Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bishop Lahey Affair and the Question of Catholic Priesthood and Celibacy -- 5

Retired Bishop Raymond J. Lahey of Antigonish Diocese,
Nova Scotia, arrives at an Ottawa police station to turn
himself in on October 1, 2009

Photo Courtesy:

Some Observations

Instead of beating around the bush or creating a smokescreen of highfalutin theological jargons, let's come down to earth and be real with the issues involved with the Bishop Lahey affair. Let's keep our heads cool and think clearly through these issues.

  • Bishop Lahey's action is both sinful and criminal. What Bishop Raymond J. Lahey did with regard to child pornography, is not only against the Catholic priesthood and the office of a bishop but also against common morality and decency. According to the teachings of the Church, such actions of his are sinful -- 'mortal sins' to be precise. Every time he offered holy Mass in a state of mortal sin, he committed another mortal sin, although his Mass was valid for the Catholic attendants. This load of sins compounded or added on and on until he confessed his sins to another priest or bishop with proper contrition, asked his forgiveness and promised not to commit these sins again. Moreover, his sins were not forgiven until he got rid of the occasions of sin -- in this case, his child pornography materials (in printed, photo or digital form). Apparently it seems that he was in possession of some kind of child pornography. On the other hand, in the country's law, Bishop Lahey also committed a crime by possessing and downloading child pornography. For this crime, he is facing the court at present.

  • Bishop Lahey's fragile position needs our prudent response. At present, Bishop Lahey is in his most fragile and vulnerable position. This is the time he needs the most help -- psychological and otherwise. Jesus Christ came to this world for this type of people -- the sinners, persecuted, poor, marginalized and sick. He was beside them at such situations. We see in the Bible (John 7:53 - 8:11), when Pharisees and scribes brought a woman, caught in adultery, in front of Jesus and asked his opinion on what type of punishment should be meted out to her. Jesus replied that the first stone should be cast against the woman by a person who does not have any sin. All the accusers then left the place one by one -- there was none to cast the first stone at the woman. Then Jesus told the woman: "Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again." We see in Luke 19:1-10 that Zacchaeus was a chief tax-collector under the ruling Romans. Although he was a Jew, other Jews considered him a thief (stealing money from his tax collection) and a lackey of the Romans. Jews used to shun him, but when Jesus found out that Zacchaeus was genuinely interested to listen to and meet with him, he went to his house and had a meal with him. In Matthew 9:9-13 we see Matthew, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus, was a tax-collector. Although tax-collectors were reviled by the Jews, Jesus called Matthew to be his disciple. Matthew left everything to follow him.

  • It's proven time and again that persons of most holy office also fall into sinfulness. The problem of priestly sins is not new in the Catholic Church. Even after hands-on training for several years, Simon Peter (see Mark 14:66-72), the most trusted disciple, denied Jesus Christ at the time of his trial. Judas Iscariot (Matthew 26:14-16), another disciple, betrayed Jesus to the Roman soldiers for only 30 pieces of silver. Thomas (John 20:19-25), another disciple, did not want to believe in the resurrection of Jesus until he placed his hand in the wounds of Jesus. Christians in Rome were severely persecuted by the heathen Roman emperors. When Constantine the Great converted to Christianity in 312 A.D., he removed all the restrictions on the Catholic Church. Christianity was declared the state religion. The pope, bishops and priests began to receive state patronage and support. The Church started to get grants of lands and other properties. With increased flow of money and material, sins of priests and bishops also began to escalate. Many married priests committed adultery and kept concubines. Many unmarried priests also involved themselves in fornication. Married priests and bishops also, in certain cases, gave away Church lands and properties to their own descendants. All these chaos and unpriestly activities gradually led to strict compulsory celibacy and chastity for all priests in the Latin-rite Catholic Church.
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