What made them search a bishop?

bags_aerovation_xrayI have two questions that I need to ask about the following CBC report, which I find stunning. One question now and one question later on in the post.

Question No. 1: Has a Roman Catholic bishop in a diocese on North America ever been the subject of a criminal manhunt?

I realize that in during the three decades of the sex-abuse scandal, there has been talk of bishops being jailed because of their role in the cover-up of crimes and alleged crimes by their priests (click here for one semi-recent example). But how about a bishop who is actually being investigated as the perpetrator of the crime? This is not the same thing, of course, as a bishop being accused of abuse years after the alleged abuse took place.

Am I forgetting something? Search terms such has “Catholic,” “bishop,” “abuse” and “jail” are — here’s an ironic sign of the times — simply too broad and return too many stories that are not that specific.

But here is the top of the CBC report:

Ottawa police have issued an arrest warrant for a Roman Catholic bishop from Nova Scotia facing child pornography charges.

Raymond Lahey, a native of Newfoundland who was with the Antigonish diocese until his sudden resignation on Saturday, currently can’t be found, Ottawa police Const. Jean-Paul Vincelette said Wednesday.

Sgt. Brigdit Leger of the Halifax RCMP said Ottawa police officers have spoken with Lahey, though they do not know where he is. A spokeswoman for Anthony Mancini, the archbishop of Halifax who is overseeing the Antigonish diocese until a replacement for Lahey is named, said Mancini spoke briefly with Lahey by phone after learning of the charges through the media, but he did not know Lahey’s whereabouts.

If you visit the diocesan home page, you have to hunt to find the tiny resignation letter — sent to priests, not the laity — which beings like this:

Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of Most Rev. Raymond J. Lahey as Bishop of the Diocese of Antigonish and has appointed me Apostolic Administrator effective September 26, 2009. Bishop Lahey has resigned for personal reasons. We are grateful to him for his dedicated and generous service to the Diocese.

The circumstances of the resignation are not that mundane, which leads to my second question. But first, here are some of the details:

Lahey was re-entering Canada at the Ottawa International Airport on Sept. 15 when members of the Canada Border Services Agency pulled him aside for a secondary examination, according to a release from Ottawa police. Officers found images on Lahey’s laptop computer “that were of concern.”

He was released at the time. The computer was seized and police said a subsequent forensic examination of the computer revealed child pornography.

There are other details, including the ironic fact that Lahey is primarily known as the bishop who recently helped negotiate a major settlement deal — $15 million worth — with a victims of clergy sexual abuse in this diocese. The former theology professor is only 69 years of age, which is an early retirement age for a Catholic bishop.

But here is question No. 2: What led to the secondary search of the laptop hard drive of a Catholic bishop?

LaheywI have been through a lot of security lines in the past six months — in the United States and, literally, around the world. I have not, however, traveled into Canada in recent years.

Thus, am I missing something? Laptop computers are sent through scanners everywhere. I get that. But what was the trigger that led to his computer being switched on and then electronically searched, using a method that would detect images?

The latest news is that the bishop has turned himself in and, well, the authorities are remaining mum about what led to this unusual search. Here is a relevant passage from a Montreal Gazette update:

Det. Dan Melchiorre, the lead investigator on the case and a member of the Ottawa Police High Tech Crimes Unit, says Lahey was not known to the Ottawa Police, or a target of its ongoing, anti-child porn program, before his arrival at the airport. Rather, he says Lahey “triggered” the interest of airport security agents who then conducted a secondary search of his computer.

Melchiorre won’t say what those specific triggers were. He says authorities seized Lahey’s laptop, which allegedly contained images of child pornography — plus a number of thumb drives, which are small, portable plug-in devices that store digital pictures and information.

OK, one more question: Do security teams open suitcases in Canada?

This is one strange story and I am sure the reporters working on it have lots of questions of their own.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • http://podles.org Lee Podles

    When I have entered Canada security officals have sometimes made me turn on my computer to verify it was not a bomb, but that would not access files. I doubt the bishop used pornography as a screen saver,and something led inspectors to look for images on the computer. Even if Lahey was nervous, inspectors would not immediately think of child pornography on a computer. Drugs or money laudering would be the first suspicion.

    They had reasons for suspecting him before he arrived, and they are not telling why. Illegal wiretap or computer interception? Or (more probably) a tip from an informant?

  • dalea

    This is a truly strange and bothersome story. Begining with the vague ‘child pornography’ charge and the unknown ‘triggers’, the whole thing makes no sense to me. Hopefully, the bishop or his lawyer will clarify the situation.

  • Dale

    I agree with Lee. I live near the border, and I get more grief from my fellow Americans when I re-enter the country than I get when enter Canada. The typical dialogue at the customs booth upon entering Canada:

    “What citizenship.”
    “What’s your destination?”
    “Niagara Falls.”
    “How long will you stay in Canada?”
    “Two days.”
    “Any family in Canada?”
    “Any guns, alcohol or fruit and vegetables?”
    “Enjoy your trip.”

    I don’t think anyone at the border ever asked if I had a computer.

