QUAERITUR: Why? Airport security and the Bishop of Antigonish.

You heard about the nasty business of the Bishop of Antigonish, NS.

The moral failures of this bishop should only serve to remind us that the Church really is guided by the Holy Spirit after all.  Otherwise, there is no way to explain the success of the Church through the centuries despite the corruption and stupidity of some of her shepherds.

But there is an curious point about this whole thing which occurred to me when I read the story. 

Here is an interesting note from CWN:

Why was a Canadian bishop a target for airport security?

Oct. 2, 2009 (CWNews.com) –

When Bishop Raymond Lahey of Antigonish was caught carrying child pornography on his laptop computer, journalist Terry Mattingly of the GetReligion blog asked a simple question: Why? [QUAERITUR: Why did he get caught?]

Not just why did Bishop Lahey have child pornography. That’s the question that everyone is asking. Mattingly had another: Why did the police search the bishop’s laptop[Why was he singled out?]

Tens of thousands of people pass through airport security systems every day, carrying laptop computers. The computers are routinely scanned, but the files on the hard drives are not. Why did security officials "just happen" to search this one computer, belonging to this one bishop?

Mattingly cites a report in the Montreal Gazette , which raises more questions than it answers:

    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[He "triggered" interest?  How?]

What sort of behavior would trigger the interest of security personnel, and prompt them to search a passenger’s computer? [Good question?  I think you are probably forming the question along the lines I am.] It seems highly unlikely that the airport guards suspected Bishop Lahey was a member of Al Qaida, carrying terrorist plans on his laptop. No; they were looking for porn.

The story takes a surprising new turn with this report from the Canadian Broadcasting Centre, in which a man who was a victim of sexual abuse years ago reports that he warned police in the 1980s about a Father Lahey who was using child pornography. [blech]

    "I think the [Royal Newfoundland Constabulary] dropped the ball on it big time," Billy Earle, of St. John’s, told CBC News Thursday. "Senior officers on the job right now dropped the ball on this big time."

Yes indeed, the police dropped the ball when they failed to follow up on that report in 1989 – although to be fair, as the CBC points out, "Possession of child pornography only became a crime in the 1990s."

But if the police were informed in 1989, is it unreasonable to suspect that Billy Earle might have brought his complaint to the attention of Church officials as well? Or that police, having heard a rumor that they could not pursue (since no crime had been committed), might have passed along the rumor to their friends in the Church? [Friends?]

How many clues were ignored, how much evidence was swept aside, as Father Lahey became Bishop Lahey, and assumed pastoral leadership of the Antigonish diocese? As that diocese moved toward a crippling $15-million settlement to compensate the victims of clerical abuse, were there any officials in the Canadian hierarchy aware that the bishop at the helm of the embattled diocese was himself accused of sexual misconduct involving the exploitation of children?

We don’t have the answers to these questions– or to Terry Mattingly’s question. But we do know that somehow, airport security guards knew enough to search Bishop Lahey’s laptop. If only Church officials had been equally diligent in checking the bishop’s baggage[I wonder…]

And when I say "equally diligent," keep in mind that in this case, as one expert witness has testified, the police "dropped the ball on it big time."

The arrest of Bishop Lahey is one more devastating blow to the credibility of the Catholic hierarchy. [The human dimension of the Church has suffered a blow, for sure.] As the prosecution of his case moves forward, we can expect more dramatic evidence that the sex-abuse scandal in the Catholic Church– and the far more grievous scandal of dereliction of episcopal duty– is not yet behind us.


I am forced to wonder if airport security was finally tipped to this particular man because of a particular charge and, when he checked in for travel, an alert showed up.  Therefore, they checked the laptop.


I don’t know now the former Bishop of Antigonish was dressed when traveling, but…

…but, is it possible that when they decided to check that laptop airport security was simply harassing a man in a Roman collar?


A reader sent a note about a story back in September on ZENIT.

Now… perhaps we have an explanation of the "trigger"?

Italian Priest Uncovers 100 Pedophile Networks

Meter Association Gathered Evidence for US and Italy

ROME, SEPT. 4, 2009 (Zenit.org).- A hundred online pedophile communities will be disconnected and prosecuted by U.S. and Italian authorities thanks to the work of the Meter Association, founded by Italian Father Fortunato Di Noto. [NB: And international effort.]

