinary measures.

Bishop Raymond Lahey, 70, entered the plea in an Ottawa courtroom — a rare case of a high-ranking Canadian Church official facing charges over sexual misconduct.

The Vatican said Wednesday that with Lahey’s criminal trial now over, the church will impose its own disciplinary or penal measures against him.

“The Catholic Church condemns sexual exploitation in all its forms, especially when perpetrated against minors,” said a statement from the Vatican’s press office, adding “the Holy See will continue to follow the canonical procedures in effect for such cases, which will result in the imposition of the appropriate disciplinary or penal measures.”

It wasn’t clear what punishment Lahey could face from the Vatican: Prelates who sexually abuse minors can be defrocked; lesser punishments include being forbidden from celebrating Mass publicly.

Lahey was charged in 2009 with possessing and importing child pornography after border agents examined his laptop at an Ontario airport. He resigned as head of the Catholic diocese of Antigonish in Nova Scotia just before the charges became public.

Police say they found hundreds of files and dozens of videos, many of them showing young males engaged in sexual acts.

After pleading guilty, Lahey waived his bail and was taken into custody even though his sentencing hearing has not been set. Defense lawyer Michael Edelson said Lahey wanted to start serving time now in order to get credit after sentencing.

The case was especially shocking to Canadians because Lahey had overseen a multimillion dollar settlement for clerical sexual abuse victims in his diocese only a month earlier.

Last year, in the midst of the clerical abuse scandal, the Vatican made acquiring, possessing or distributing child pornography one of the most serious canonical crimes that are handled by the powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Associated Press Writers Charmaine Noronha in Toronto and Nicole Winfield in Rome contributed to this report.

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