Saturday, October 31, 2009

Today is the Halloween Day


A Jack-o'-lantern (a hollowed-out pumpkin
 with a candle inside)
Art by Jennifer Tibbits @ the courtesy

Today is the Halloween Day. This day is celebrated, mostly in the western world, on every October 31 -- the day before the feast of All Hallows' Day or officially called All Saints' Day. The word halloween is the short form of All Hallow E'en (holy evening).

The Background of the Halloween

More than two thousand years ago, the pagan Celtic tribes of Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Brittany used to observe this day as the last day of summer and the advent of winter. On this occasion, they celebrated the festival of Samhain, the Lord of the Dead. It was believed that the souls of the dead returned on this night and mixed with the living. Moreover, on this day, the Celts also took stock of their harvested grains and killed cows, goats and sheep and stocked the meat for use in coming winter months. To prevent the returning dead from causing harm by sickness and plague or by crop damage, people set bonfires and threw bones of slaughtered livestock on them. They also wore ghostly costumes and masks (witches, ghouls, skeletal figures, and the like) so that the dead souls might think that the living people were ones of their own and abstain from causing them any harm.

The Christian Aspect of the Halloween

In 835 A.D., Pope Gregory IV tried to Christianize the festival by moving the celebration of Christian martyrs (later called Saints) from May 13 to November 1. November 2 is observed as the All Souls' Day. These two feasts have been placed together to remember the dead -- who are saints as well as others who may or may not be saints.

The Modern Halloween

In the mid-1850s, about two million Irish people came to the United States as refugees and migrants. With them came the custom of the Halloween. Gradually, this custom spread all over the USA and Canada with the commercialization of this festival, that is observed by treat-or-tricking, bonfires, costume parties, ghost-story-telling, and the like. Today, Christians and non-Christians alike observe the Halloween Day as part of merry-making.

Happy Halloween to you all!

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Friday, October 30, 2009

The Photo Meditation of the Month (October, 2009)


Still Life (fruits and vegetables)
Painting (Toronto: October, 2009) © Joachim Romeo D'Costa

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are God's wonderful creation. In the Bible we see that God created Adam and Eve -- the first man and woman -- and placed them in the beautiful garden of Eden. They were given everything in the garden for their enjoyment, excepting the fruits of the Tree of Wisdom.

These natural sources of food and nutrition are essential for our normal growth and existence. God has been so kind and beneficent that he saw to it that fruits and vegetables grow in different regions of the world in spite of diversity in weather, soil and seasonal patterns.

Fruits and vegetables grow from tiny seeds, but by offering themselves for our consumption, they benefit us immensely. By dying they give us life. We can learn a great lesson from the lives of these fruits and vegetables. We are also in this world to be fruitful through our words and deeds. We are here to be useful to others. How much of this responsibility are we fulfilling in this world?

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Poem of the Month (October, 2009): WAR


War is arrogance.
War is hatred.
War is disrespect for life.
War is absence of good virtues.

In war, there is no victor -- all are losers.
In war, both sides demean themselves.
In war, humanity loses its essence.
In war, mankind returns to animality.

For the greater good of mankind, let's make love, not war!

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Promod Mankin Becomes State Minister for Cultural Affairs in Bangladesh


Mr. Promod Mankin (the fourth from the right) is being congratulated by a Catholic delegation consisting of (L-R) Father Jyoti Costa -- Parish Priest of St. Mary's Cathedral, Dhaka; Father Subrato Boniface Gomes -- Asst. Secretary General of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Bangladesh; Brother Kajal Costa, CSC; Father Kamal Corraya -- Editor of the Pratibeshi and Director of the Christian Communications Centre; Brother Binoy Gomes, CSC -- Provincial of the Holy Cross Brothers; Mr. Nirmal Gomes -- President of the Christian Cooperative Credit Union Ltd.; Father Francis Gomes Sima; Sister Anita, SMRA -- Superior General of the SMRA Sisters; Sister Dipti, SMRA -- Headmistress of Bottomley Home Orphanage Girls' High School and Father Albert Rozario -- Secretary of the Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace
Photo @ courtesy of Brother Nipu Hubert Rozario, CSC

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina recently appointed Promod Mankin (70), an ethnic Garo lawyer, the State Minister for Cultural Affairs. In his capacity, he will deal with the cultural development of the country.

