Thursday, October 8, 2009

Canadian bishops being too self-flattering over Lahey scandal?

I read this article in the Globe and Mail today entitled "Church vocal in face of scandal".  Here are some quotes that caught my attention.   

This time – with the disgrace of former bishop Raymond Lahey drenching the news media – the hierarchy of Canada's Roman Catholic Church has not stayed silent.

In what one senior church official on Thursday called a light-years' shift from a generation ago, bishops have preached in their cathedrals and written open letters about their anger and disgust with Rev. Lahey and the child pornography charges he faces.

The national Catholic television station Salt and Light TV has devoted much of its blog to the story. And the Pope's representative in Canada this week told theology students in Toronto that the Canadian church had been wounded.


The Canadian bishops were the first in the world to institute protocols, Father Rosica said. It placed them far ahead of the U.S. church and fostered a climate of transparency, rigorous investigation and instant suspension for suspected wrongdoing. Except, as the papal nuncio told theology students, the destructive power of sin can't be underestimated.

First of all, I'm very happy that the Canadian bishops have been so vocal in denouncing Archbishop Lahey's actions.  This is another sad episode in the history of our Church, but the truth must be known and dealt with. There would have been no point in denying it or minimizing it.

What bugs me is that the bishops have started patting themselves on the back over how awesomely they have dealt with this issue.  Their tone is quite triumphalist, at a time when there is nothing to be triumphant aboutWe just caught an Archbishop using child porn!  Not to mention that it wasn't the bishops who brought this man to justice, but rather the police who did an excellent job.  I think the bishops' attitude is severely misplaced and very premature.  New facts about this case are still emerging.  This is a time of repentance, investigation and accountability, not a time for self-flattery. 

This is particularly true in light of the new revelations that Lahey's child pornography behaviour was known by another priest and bishop 20 years ago! 

Indeed, in the National Post, we read that Father Kevin Molloy learned about Lahey's behaviour in 1989.  He confronted Lahey and told him to stop these sinful deeds.  He also alerted Archbishop Alphonsus Penney, who was the proper ecclesiastical authority at the time.  Archbishop Penney has not spoken to the media yet concerning the Lahey scandal, so we don't know exactly what measures, if any, were taken against Lahey in 1989.  But one thing is certain: Lahey's child pornography habits were obviously not overcome at that time and it would have been horribly imprudent to let him continue his ministry in that condition.  Archbishop Penney owes us a darn good explanation.  Until then, the bishops would be advised to hold off on their self-congratulation. 

The same article in the National Post says that Lahey allegedly was in the habit of bringing some boys into his home on weekends, back in the 1980s.  That's where some boys found the child pornography.

This raises the obvious question:  why was Lahey allowed to continue in his functions for another 20 years after being exposed?  

Keep in mind that 1989 was not so long ago.  Our understanding of sexual deviancy had improved a lot since the 1950s or 1960s.  Disciplinary actions for sexual deviancy in the clergy should have been stronger.

So while normal Catholics are still in shock and seeking accountability, the bishops are congratulating themselves in one of Canada's national newspapers.  How does that make you feel?  I'm concerned that the Canadian bishops are more worried about their public appearance over this scandal than in addressing the substance of the issue.  Dealing with the issue of sexual deviancy in the clergy is difficult and requires great sacrifice.  It's a lot easier to focus on the PR.  But we can't let them be content with a PR campaign.  We need some answers and accountability. 

Reading the quote from Fr. Rosica above, you'd almost think that the Canadian Church has it all figured out and that sexual scandals are a thing of the past.  Well, no.  The fact that an Archbishop can still fall through the cracks tells me that there is much work left to do.  We need the bishops to tell us what concrete measures they will implement to prevent this from happening again. 

Is this a sign of more things to come from the CCCB's revamped communications strategy?  I sure hope not. 

Please pray for our bishops.