    So, yeah, it seems a little odd that Canadian airport security would confiscate a computer and search it for porn. None of the stories I’ve seen indicate what country he had visited. Maybe his itinerary caused the Canadian border police to take special interest.

  • hrh

    “But how about a bishop who is actually being investigated as the perpetrator of the crime?”

    In 2004, Thomas Dupre, a bish in the Springfield, MA, diocese, was to be questioned by authorities re charges of rape/sodomy/molestation/abuse of children. The night before, he disappeared. Diocese mouthpieces have refused to reveal his whereabouts.

  • Dale

    hrh wrote:

    In 2004, Thomas Dupre, a bish in the Springfield, MA, diocese, was to be questioned by authorities re charges of rape/sodomy/molestation/abuse of children. The night before, he disappeared. Diocese mouthpieces have refused to reveal his whereabouts.

    No. Bishop Dupre resigned the day after he was confronted with allegations of sexual abuse, before there was a police investigation, and checked into a psychiatric hospital. A grand jury was convened and he was indicted, but the district attorney dropped the charges because the limitation period for the alleged crimes lapsed. He isn’t fleeing prosecution and no one (let alone “diocese mouthpieces”) interfered with a criminal investigation.

  • http://roadtorecovery rev. robert m. hoatson

    Did the Vatican know why Lahey resigned? No doubt. Why weren’t the people of Antigonish told why their bishop was resigning? Is the transparency that Church officials have promised since the scourge of clergy sexual abuse exploded around the world? Obviously not!

    It is disgraceful that the Vatican allowed Lahey to resign without informing the rest of the Church of the reason. Suppose this man had abused a child between the time of his resignation and now? The Catholic Church will never get it, it seems!

  • Chuck

    First the tone of above comments make me wonder if some are concerned about getting caught doing the same thing. Second, I think the US press obtains and prints too many details of how criminals are caught. You would think they work for the criminals.

  • Darrell

    Laptops fair game for border searchesThe Globe and Mail

    “The Customs Act gives Canada’s border officers authority to examine people’s personal baggage and goods upon arrival to, and departure from, Canada, including scrutiny of electronic devices.”

  • http://fkclinic.blogspot.com Nancy Reyes

    They are looking for “contraband” which can mean anything from bomb making information for terrorist to a “Black Eyed Peas” mp3 that you downloaded illegally via a P2P network.


    On the other hand, if he were innocent, he could have just said he wasn’t aware of the files: There are computer viruses that will put such photos on computers…but if the files were in a “locked” file, he’s out of luck…

  • Dale

    Darrell wrote:

    “The Customs Act gives Canada’s border officers authority to examine people’s personal baggage and goods upon arrival to, and departure from, Canada, including scrutiny of electronic devices.”

    I don’t doubt that the search of the computer was legal. If you don’t want your bags (or computer) searched, don’t cross an international border. Just ask Paul McCartney. No warrant required.

    What’s intriguing about this story is that the border officers chose to closely inspect this specific computer of this specific individual. They don’t do it for everybody, or even do it on a regular basis, because they don’t have the time or the staff. A digital file is not as easily discoverable as a big bag of marijuana in your suitcase. The officers had some reason to pick out the bishop, and they’re not telling what it was.

  • Jerry

    The border officers might also be doing random spot checks. One web site I found had this posting about US customs but it could easily apply to Canadian customs:

    You have to fit a profile, which is, a man from 30-60 single. It happened to me. TSA searched my lap using somthing called encase they went into my deleted files…


  • dalea

    Having shipped merchandise to Canada, I can say that the RCMP do monitor purchases by Canadians from online retailers. Had an antique ivory figure seized by customs who had followed the auction when a Canadian bidder won it. Gay smut has battled Canadian customs for years: shipments keep getting seized even if the material would be perfectly legal if produced in Canada. Maybe a purchase tipped them off.

    There was a ‘child pornography’ case here in SoCal that really seemed off base. Some guy taped High School football games and sold the tapes. He also put together reels of the cheerleaders at these games and sold them. Somehow a DA convinced a grand jury that videos of fully clothed cheerleaders at public events cheerleading was stalking and child pornography. These cases are really strange.

  • dalea

    To better fit our topic here, let me rephrase. It became common knowlege on the discussion boards of the major online auctions and retailers, that Canadian customs and the RCMP were keeping an eye on what Canadians were buying. The only reporting I ever saw on the subject was in these discussion boards. But with thousands of people pooling their stories, a pattern emerged. High dollar items were tracked to collect VAT. Illegal items, like ivory, were confiscated and destroyed. Same with legal items like antique ivory and bone.

    Canadians who bid with US registered names were tracked by using their IP address. It got to a point where most Canadians would have things shipped to a friend or relative in the US and then would hand carry the purchase over the border.

    I can remember a series of phone calls from the RCMP about a wood handled gold club I shipped. The police were convinced that this was a weapon, based on the xray of the package. Went on for weeks before they gave up.

    This may be how they got the bishop, from a purchase online.