The First Christian Minister

Promod Mankin, belonging to the Catholic Church, is the first Christian Minister in Bangladesh. In an interview with the UCANews, he said he would also promote cultural efforts of Christians as well as 45 ethnic groups besides his work on cultural affairs at the national level.

He also expressed his determination to work for improved land rights of the ethnic groups in Bangladesh so that they might be protected from false criminal accusations brought against them by some Muslim community members. He has a goal of establishing Christian Religion Welfare Foundation under the banner of the Bangladesh Christian Association (BCA). The foundation will deal with the Ministry of Religious Affairs to provide support for the Christian community and a better working relationship with the government, he said.

Father Subrato Boniface Gomes, the Assistant Secretary General of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Bangladesh (CBCB), expressed his opinion to the UCANews: "We are proud to have him as the state minister. He can add our voice to the government's policy-making process." A Garo Catholic, Benjamin Marak, hoped that Promod Mankin's appointment would mean having justice for the ethnic people in case of false accusations and a better trasport and communication infrastructure in the regions where ethnic groups live.

Christians of Bangladesh were pleased at the appointment of the first Christian minister. A delegation of Catholics, on behalf of Archbishop Paulinus Costa of Dhaka, met with the newly-appointed minister at his official residence and congratulated him.

Life-Sketch of the Minister

Promod Mankin, born at Biroidakuni Village of Mymensingh District, studied at the Little Flower Seminary and Holy Cross High School at Bandura. He completed his B.A. from Notre Dame College, Dhaka, and became the headmaster of Biroidakuni Catholic High School. Later he completed B.Ed. In 1971, he participated actively in the Bangladesh War of Independence. To give leadership to his Garo community, he studied law and passed LL.B. He also founded the Garo Tribal Welfare Association to look after the interests of the ethnic Garos. Then for a period, he was the Regional Director of Caritas Bangladesh for the Mymensingh Region.

Since 1991, he has been participating in the national politics. From Mymensingh-1 Constituency, he won the election and became a member of the parliament (M.P.). Later he also won the same seat twice more, the last being on December 29, 2008. As a member of the parliament, he also served as the chief of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs before his appointment as the State Minister. He was also holding the chairmanship of the Bangladesh Christian Association (BCA), an organization to look after the interests of the Christians in the Muslim-majority country. Bookmark and Share

Barack Obama to Receive 2009 Nobel Peace Prize


U.S. President Barack Obama
Graphics (Toronto: October, 2009) © Joachim Romeo D'Costa

The Norwegian Nobel Committee recently named U.S. President Barack Obama the recipient of 2009 Nobel Peace Prize "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." The announcement said that the Committee "has attached special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons."

Many people were surprised at the selection of President Obama for this year's peace prize so early in his presidentship. President Obama himself was surprised. He said: "I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many transformative figures that have been honored by this prize. I will accept this award as a call to action, a call for all nations to confront the challenges of the 21st century."

Some have criticized the Nobel Committee's selection of President Obama as the winner of the Peace Prize. U.S. Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele said that the President won this prize because of his "star power." There are many others, in USA and abroad, who supported the prize award decision.

One thing is true that President Obama's policies towards other countries is of more cooperation and participation rather than aggression and one-sided imposition of the USA's will on them. Moreover, President Obama is working hard for nuclear non-proliferation in this world. His shift in gear and direction is what is being appreciated worldwide. This prize also imposes a responsibility on the President to work harder for peace.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bishop Lahey Affair and the Question of Catholic Priesthood and Celibacy -- 8

Some Observations (Contd.)

