I 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?
I 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.