  • Elizabeth

    Maybe it is a “set up”. Maybe someone put the child pornography onto the Bishop’s computer, etc. to discredit him.

  • Michel

    The plot thickens, it would seem that the good bishop has probably been of interest to the police for a long time:


    I just keep wondering when the media are going to do a good long piece look into why these scandals always seem to arise concerning certain subgroups within the Catholic church.

  • Dale


    The story in your link concerns quotes from one individual, a plaintiff in a lawsuit, who now recalls telling police about pornography in the bishop’s residence 20 years ago. On the other hand, the Ottawa police said that the bishop wasn’t known to the Ottawa police or a target of investigation until he “triggered” closer inspection by the border officers. At this point, I’d place more weight on what the police say (and haven’t said) than an interested party’s twenty-year old memory.

  • Dave

    The officers had some reason to pick out the bishop, and they’re not telling what it was.

    And they will probably go on not telling. Occam’s razor suggests the bishop fit a profile and the cops are not going to disclose what it was, as it’s not necessary for prosecution.

  • Kirk

    I would be willing to bet he was looking at the porn on his computer on the flight into Canada. A passenger or steward saw it and reported him. Alternatively, if the flight allowed onboard internet access, perhaps he was surfing prohibited websites during the flight, and they detected it.

  • Michel


    I don’t know if you are Canadian or not.

    But, if you are not, you may not appreciate what a huge story the Mount Cashel thing was here. It ran on the front pages for months and months, there were articles and books and even a television miniseries based on it. Trust me, the police keep tabs on anyone who was associated with that earlier incident. This isn’t just a case of one person’s memory.

  • http://podles.org Lee Podles

    Canadian reporters have not yet discovered that Lahey was mentioned in Harris’ Unholy Orders (about Mount Cashel). Lahey was vicar general at the time, and at a trial gave a character reference for a confessed pedophile. Lahey noted how much the victim had improved during the time he was being abused.

  • RR

    I don’t see what the problem is. Thank God he’s been caught.
    I may be premature in this, but if he weren’t guilty, he would have been the first to make a public statement about his innocence. The fact that he has not so much as said a word about the whole situation other than his notice of retirement does not point to his innocence.

    The fact that his computer was searched could be as simple as the guard’s being prompted by his guardian angel. The Gospel for today said that a child’s angels is continually before the face of God; it could be that God decided it was time to turn him in. Let this be a warning to all – clergy or otherwise –, you will be caught!

  • EJCM

    I wonder where the Bishop was coming from? A single 60ish man returning from a trip to Thailand or somewhere like that is going to raise suspicion.

  • Judith Brown

    Keep connected with Sylvia MacEachern’s blog at http://www.theinquiry.ca She posted Oct. 1. Sylvia has the most extensive files on the homosexual/pedophile/etc network in the Catholic Church in Canada. If you can contact Paul Likoudis of “The Wanderer”, he also has material. The one I remember best is his coverage of Svend Robinson’s angry encounter with Fr. D. Crosby of St. Joseph’s parish, Ottawa (Dignity-mass-friendly parish), now bishop of Cornerbrook & Labrador. All MP’s had been given a copy of Rome’s “On the Pastoral Care of Homosexuals” by the St. Bridgid’s Assoc. & it contradicted what the CCCB had been telling the federal politicians; Crosby and lawyer Leddy were at a loss for words….

  • Jon in the Nati


    I don’t think anyone is suggesting that the accusations are untrue (although we would do well to remember that, both in the United States and in Canada, there is a presumption of innocence).

    The question being posed regards what, exactly, would have caused Canadian border guards to power up his laptop and take a gander at his photo collection. As far as I know, that is not SOP at border crossings.

  • Paul Barnes

    Nancy, downloaded music from 2P2 is not illegal in Canada at the moment. Mind you, out govt screws us in different ways about copyright.

  • Phil

    I’m not really interested in why they searched the bishop’s computer. I’m concerned that this man ever became a priest, and then bishop, in the first place. I’m concerned that the warning signs, which were clearly there, were ignored. I’m concerned that this is yet another cleric who gives the vast majority of good, holy priests a black eye.

    Here’s my question: WHY on earth doesn’t the Holy See get rid of these low-life creeps once and for all??? WHY don’t they simply FIRE them?? I absolutely do not understand that.

  • Julia

    One guess about why they don’t “fire” bishops. Once a bishop, always a bishop. There is a problem with rogue bishops ordaining priests and setting up separated groups. SEE SSPX, Archbishop Malingo and Cardinal Law. Once the bishop is “fired”, there is no longer any ability to influence, much less control an errant bishop. Contrary to popular belief, Law’s current position at St Mary Major is a huge demotion from being the orginary of a large, important diocese like Boston, and he can be watched. The SSPX and Malingo, on the other hand, are out there untethered causing further damage.

  • Julia


    should be

    Ordinary – a bishop with a diocese as opposed to a bishop doing administrative work, like Law is currently doing.

  • Mason

    I’m guessing that ECJM nailed the reason above (see 22). From what country was the Bishop returning to Canada?

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