  • Clergy sex abuses not only ruin the lives of the victims, but they also bring about irreparable damage to the Catholic community around them. It is so sad to see how the clergy sex abuses adversely affected the victims as well as the Catholic Church. The worst effects were on the children who were molested and raped by many priests. Many of these children, when grown up, cannot still cope with real life. The trauma is still haunting them. They are so much affected that they cannot maintain a decent relationship with others and lead normal sex life anymore. Another unpardonable effect was on the Church funds. Victims, especially in the USA, filed lawsuits against many priests and won financial compensations from various Catholic dioceses, because the rogue priests were in the employ of those dioceses. In 1998, the Catholic Diocese of Dallas, Texas, was forced to pay US$31 million to the victims of Father Rudolph Kos. In 2002, the Archdiocese of Boston, Massachusetts, reaches a $10 million settlement with victims of Father John Geoghan. In 2003, this same archdiocese agrees to sell land and buildings, including some church buildings, to raise $100 million to fund legal settlements to more than 500 abuse victims of several dozen sex-abusing priests. In 2004, the Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon, files for bankruptcy because it is unable to pay millions of dollars in compensation to abuse victims. In 2004, the diocese of Orange County, California, settles $100 million lawsuits brought by 87 victims. In 2005, the Diocese of Sacramento, California, agrees to pay $35 million and the Diocese of Oakland, California, agrees to pay $56 million to 45 victims. In 2006, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, California, agrees to pay $60 million to 45 victims. In 2007, the Diocese of Spokane, Washington, agrees to pay about $48 million. In the same year, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, California, settles 508 cases of clergy sex abuse for $660 million! The Diocese of San Diego, California, in the same year, agrees to pay $198 million to 144 victims. Thus go the power, pomp, and pecunia (money in Latin) down the drain for unchristian, unpriestly, and unpardonable behaviour of some unsupervised priests! Who suffers? First, the victims. Second, other priests who want to remain loyal to the teachings of the Catholic Church. Third, the faithful (laity -- the common Catholics, who were duped by those perpetrators).

  • Every country and culture has its own version of clergy sex and sexual abuses. Clergy sexual abuse and sexual misconducts know no boundaries, know no cultures. These are present in every country -- more or less -- each country having its own version of clergy sex. In some countries, where society is more conservative and sensitive to illicit sex, examples of priestly sex are less in number.
  • Books on clergy sex and sexual abuses. There are a number of books on the subject of clergy sex abuse. These books, available for purchase over the Internet, provide an increased understanding of the issues and problems on this subject. Some of these books are:
  1. The Changing Face of Priesthood: A Reflection on the Priest's Crisis of Soul by Father Donald B. Cozzens.
  2. Sacred Silence: Denial and the Crisis in the Church by Father Donald B. Cozzens.
  3. Goodbye, Good Men: How Liberals Brought Corruption Into the Catholic Church by Michael S. Rose.
  4. Sacrilege: Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church by Leon J. Podles.
  5. The Faithful Departed: The Collapse of Boston's Catholic Culture by Philip F. Lawler
  6. Nothing to Hide: Secrecy, Communication and Communion in the Catholic Church by Russell Shaw.
  7. A Gospel of Shame: Children, Sexual Abuse and the Catholic Church by Frank Bruni and Elinor Burkett.
  8. Betrayal: The Crisis in the Catholic Church by the Investigative Team of the Boston Globe.
  9. Sexual Abuse and the Culture of Catholicism: How Priests and Nuns Become Perpetrators by Myra L. Hidalgo.
  10. Lead Us Not Into Temptation: Catholic Priests and the Sexual Abuse of Children by Jason Berry.
  11. Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church: Reclaiming the Spirit of Jesus by Bishop Geoffrey Robinson.
  12. Understanding the Impact of Clergy Sexual Abuse: Betrayal and Recovery, edited by Robert A. McMackin, Terence M. Keane and Paul M. Kline.
  13. Unfair Advantage: Sexual Abuse by Psychotherapists, Priests and Police by Terri Austin.
  14. Our Father, Who Art in Bed: A Naive and Sentimental Dubliner in the Legion of Christ by J. Paul Lennon.
  15. An Irish Tragedy: How Sex Abuse by Irish Priests Helped Cripple the Catholic Church by Joe Riqert.
  16. After Asceticism: Sex, Prayer and Deviant Priests by Patrick Guinan (Guynan).
  17. Sex, Priests and Secret Codes: The Catholic Church's 2000 Year Paper Trail of Sexual Abuse by Thomas P. Doyle, A.W.Richard Sipe and Patrick J. Wall.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Bishop Lahey Affair and the Question of Catholic Priesthood and Celibacy -- 7

Some Observations (Contd.)

