Ex-bishop Lahey dismissed from the clerical state

A reader sent me a link to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) Pastoral Letter on Freedom of Conscience and Religion (HERE). While I was rummaging around I ran across this.

What’s New
CCCB Statement on Raymond Lahey [I remember this fellow from his visits to Rome, when he stayed in the same clerical house I was in.  Brrrrrrr.]
On May 4, 2011, then Bishop Raymond Lahey entered a plea of guilty in civil court to the possession of child pornography. He was sentenced in accordance with civil law on January 4, 2012. It remained for the Holy See to follow the canonical procedures in effect for such cases to determine what appropriate disciplinary or penal measures would be imposed. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has now been informed by the Holy See that Raymond Lahey has been dismissed from the clerical state. According to Canon 292 of the Code of Canon Law, the penalty of dismissal from the clerical state has the following effects: loss of the rights and duties attached to the clerical state, except for the obligation of celibacy; prohibition of the exercise of any ministry, except as provided for by Canon 976 of the Code of Canon Law in those cases involving danger of death; loss of all offices and functions and of all delegated power, as well as prohibition of the use of clerical attire. Raymond Lahey has accepted the Decree of Dismissal, which also requires him to pray the Liturgy of the Hours in reparation for the harm and the scandal he has caused, and for the sanctification of clergy.

May 16, 2012

This news conveys a bit of information that you might find interesting.

When a cleric is dismissed from the clerical state, he may not be dispensed from some of the obligations.  For example, the ex-bishop is still obliged to say the Office.


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  1. AnnAsher says:

    Don’t you mean “tssss” as in the sizzling of fire ? ;-)

  2. Captain Peabody says:

    Who was it that said “The road to Hell is paved with the skulls of bishops”?
    Frightening indeed, that someone fortified by the Lord with so many graces, so many prayers, and so many opportunities for salvation, could turn from them so completely. Brrrr indeed!

    [Who said he has “turned from opportunities for salvation”? And even if he had, who is to say that he, truly penitent, hasn’t sought them again?]

  3. Ralph says:

    Question for those with more theological knowledge than me:

    How can one be dismissed from the clerical state? Isn’t that a matter for the Almighty? I was taught that certain sacraments left a permanent mark on ones soul (for example baptism, marriage and holy orders). Although one may chose not to exercise the duties or responsibilites of the sacrament any longer – the sacramental mark remains.

    So in the case of a priest or bishop – their soul was marked at the time of ordination. How can man unmark it? Even if the church forbids his exercise of priestly duty (for good reason it appears) isn’t he still a priest for all eternity?

    [The clerical state is a juridical distinction. That state can be changed. A priest or bishop is a priest or bishop forever because of an ontological change to his soul through the sacrament of orders. That change cannot be undone.]

  4. AnnAsher: Don’t you mean “tssss” as in the sizzling of fire ?

    If I understand you correctly, certainly not!

    I remember him to have been a pretty creepy bloke but I devoutly hope that he has a real conversion and does, in fact, do penance and spend the remainder of his life in prayer and reparation. I hope that when his time comes, he dies shriven and in the state of grace. I hope that he will someday be welcomed into the happiness of heaven. I truly believe that none of us can do something so bad that God cannot forgive it provided we are truly contrite. I accept that Christ instituted the Sacrament of Penance and that when the priest absolves our sins, they are taken from the soul so that they will not be held against us at our judgment. I sincerely hope this guy can make a good death, just as I hope that everyone who falls short in life can die a good death. I know that the Son of God came into this world and died so that men who have done even what he did could go to heaven. I firmly believe that our Church was intended for sinners so that they could be redeemed.

    So… no… in short… I don’t mean “tssss” as in the sizzling of fire”!

  5. teevor says:

    It is interesting to note that Mr. Lahey was heavily involved with publication of the current song book found in and used by the vast majority of English Canadian parishes, titled “Catholic Book of Worship III”, and a letter penned by him is provided as a forward to the volume.

    One can’t help but think that the, the CBW III, which is remarkable for its banality, protestantism and heavy use of inclusive language, now bears an aura of disgrace.