Meter, which is a pioneering association in the struggle against pedophilia, worked for six months in order to deliver the current evidence to the Italian police department that deals with Internet crimes. The charges were subsequently communicated to the North American authorities.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. TNCath says:

    It does indeed sound like they knew exactly whom they were stopping at that airport. I fear there may be more to come. This is, once again, a very sad and horrible setback for the Church. Satan is alive and well, and his smoke still infiltrates the Church.

  2. jfk03 says:

    Yes, the smoke of Satan has infiltrated the Church, and even its heirarchy. But we must be mindful that the same smoke infiltrates the laity. Lest we be hypocrites, we should examine our own consciences and with the grace of the Lord root out all sins, even sins known only to us and to the Lord in the secrecy of our hearts. In the words of St. Paul, we must expose these things to light.

  3. medievalist says:

    When he surrendered to police, Bishop Lahey was pictured sporting a button-down shirt, knit sweater, and jacket…but no Roman collar or clerical garb of any description. Might we cautiously suggest he travelled in similar fashion?

  4. Father,

    According to reports here that our Customs and Border services will not discuss, something happened to raise suspicion. I don’t belive for a minute that this was done “because” he was in a collar, probably he was not in a collar, we just don’t know.

    There are so many clerics here, the blog of Salt + Light being one, who have tiptoed around this and I address the matter firmly today on my own blog. A quote from Father Tom Rosica (remmeber him recently) He, Leahy, was a “kind and gentle pastor, particularly sensitive to the needs of those who have suffered the scourge of sexual abuse.”

    Here is the link to the quote:


    The vitriol in the comments section in newspapers, is wrenching.

    Something else about Antigonish. In the early 80’s the then bishop had a woman arrested in the cathedral for kneeling for ocmmunion and in 1985 took the matter to Rome and the Supreme Court of Canada in Stoke-Graham vs. The Queen. She eventually became a Member of Parliament



    There’s been a lot wrong in Antigonish and where this bishop originated in Newfoundland for a long, long time. The Mount Cashel orphanage was a tragic case of betrayal and scandal.

  5. ejcmartin says:

    The update is very interesting. Undoubtely it is easier for Custom and Border services to access a suspect’s computer than it is for the RCMP etc. to get a search warrant etc. A couple of years ago I recall that a US citizen was caught at the airport in St. John’s with similar pictures on his laptop. It turns out the Custom and Border services had been tipped off by US authorities.

    The Mount Cashel and other abuse cases came out a lot earlier in Newfoundland (early 1990’s) than most other places. Newfoundland, particularly around St. John’s has a strong Catholic identity and the scars from the abuses run deep. Our Archbishop in St. John’s has worked so hard to heal the wounds and as he said in an interview this is “like someone punched him the gut.”

  6. Childermass says:

    If the diocese decides to shell out a fortune to get the bishop high-powered legal representation, they better not expect much in the way of collections from now on. After the $15 million sex abuse settlement and the emotional and spiritual toil of the scandals, haven’t the people of Antigonish paid enough already? The bishop can get himself a public defender. Antigonish has enough to do already to rebuild a church long betrayed by its “shepherds.”

  7. tzard says:

    I have a few police friends – the trigger may have been something as innocent as looking reluctant to part with the laptop when asked for it. It could have been looking nervous, or any little physical things. Watching thousands of people each day – you can begin to pick out those who don’t fit in.

    As it’s been said: Sin makes you stupid.

    There’s another angle – seizing laptops and their information is becoming more common – and for no apparent reason. Here is an article about it for US customs – Considering how much more nanny-state Canada is, I’d be surprised if they weren’t not doing it first.

  8. moon1234 says:

    Which is why, if you take a laptop, you have nothing on it other than OS and apps. All data stays on server in your home country. If they check the laptop, they get nothing. All data access is via encrytped internet connection or you pre-mail your data on a flash drive, SD card, etc. in an unassuming envelope to your final destination.

    This same “laptop checking” is happening to business travelers as well. Potentially exposing confidential business information. In my business all employees who travel check out a “clean” laptop and access all data remotely via encrypted connections. No busniess data leaves the building anymore. Remote connections are just that. Terminal sessions with no data left on the remote laptop, computer, etc.

    What the Bishop did was deplorable, but it still makes me nervous when they start booting up laptops and snooping around.