  • A priest's life is lonely and totally sacrificing life. To understand a Catholic priest's life, his celibacy, and his chastity, imagine yourself as a person who formally promised to remain unmarried and chaste (no sex with yourself or with any other person) for the rest of your life. You have none around you to share your intimate thoughts, none to confide to. You are supposed to have a spiritual director in the person of another priest, but he may not be near you -- he may be in another parish or institution -- in some regions of the world, dozens of kilometers away. As a priest, you are the leader of the spiritual life of your people, numbering a few hundred to several thousand. You are the administrator of the church and schools under you. Every week, you hear the confession of hundreds of Catholics. At the dead of the night, someone may come to take you to the seriously sick person several kilometers away. You can't say no, you have to go to hear confession or give holy communion to that sick person. Every day you come in contact with scores of people -- male and female. You have to listen to them, you have to counsel them, you have to nurture them spiritually, you have to help them financially, if necessary. You are for them, but there's none for you particularly. The more people you deal with, the more sexual temptations and urges you might be facing. At night, you may be all alone in the whole church compound. You are to pray, meditate, and make sacrifices to sustain you spiritually. How do you feel about it? It is easy to blame a priest for any transgression, but very difficult to live a life like him.
  • There's none to guard the guards, to inspect the inspectors. The Catholic Church places an inordinate emphasis on sins because a person's spiritual salvation depends on whether he or she lives a sinful or sinless life. The Church emphasizes that its members avoid masturbation, abortion, fornication, incest, adultery, murder, stealing, and lying and observe the Sunday obligations, fasting and abstinence from meat during the season of Lent and the like. It also suggests that its members go to frequent confessions to keep themselves spiritually clean for receiving Christ in their hearts through holy communion. The priests are the vanguards and they are supposed to look after these affairs of the laity (common Catholics). But, what about the "Sins of the Fathers" --- sins committed by priests and bishops? There is no sufficient check and balance about them as they are the implementers of the Church laws, rules, and doctrines. There's none to inspect the inspectors, so to say.
  • Priestly chastity and celibacy, at what cost? Non-Christians, especially Jews and Muslims (who do not have celibacy in their religious practices) wonder aloud as to how Catholic priestly celibacy (unmarried state) and chastity work. They have difficulty in understanding how a man or a woman can live without marriage or sex. I vividly remember one event in my village church compound. Some Catholic teens were sitting on the football field. Another Muslim teen who happened to be there, at one time, pointed towards the convent and said that our foreign parish priest had so many wives (meaning local nuns living in the convent). At that time there were about half-a-dozen nuns living in that convent. I said that the priest is not married and he cannot marry. Then he wondered how a priest could live without marrying. I told him in my own way: "Catholic priests take special training to lead an unmarried life. So do the nuns!" By his body language, I could understand that he was not convinced. The Catholic celibacy evolved in the Catholic Church in imitation of Jesus Christ, who remained unmarried throughout his earthly life. St. Paul, an important apostle of the Catholic Church said that those who can accept and remain unmarried, let them do so, and those who can't, let them marry. The celibate life is a v-e-r-y v-e-r-y difficult life. It's a constant struggle on a daily basis because sexual temptations and urges are part of human nature. The unmarried priest has to take on that challenge because he willingly accepted the celibate life. Through prayer, sacrifices and keeping oneself busy, he has to keep discipline in his personal and sexual life. In youth, priests, like any other males, experience the production of testosterone in high gear and spermatozoa in over-production mode. Many priests let Mother Nature take its course in this matter. As a result, these priests get relieved from sexual tension through 'wet dreams' or night pollution. Sometimes, this struggle seems to be long-enduring as if there is no end to it. This group of priests does want to remain honest to their priestly promise of celibacy and chastity. In the Catholic Church, there are examples of saints who struggled extremely hard in this regard. Some resorted to self-flagellation and others to more painful means to get rid of their temptations and urges. St. Francis of Assisi is said to hurl himself onto thorny bushes -- getting all scratched-up and bloodied! There are other priests, who fall short in this effort. They go for self-sexing (masturbation, onanism, self-abuse, auto-eroticism or whatever name you want to call it). They don't want to wait for the natural fallout. They want to finish the job immediately. They know that they violated the Church's prohibition on masturbation, but go to confession and legitimize their status. Although they act against their promise of chastity, they at least maintain their celibacy. They choose the lesser evil. Finally, there are few who can be called 'daredevils.' They go for other-sexing (sex with another person -- male or female). Child sexual abuse, raping, and consensual sex with an adult male or female fall in this category. Some of them soon realize what grave sins they have been committing against their celibacy and chastity. They go to confession and cleanse their souls and commit such sins no more. They return to the fold. From this group, there are remaining ones, although very few in number, who lose control of themselves and persist in this third act. They suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder. They are incorrigibles, they are renegades, you might say. They badly need psychological and other help. What role does pornography play? Any male, whether married or unmarried, is attracted to pornography. A person may use it for self-stimulation only, another may use it both for stimulation and a prelude to sex-act on another. Those who go for child-pornography, they are extremes -- they are sick in the mind.