  6. jasoncpetty says:

    Don’t count on it, teevor; Dale Fushek founded Life Teen and, sadly, I’m pretty sure Life Teen’s not going anywhere.

  7. jbas says:

    I’m wondering what it means to plead guilty in civil court. Is he facing imprisonment?

  8. Ralph says:

    Thanks Father for the explanation. Now I think I understand.

  9. Diane at Te Deum Laudamus says:

    The note about praying the Office daily caught my attention, but so did the obligation for celibacy. I just presumed a dismissal dispensed one from all of that. This was indeed very informative to read.

    So, the Holy See dispenses one specifically from celibacy on a case-by-case basis when dismissed from the clerical state? Interesting.

  10. catholicmidwest says:

    Interesting to me too.

    Fr Z,
    Was this man not dispensed from celibacy because he had been ordained a bishop or is it really on a case-by-case basis, as Diane says? I know that at least some priests, when they are dispensed, are allowed to marry… [I don’t know if the former bishop, now also former cleric, made any kind of petition to be dispensed from the obligations of the clerical state or not. The language of the release says “dismissed” and then refers to a “penalty”. Usually loss of the clerical state means also that the obligations cease, except for that of celibacy (can. 292) which must be dispensed by the Roman Pontiff(can. 291). The decree, or rescript, can in some cases impose certain obligations. The note from the CCCB says that Lahey accepted the decree. I assume, but don’t know for sure, that that means he accepted the obligation to recite the Office either because the decree retained the obligation or because, perhaps, it was imposed as a penance. It is unclear how that worked. Generally, I believe, when a priest is informed by his bishop that he has been dismissed, the bishop often imposes a penitential work. Either way, he is going to be praying the Office.]

  11. “It is interesting to note that Mr. Lahey was heavily involved with publication of the current song book found in and used by the vast majority of English Canadian parishes

    I wonder whether it’s true–as it seems–that liturgists of some sort are disproportionately represented among priests who get into “trouble”. And, if so, why?

  12. Hidden One says:

    While you are all praying for Bp. Lahey, do not forget to pray for Bp. Brian Dunn, the present Ordinary, and the Diocese of Antigonish at this time. I am personally familiar with the present situation. Bishop Dunn needs prayer support and the Diocese is still reeling, years on. The news of the dismissal will be taken by some as good news, by others as too little – or, at least, too late. Since Bp. Lahey’s arrest, church attendance in the diocese has fallen dramatically. Some parishes are in fiscal jeopardy. Many are being closed. The vocational situation (one seminarian!) only gets worse with each passing year. The money, influence, and numbers of those who dramatically misunderstand the Church – both those baptized Catholic and those not – has grown much and continues to grow. Bp. Dunn’s triple focus is on Eucharistic Adoration (which he desires for every single parish in his diocese), children’s catechesis (which is disastrous in his diocese), and bringing Catholics back to the Sacraments (which grows ever more difficult).

  13. Hidden One says:

    Sorry to double-comment, but, in defence of the CBW III, it is much better than almost every other hymnal available to Canadian parishes (with the notable exception of the much small CBW II).

  14. Son of Trypho says:

    Out of curiousity – what actually happens to these people after this? Does the Church provide them with accomodation and/or stipend to support themselves? Are they left to their own devices?

    With charity, consider that fmr-Bp Lahey is 70+ yrs of age – what sort of funds would he have to support himself and/or opportunities for employment would he have? Does anyone think the Church has an obligation to assist in this situation?

  15. Volanges says:

    After Raymond Lahey pleaded guilty he insisted on going to jail to await sentencing. He knew that he would get double credit for time served before the sentencing. When he was sentenced to 15 months in jail and 2 years probation in January, it was essentially ‘time served + probation’ and he was able to leave jail at that time.

    He stated at the time of his trial that he had been in a homosexual relationship for 10 years and had every intention of returning to that relationship.

    As for the CBWIII, I can only hope that this will cause the CCCB to fast track its replacement, something which is long overdue.

  16. Volanges says:

    Lahey was a university professor for many years. I assume he would have been paying into the Canada Pension Plan and would be collecting CPP and Old Age Security at his age.