  9. Seraphic Spouse says:

    Three thoughts: first, why isn’t the mainstream media asking why the bishop was stopped for this “random” search? I’ve crossed the Canadian border times without number, and never had my files checked. And no-one I’ve asked has had their lap top checked. Anyway, so far only Christian sites have been asking WHY Lahey, and Lahey in particular was stopped.

    The second thought is that this child porn that Lahey allegedly had in the 1980s has been described as photos of teenage boys. Catholics know that the more frequent abuse problem has been against teenage boys, not little pre-pubescent boys and girls.

    The third thought is that the CBC reported wrongly that Lahey was selling the stuff. Personally, I’m going to delay all judgements until I know exactly what was on that computer and how it got there, and the one place where I believe the truth will come out is Lahey’s trial. The mainstream media is going to town on this. According to our laws, Lahey is innocent until proven guilty.

    Sadly, recent history makes us quick to believe he might be guilty. And Canadian faith in episcopal leadership is shakey enough, thanks to the unfortunate way our “Development & Peace” scandal was handled, to say nothing of the child abuse scandals of the past.

  10. Mrs. O says:

    That is probably the connection and what triggered it,the Meter Assoc. Now, what we probably will never hear is was he warned ahead of time, that it is “known” that he is visiting or downloading.
    It looks like he knew his time was close to the end, getting caught, that is.

  11. If Raymond Lahey is guilty of the “alleged” crime, then he can do his victims, the Church in Canada and all of us Catholics a big favour and plead guilty and save us all the embarassment of a public show trial. His comment about seeking “personal renewal” says it all, don’t you think?

    Leahy and the CCCB have no credibility. They are a disgrace.

    They are worse; the CCCB President, Weisgerber of Winnipeg wants to attack bloggers at the upcoming plenary but how many other priests and bishops such as Leahy are out there, but bloggers are the enemy?

    Right Your Grace. We’re the problem.

  12. chloesmom says:

    ejcmartin, I was born in St. John’s, and like the current Archbishop, I too feel as if I’d been punched in the gut — due to the fact that Bp. Lahey is a fellow Newfoundlander, and a sense of “Oh my God, here we go again!” My late grandmother was a strong supporter of Mt. Cashel, especially their Christmas raffles, which were the source of many Christmas turkeys for my Mom and siblings. Thankfully, she was long gone by the time the Scandal erupted in the 1980s-’90s. I personally knew two priests who were also involved in that crisis; one of them, Fr. John Corrigan, was a frequent guest of my aunt. So now it feels like it’s happening all over again. And it’s so discouraging to see the Catholic-bashers crawling out from underneath their slimy rocks. Our faith is definitely being tested, and we just have to hunker down, pray fervently, and wait out this latest storm. My hear goes out to my fellow Maritimers in NS and my fellow Newfoundlanders. Even though I now live “away”, Newfoundland will always be home to me.

  13. Fr. John Mary says:

    I’m afraid the “weapon” the anti-God, anti-Church, anti-Christ forces are using is the sex abuse, pedophilia-homosexual scandals. There is such rampant hypocrisy (re: the Roman Polanski rape of a 13 yr girl) in the media in the US, not to mention the Canandian situation.
    Why, in God’s name, are they so willing to stand behind a man who horribly violated a young girl (teenage) and yet come after the Catholic Church with a vengeance?
    The abuse of anyone, male, female, minor or adult, is outrageous.
    But why is not there an outcry when something that someone who is not a priest or bishop does that is equally horrible?

  14. Dave N. says:

    This article may provide some helpful information:


    Apparently, the abp’s arrest is part of a broader crack-down on child pornography in Nova Scotia and authorities may likely have already known that the abp. was involved based on his ISP address. As ejcmartin observes, this was probably just a convenient place to catch him.

  15. ejcmartin says:

    A letter from our Archbishop in St. John’s is being read out at Masses this weekend. He shares our feelings of shock, dismay, and anger. It was a well written letter from the heart.

    As a postscript, I had an interesting discussion with a woman after Mass yesterday. She was probably your typical 60 year-old or so parishoner. She said told me that, as a result of the recent events, she had to force herself to go to Mass. She said that she had made it through the past scandals, but this was to much, the straw that broke the camel’s back so to speak. After some discussion I think she left feeling better about the Church, but I have to wonder how many people like her just didn’t bother to go to Mass this weekend.

  16. catholicmidwest says:

    Fr. John Mary,

    The answer is simple: He of all people, an archbishop, should have known better. After all, if the men who officially represent the church have so little idea about sin, goodness and salvation that they are caught at airports with pictures of naked boys, why bother with them???