  • The subject of clergy sex and sex abuse needs to be a part of regular seminary training and orientation. The clergy sexuality and morality with legal repercussions and responsibility should be an integral part of the Catholic major seminary curricula throughout the world. Seminarians need proper orientation and guidance regarding this important matter. This orientation is all the more necessary now because they need to learn how to behave with common Catholics who are more aware of and alert to clergy sex abuses. This orientation is imperative because some of the priests, although not involved in any wrong-doing, are not capable of facing any question raised or comment made by any lay Catholic on clergy sex abuses. Either these priests completely avoid the questions or get very sensitive and upset. They never learned to handle the issues on this subject. This shows their immaturity and uneasiness. Seminary orientation on the subject will give confidence to future priests to face the questions of priestly sex abuse.

  • Unmarried Catholic priests do not hold monopoly of clergy sex abuse, married Protestant ministers and pastors also fall for it. The news media give the impression that the clergy sex abuse is the monopoly of the Catholic Church. It is not so. Protestant clergy and ministers have the same problem although they are married.

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Bishop Lahey Affair and the Question of Catholic Priesthood and Celibacy -- 6

Some Observations (Contd.)

  • Mother Teresa knew of unholy priests, that's why she made an earnest appeal for holy priests. Mother Teresa of Calcutta in 1980 spoke to the World Synod of Catholic Bishops in Rome. The theme of the synod was "The Family." She was already aware of priestly indiscretions. That is why she told Pope John Paul II and 202 bishops present in the synod: "What I am going to say is inspired by the Holy Spirit. I'm not worthy to speak to Your Holiness and the Bishops. I've accepted the invitation to come here so that I might bring a request of the rejected people, who are lepers, poor, dying, sick, neglected and abandoned...They told me that they needed holy priests." In October of 1980, in the light of Mother Teresa talk to the synod, a spiritual retreat of several thousand priests was held in Rome where Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa were two main speakers. Addressing the priests, Mother Teresa said: "This world needs holy priests." To the priests worldwide she reiterated: "Be holy like Jesus." The priests are supposed to be holy and alter Christus (the other Christ). Why was then Mother Teresa insisting on having holy priests? It is also noteworthy that Mother Teresa later started the "Adopt-a-Priest" programme among her Missionaries of Charity nuns. Each nun was told to adopt an individual priest and pray for him and remember him in the holy Mass so that he might be more holy and worthy of Jesus Christ. Mother Teresa also founded the Corpus Christi Movement, a private association of diocesan priests approved by the Congregation of the Clergy in the Vatican, to foster priestly holiness and the spiritual renewal of the Church. Mother also said: "Pray much for priests because we need holy priests. The holier the priests are, the more holy we religious will be. Then, too, the more holy will be the families who are longing for God. If we have holy families, we will have many holy vocations."