  17. capebretoner says:

    It’s like a trial everytime I open the CBW III and see the name all through the book. I am surprised (given his support for the Lakeland conference held in the Diocese in Oct 2010 with none other than Paul Lakeland) and happy to see that Bishop Dunn is advocating for Eucharistic Adoration in the parishes. I have no doubt he is facing more obstacles than anyone could imagine on that one. He definitely has his work cut out for him given that the tabernacles are hidden in most of the churches. That silly conference was set up by the local magisterium of nuns, and from the e-mail I received from Bishop Dunn at the time, it appeared he was in full support of Mr. Lakeland and his “views” on how to change the Church. This was very disheartening with everything going on.
    Perhaps things will take a turn for the better someday. I doubt it will be in my lifetime though. All one has to do is whisper the word Latin to be marked a troublemaker around these parts.

  18. APX says:

    I’m wondering what it means to plead guilty in civil court. Is he facing imprisonment?

    Civil court in this case is being used to differentiate from whatever the Canonical equivalent is. He would have plead guilty in Provincial Court. Civil court isn’t the same.

    He got 15 months in jail and two months probation. He was released from prison for time served while in remand and is now serving his two years of probation, and has a 20 year ban from being anywhere children might gather.

  19. Captain Peabody says:

    Fr. Z,

    By saying “opportunities for salvation,” I was not at all attempting to judge the eternal state of Fr. Lahey. I merely meant that to get to the point at which he was arrested by the civil authority for possessing child porn, as a Christian, a priest, and a Bishop he would have had to pass up a lot of chances for repentance and reconciliation, and a lot of graces freely offered by God. I certainly pray that he either has repented or shall repent, and will die shriven, and I am obviously not at all qualified to judge the current, past, or future state of his soul. I do think, though, that such situations should be a lesson to all of us that, whatever our state in life, we can all too easily simply shut God and his grace out of our life, or let them in only through small peep-holes at times and in ways of our own choosing. Hopefully, this situation will help Fr. Lahey to “throw open the doors to Christ,” as they say; I certainly pray that this is so.
    I apologize for any rashness I showed in speaking as I did. God bless.

  20. jhayes says:

    Regarding dismissal from the clerical state:

    Can. 291 Apart from the cases mentioned in can. 290, n. 1, the loss of the clerical state does not carry with it a dispensation from the obligation of celibacy, which is granted solely by the Roman Pontiff.

    Can. 292 A cleric who loses the clerical state in accordance with the law, loses thereby the rights that are proper to the clerical state and is no longer bound by any obligations of the clerical state, without prejudice to can. 291. He is prohibited from exercising the power of order, without prejudice to can. 976. He is automatically deprived of all offices and roles and of any delegated power….

    Can. 976 Any priest, even though he lacks the faculty to hear confessions, can validly and lawfully absolve any penitents who are in danger of death, from any censures and sins, even if an approved priest is present.

  21. Joe in Canada says:

    I am glad to pray for Bishop Dunn and the diocese. Unfortunately Bishop Dunn has mandated standing after Communion (against the clear instruction of the Church), as well as a difficult and -to me- unpleasant Mass setting. On the bright side, prayer does indeed work: he was going to close St Mary’s Polish Church in Sydney NS, and has now has postponed that decision.

  22. Hidden One says:


    I assure you that Bishop Dunn is faithful to the Church. That is all I wish to say in a public forum. Many are the knives held by all sorts of people, ready to skin him alive.

  23. BaedaBenedictus says:

    It’s a shame that he has decided to return to his male lover. I don’t care if it is “consensual”, in the Church’s eyes it is disordered and gravely harmful for both involved—and we have enough “gay” bishops like Weakland already.

  24. FrCharles says:

    I find this very comforting. Even if in my lukewarmness and distraction the devil should bring me to the deepest ruin, and if I should end up damned, it will be still be my privilege to pray the Office for the Church and the world.

  25. pseudomodo says:

    QUAERITUR: Is there a subtle difference between laicization and ‘dismissal from the clerical state”?. My understanding is that with laicization the person is under no restrictions regarding celibacy and reading the office. They may marry in the church. Correct?

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