    Like it or not, clergy have responsibilities and they need to live up to them or get out of the priesthood. Period.

  17. catholicmidwest says:

    PS, while we’re at it, what Roman Polanski did is reprehensible, but it has nothing to do with the archbishop of Antigonish. It’s a red herring. They both happen to be in the news at the same time.

  18. catholicmidwest says:

    And before the “nobody is perfect” garbage is started, there is a specific difference between a mistake or imperfection and a sin. Carrying around pictures of naked boys is a crime, yes, but it’s also a mortal sin–very clearly–a mortal sin for virtually anyone who is capable of letting themselves on a plane. Relativism doesn’t wash when it comes to this, folks.

    Being complicit enough in the abuse of kids to carry around pictures of them aroused is categorically different than having a bad habit like burping at the table or having an unfortunate property like smelly feet. AND YOU KNOW IT.

  19. avecrux says:

    Fr. John Mary – you are exactly right.

    catholicmidwest, Roman Polanski’s case is by no means a “red herring”.
    As someone who conducts training to spot sexual predators, child molestation is exactly what Roman Polanski did.
    He preyed on a 13 year old girl, took her to a secluded place, gave her alcohol and drugs, took pictures of her and then forcibly raped her.
    In spite of all this, Whoppi Goldberg has stated that what Polanski did was NOT “rape rape”.
    On social networking sites like Facebook, those who have said that the man should serve time in spite of the length of time that has passed since the crime took place have been laughed at for being uptight. Other celebrities have leapt to his defense.
    It is like the infamous ****** Monologues in which a Lesbian rape is declared to be a good rape.

    Fr. John Mary’s point is that ANY sexual crime is reprehensible.

    However, sexual crimes among clergy (which do not occur any more often then they do among the general population) are used as a stick to beat the Catholic Church. Any time a controversial decision is made by a Bishop today – whether it be the closing of a Church, a consolidation of Catholic schools, a critique of pro-abortion Catholic politicians, a defense of conscience rights for Catholic hospitals and medical practitioners – the Bishop in question gets beaten over the head by the non-argument “how can you do (insert controversial decision here) when Priests have committed abuse….”. I once heard Fr. Thomas Dubay paraphrase John Henry Newman – that most men do not make decisions according to what is true or false; rather, they make decisions according to their preferences. The Polanski case is a clear indication of that. He should be punished as severely as any other sexual predator, but there is pressure not to prosecute because he is so rich, talented and well liked among the Holywood elite. In fact, acting out on one’s sexual perversion would carry, I presume, an even firmer punishment than possession of pornographic material. (Although, as you say – a mortal sin is a mortal sin. Using pornography will not make it any easier on judgment day.) Plus, he is a fugitive who fled. He wouldn’t even take responsibility for his wickedness. He needs to – as does the Bishop.
    What I seriously doubt is that any attempt will be made to make documentaries about sexual predators among movie directors, or that the statute of limitations is going to be removed for crimes committed by movie directors, or that people will start picketing Jack Nicholson because the crime took place at his home, or that every bad movie ever made will be lambasted because movie directors are really all pedophiles anyway, or (like what happened to my own parish Priest) movie directors will be spat on when walking down the street because Polanski is a child rapist.

  20. Fr. John Mary says:

    Thank you, “avecrux” and “catholicmidwest” for your comments.
    I just want to reiterate that 1)any crime against minors/adults is reprehensible. And the Catholic clergy (deacons, priests, bishops) who are in fact, guilty of this, cannot be held as “above reproach.” 2) the hypocrisy of the media/Hollywood “divas” in somehow letting R. Polanski “off the hook” when he most definitely committed a crime against a minor (whether or not she wants to call it that now, thirty years later). 3) The media LOVES to bash the Church with whatever it can get its grimy hands upon; as well as the popular culture, whatever that means.
    The Church must deal justly and effectively with those who have violated their trust in terms of the abuse of minors. But this is all too complicated at times; the devil is in this all, I’m afraid. Jesus, Mary, Joseph, help us!

  21. irishgirl says:

    Fr. John Mary-all I can say is ‘AMEN’ to your last comment! Especially your Number 3!