  • The Church document insisted on dealing with clergy sex abuses secretly. In the past, bishops and priests kept clergy sexual abuse cases secret from the common Catholics as well as a government authority. Some allege that this was done according to the 1962 instruction of the Supreme and Holy Congregation of the Holy Office in the Vatican. This 39-page instruction, called Crimen Sollicitationes (the Crime of Solicitation), was addressed to "All Patriarchs, Archbishops, Bishops, and Other Diocesan Ordinaries, 'Even of the Oriental Rite'." This document gave instructions on the manner of proceeding in cases of the crime of solicitation by priests. It told them to deal with the issues of criminal solicitation of priests secretly. Local Church authorities dealing with this matter as well as the persons who bring allegations against the clergy were to keep everything secret under "the penalty of excommunication." This is the reason why, perhaps, clergy sex abuse cases were not reported or publicized. Ordinary Catholics also dared not come forward with allegations of such abuses. Others, mostly Canon Lawyers, contend that this Vatican instruction was not intended to keep sexual abuses secret from criminal prosecution by the government. By this time it is amply proven by examples from many different countries that the secrecy on abuse cases and transfer of priests from place to place spawned repetitions of sexual misconduct and the consequences of the abuses on the victims were never given importance. The lessons learned from the past sexual clergy misconducts give urgency to the Catholic Church to come up with a completely revised and redone instruction on dealing with such cases in the future.

  • It takes years for building up one's character, but it takes minutes to ruin it. Can you imagine how all prestige, position, fame, and respect can go down the drain in a matter of minutes? That's what happened to Bishop Raymond J. Lahey at the Ottawa airport. Before submitting his passport to the border services agent there, he was considered a holy, respected and highly-placed Church official with thousands of Catholics under his jurisdiction. He had access to unlimited funds. He was considered an intellectual in the Catholic Church. Within a few minutes, everything is gone, caput! A great lesson to be learned from this event.

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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 jargon, 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 print, 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 a 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 the increased flow of money and material, the 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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Monday, October 12, 2009

Bishop Lahey Affair and the Question of Catholic Priesthood and Celibacy -- 4

The Catholic Priesthood

According to the Catholic Church teaching, Jesus Christ instituted the Sacrament of the Holy Orders. Through this sacrament, men receive the power and grace to perform the sacred duties of deacons, priests, and bishops.

The first or highest degree of the Holy Orders is the office of the bishop (episcopate). They have the fullness of the priesthood. The second or middle degree is the office of the priest (presbyterate). The third or lowest degree is the office of the deacon (diaconate).

We will deal here with the second degree -- the presbyterate or priesthood.

Jesus Christ himself gave power to his disciples who are considered priests to offer the sacrifice of the Mass saying: "Do this in remembrance of me," (The Bible: Luke 22:19).

On his resurrection day, Jesus gave his disciples power to forgive sins by saying: "As the Father has sent me, I also send you...Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them, and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained," (The Bible: John 20:21-23)

Before his Ascension, Jesus gave his disciples the mission to preach the Gospel and to dispense the sacraments: " All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world," (The Bible: Matthew 28:18-20).

The Effects of Ordination to the Priesthood

1. An increase of sanctifying grace: The priesthood being a high calling, God gives more grace to the priest.

2. Sacramental grace: Through this, a priest gets God's help in his sacred ministry.

3. A sacramental character: Priesthood lasts forever and it is a sharing in the priesthood of Christ, and it gives supernatural powers (the power to change bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ in the holy sacrifice of the Mass and the power to forgive sins in the name of God in the Sacrament of Penance). Even if a priest leaves his priesthood and becomes laicized, or leaves the Catholic Church (apostacy) and joins another Christian Church or religion, or is excommunicated from the Catholic Church, he still remains a priest. He retains the power, although not the authority, of the priesthood. In case of serious accident or danger of death, if a laicized priest listens to confession and absolves sin, it becomes valid. If a laicized priest wants to return to the active ministry of priesthood, he would not need to be ordained again. With the pope's permission and completing other requirements by his bishop or other Church authority, he can do so.

Two Classes of Priests

a) Diocesan (or Secular) Priests: They belong to the diocese, whose head is the bishop. They are bound to obey the bishop. Generally, diocesan priests are in charge of parishes as 'parish priests'.

b) Religious (or Regular) Priests: These priests are members of religious orders or congregations (for example the Augustinians, Benedictines, Dominicans, Franciscans, Jesuits, and the like. These priests willingly take the three evangelical vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. They live in communities with other members and they are obedient to their own Superiors. These priests generally are devoted to prayer, and to the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. They run schools, hospitals, orphanages, and charitable institutions. They organize missions and retreats and engage in media work (publishing newspapers, magazines and books, and producing radio and TV programmes) and other religious publicity work. The pope usually sends them as missionaries to different countries. These priests work in dioceses with the permission of the local bishops, who, for serious reasons, may also tell them to leave their dioceses and move elsewhere for work.

