Canadian bishop gets 15 months in child porn case

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Posted: Jan 04, 2012 4:52 PM
Canadian bishop gets 15 months in child porn case

A Canadian Roman Catholic bishop who admitted he was addicted to looking at child pornography left court Wednesday a free man after being credited for time served in his 15 month sentence.

Bishop Raymond Lahey was arrested at the Ottawa airport in 2009 after customs authorities found almost 600 pornographic photos of young teen boys on his laptop and a handheld device.

Some of the porn involved adolescent boys engaged in sex acts while wearing a crucifix and rosary beads.

The case was especially shocking to Canadians because Lahey had overseen a multimillion-dollar settlement for clerical sexual abuse victims in his diocese before he was charged.

Lahey, 71, pleaded guilty last May to one count of importing child pornography and voluntarily went to jail to begin serving time before his formal sentencing.

Ontario Court Justice Kent Kirkland on Wednesday gave Lahey two-for-one credit for the time he served and two years probation. Double credit is not unusual. The federal government got rid of the provision in 2010 but Lahey qualified for it because he was charged in 2009 before the legislation was enacted.

Lahey will have to submit a DNA sample and register as a sex offender. He also will have to allow searches of his personal and office computers when required by the authorities. He has also been ordered to keep away from swimming pools, daycare centers and schools.

Lahey said nothing as he left the Ottawa courthouse on Wednesday.

Defense lawyer Michael Edelson called it "exactly the right sentence." Edelson said Lahey's career in the church is over. He said Lahey wrote a letter to the Vatican last year asking to be defrocked but hasn't heard back yet.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said Wednesday that the Vatican had said that once the criminal court case was concluded, church authorities would consider which church law measures to take. Lombardi said it wasn't known when that decision would be taken but that he expected it would be made public.

After Lahey pleaded guilty, the Vatican said the church would impose its own disciplinary measures against him but did not elaborate.

Prelates who sexually abuse minors can be defrocked. Lesser punishments include being forbidden from celebrating Mass publicly.

Edelson said Lahey has been in solitary confinement and the conditions have been dismal.

"He's lost about 30 pounds (13 kilograms). He has a very severe skin condition now that he didn't have when he went in. It's been a very difficult period, and that's one of the reasons there is a two-for-one credit," Edelson said.

At a sentencing hearing last month, Lahey offered an apology to his church and to victims of child pornography. He said his addiction to internet porn went against his moral principles.

Lahey resigned as head of the Catholic diocese of Antigonish in Nova Scotia just before the charges became public.

"This entire matter has caused a great deal of hurt, disappointment and anger within and outside of our diocese," new Antigonish Bishop Brian Dunn said in a statement. "Church leaders are called to provide good example and to show moral integrity in their lives. When they commit serious moral failures, this can have a significant impact on the faith community. This is especially so when it involves the crime of child pornograhy."

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Associated Press writer Frances D'Emilio contributed to this report from Rome