  22. Agnes says:

    Risking a comment in red… No one ever talks about women getting hurt by such louses under the guise of spiritual direction or reconciliation, but it does happen (and probably more frequently than the child porn). Not an easily punishable crime in the eyes of the state, or in the Church (if it takes so much uproar to get them to look at something as horrific as child abuse, they would hardly blink at an exploited woman). Yep, we are all human and clergy need to be held to a certain level of virtue. And yep, we’re all subject to sin and death thanks to our original parents. Careful understanding of what traipses along the road to mortal sin and hell, and maintaining proper roles between laity and clergy are hugely important. About the worst thing to be introduced, I think, was face-to-face reconciliation. Women need to be guarded, which is difficult under severe suffering, especially when seeking counsel from men, even men set apart. The Church has survived 2000 years of human brokenness, wheat and chaff. Must be the Holy Spirit for sure eh?

  23. Luke says:

    How weak we are. And how little we know Christ sometimes.

  24. ejcmartin says:

    This story just got worse. It was revealed today that a local priest in Newfoundland had informed the then Archbishop about Lahey’s possession of pornography in 1989. Please pray for our present Archbishop as he deals with all this.

  25. catholicmidwest says:

    Polanski’s case is reprehensible, but he is not catholic and this is a discussion about a Catholic archbishop not about Polanski. No amount of comparing Polanski’s case to that of the archbishop will make the archbishop look any less guilty. That’s why Polanski is a red herring. He has nothing to do with this thread. Any and all child abuse is awful–criminal and mortally sinful–and should be punished to the full extent of the law, whether Polanski had anything to do with it or not.

    The media also does indeed love to bash the church. It would certainly help if we didn’t have high profile perverts like this archbishop that make it so easy for them. And it would help even more if we didn’t coddle them and refuse to punish them.

  26. avecrux says:

    There is absolutely NO movement here to coddle or NOT punish the Bishop involved.
    To suggest that is simply false.
    Fr. Z raised the question as to whether it was possible that the Bishop’s laptop was checked because he was wearing a Roman collar – a very reasonable question. This becomes even more pertinent when we note that the public will treat sex offenders with great leniency when they LIKE the person. (Polanski) Meanwhile, completely innocent Priests (eg: my Pastor) are spat on by total strangers who act as if Priest = pedophile.
    So, Polanski’s case is certainly relevant in this thread – and we can wonder if totally innocent Priests may have been harassed at check points in the past but have never made headlines because there was nothing to discover… can we not even consider that this might be a possibliity?

  27. Fr. John Mary says:

    I had no intention of offering a “red herring” re: R. Polanski in this discussion. I only meant to highlight the hypocrisy and “soap box preaching” of the major media and celebrities when it comes to the sexual abuse of minors/sexual scandals and any Catholic official as opposed to how others (as “ave crux” has said, if they are LIKED)are treated. Whether or not the Bishop is guilty is beyond my knowledge; if he is, then he should be punished accordingly.

    I know we (as priests, relgious, Bishops)are called to a higher accountability. You will not find me giving excuses for sinful and criminal behavior.

    I just find that there is such a knee-jerk tendency to get the rope out for a hanging before “the jury is in”. Like it not, we live in a sinful world, and bishops and priests are certainly not exempt. An excuse? No. An explanation. Maybe.

  28. Supertradmom says:

    New story today online that the Bishop was caught many years ago with same stuff–not an accidental search.”St. John’s Archbishop Martin Currie told CBC News what a sexual-abuse survivor told the church about Bishop Raymond Lahey in 1989. (CBC) A sexual-abuse survivor told N.L. church officials in the 1980s that he had seen pornography at the home of Bishop…”And, ST. JOHN’S – The Roman Catholic Church in Newfoundland and Labrador says an allegation made more than 20 years ago about a bishop who is facing child-pornography charges was passed on to the archbishop of St. John’s.” Sad times, but God loves His Church and protects it, even though Satan is within….

  29. Once again… all this shows how, in a mysterious way, the Holy Spirit is guiding the Church. Otherwise, there is no way to explain how she has survived all these centuries.

  30. Hidden One says:

    As one who is in the diocese of Antigonish, I have two things to say:

    First, the diocese has been terribly wounded, and was not so healthy to begin with.

    Second, we really need prayer. The wide scale abandonment of the Church around here might fix the horrendous priest shortage*. What a way to do it!

    *When you have a bunch from India, still don’t have enough priest, and I don’t think have any men in seminary – though two were ordained this year – it’s more than just your normal shortage.

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