Dignity of Catholic Priesthood

He is a representative (or agent) of God on earth and the dispenser of his mysteries. He can call down God upon the altar and convert bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. He can absolve the sins of others in the name of God. God's angels even don't have these powers as the priests have. The priest is also called the alter Christus (another Christ).

St. John Chrysostom (De Proditione Judae 1, 6, PG49, 380C) says: "The priest, a figure of Christ, pronounces these words, but their efficacy and the grace are from God."

"The priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus." --St. Jean-Marie Vianney

"I think of all those priests who quietly present Christ's words and actions each day to the faithful and to the whole world, striving to be one with the Lord [Jesus Christ] in their thoughts and their will, their sentiments and their style of life. How can I not pay tribute to their apostolic labors, their tireless and hidden service, and their universal charity? And how can I not praise the courageous fidelity of so many priests who, even amid difficulties and incomprehension, remain faithful to their vocation as 'friends of Christ,' who he has called by name, chosen and sent?" --Pope Benedict XVI (in his letter proclaiming a "Year for Priests", 2009)

"Without priests there could be no real Church of Christ." --Father Francis B. Cassilly, S.J.

Priesthood is Completely Voluntary

The Catholic priesthood is fully voluntary. No one is coerced to become a priest. Years of training are given in the seminary to make him appropriately knowledgeable and to form his conscience solidly so that he can distinguish between good and evil regarding Catholic faith, morality, ethics and the like. On the very day of ordination to the priesthood, the candidate is formally asked for his consent in presence of hundreds of Catholics. If at that very moment, a candidate opts out, he will not be punished.

Sources: 1. My Catholic Faith: A Catechism in Pictures by Bishop Louis LaRavoire Morrow, pp.330-337.
2. Straight Answers (Vol. II) by Father William P. Saunders, Ph.D., p.77.
Priestly Celibacy

The word celibacy means the unmarried state. It's not dogmatic teaching but only a Church law that candidates for the priesthood and already-ordained priests in the Roman Church (also called Western Church or Latin-rite Church) require to be celibate. Some of the Oriental Churches (also called Eastern-rite Churches) that are united with Rome maintaining allegiance to the pope, allow married men to receive Catholic holy orders and live with their wives after ordination. They can't marry once they are ordained a priest. Those who are priests, belonging to religious orders and taking the three evangelical vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, have to remain celibate. Bishops, in these Churches, are always selected from the unmarried priests. There is another exception for formerly-married Protestant and Anglican (also called Episcopalians in the U.S.A.) clergymen who convert to the Catholic Church and, with the pope's permission, subsequently get ordained as Catholic priests. They are allowed to remain married.

Among the reasons for celibacy are: 1) To imitate Christ, a priest is expected to be holy. Through celibacy, a priest can fully devote himself in pursuit of holiness and imitating Jesus. 2) For offering prayer and sacrifice of the Mass with a clean heart and pure mind, he must ever be ready. Celibacy helps him do it most worthily. 3) Celibacy helps him preach the Gospel by his own example and words. 4) A married priest has his heart divided between his own family and his priestly work. He could not expose his wife and children to the hardships of missionary life, and he would dread bringing contagion to them from visits to the sick. (Religion: Doctrine and Practice by Father Francis B. Cassilly, S.J., p.298)

Some Biblical quotations on celibacy: (a) Jesus Christ invites one to practise perfect chastity when he says to his disciples: "There are those who refrain from marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let him who can understand, understand it" (Matthew 19:12). (b) St. Paul tells the Corinthians: "Given my preference, I should like you to be as I am. Still, each one has his own gift from God, one this and another that. To those not married and to widows I have this to say: It would be well if they remain as they are, even as I do myself; but if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. It is better to marry than to be on fire," (1 Corinthians 7:7-9). (c) St. Paul further states to the Corinthians: "I should like you to be free of all worries. The unmarried man is busy with the Lord's affairs, concerned with pleasing the Lord; but the married man is busy with this world's demands and occupied with pleasing his wife. This means he is divided," (1 Corinthians 7:32).

If we look at the history of the Catholic Church, we see that most of the disciples of Jesus Christ were married, but they left everything, including their wives, to follow Jesus, who himself was a celibate. As celibacy was being accepted by some, in the early centuries of the Catholic Church, we see both married and unmarried clergy. The first legislation enacted by a local council of the Church was in Elvira of Spain in about 306 A.D. and it prohibited bishops, priests and deacons and other ministers to marry. After this, other local councils followed suit. By the 12th century, marriage in major religious orders and congregations became unlawful. The Second Lateran Council in Rome in 1139 had the first universal Church law made celibacy compulsory for all. In 1563, the Council of Trent confirmed the law and made it enforceable in the Roman Church. That practice is still in force.

Demand for Married Priests and Women Priests

After the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) brought about certain changes in the Catholic Church, many priests left the priesthood and became laicized. The number of vocations to the priesthood is also in decline, especially in the western world. More and more priests are reaching retirement age, but there is not a sufficient replacement for them by young ones. In the recent past, the clergy sex abuse scandals in the western world came to the limelight and there was widespread condemnation of it. In light of these situations, the demand for married priests is growing.

In the past several decades, the feminist movement was strong and more women were becoming aware of their rights in different spheres of life. Some women, especially nuns, have been at the forefront in their demand for women priests in the Catholic Church. Their logic is that the male-dominated Church can't keep the half of its Catholic members, who are females, inactive in the Church ministry of the priesthood. They feel that the Church would be invigorated if the women are allowed to serve as priests. They would also bolster the number of priests in the world.

In spite of all these demands and movements, the Catholic Church is still holding on to its position of celibate and all-male priests.

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Bishop Lahey Affair and the Question of Catholic Priesthood and Celibacy -- 3

Catholic Church Teaching on Pornography

The English word pornography comes from two Greek words porne (prostitute) and graphos (writing), meaning writing about prostitutes. In the present day, pornography means writing, pictures and films intended primarily for sexual arousal.

We use below excerpts from the article "What does the Church teach regarding pornography?", published in Straight Answers (Vol. II) by Father William P. Saunders, Ph.D., 2003, pp. 260-261:

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC#2337) defines pornography as "removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties."

Pornography is a billion-dollar business throughout the world. They come in the forms of written materials (articles, booklets, books, and magazines), photos, video films, movies, and television programmes.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC#2354) cites three reasons why pornography is wrong and sinful: First, pornography offends against the virtue of chastity. Each Christian is called to lead a chaste life, each Christian must respect the sanctity of his own human sexuality, which involves the integration of his physical and spiritual being. He must also respect the holy state of marriage. Pornography leads to the spiritual disintegration of the person and may lead to illicit sexual acts. Second, pornography offends the dignity of the participants (actors in photos and films, sellers of these items and the public). Each one has exploited himself or exploits others in some way for personal pleasure or gain. In all, the dignity of the human being -- whether the person posing, the person producing, the person distributing, or the person enjoying -- is debased. Finally, those who engage in pornography immerse themselves in a fantasy world, withdrawing from reality. While genuine love always involves self-giving for the good of others, pornography entices a person to withdraw into a selfish world of perverted fantasy which may later be acted out to the detriment of oneself and others. This problem has increased dramatically since the internet offers "virtual reality" sexual interaction.

Father Saunders adds that pornography may become like spiritual cancer that corrupts the person. He mentions of Dr. Victor Kline (1996) who posited four progressive effects of pornography: (1) Addiction: Viewing or reading pornography gradually leads to addiction and the person loses free control over his own behaviour. (2) Escalation: From soft pornography (depicting nudity and sexual touching), the person progressively moves on to harder pornography (portraying sexual intercourse) to attain the same level of sensation and arousal. (3) Desensitization: Then the user of pornography is no longer morally sensitive to the shocking, illegal, repulsive, perverted, or immoral quality of the material, but instead views it as acceptable and begins to look upon others as objects. (4) Acting Out: Finally, the person's fantasizing becomes overt or no-more-hidden behaviour. He acts out his fantasy in real life.

To know more about the Church's teaching on pornography, visit Pornography and Violence in the Communication Media.

The Latest on Bishop Lahey Affair

The CBC reports that, on September 15, 2009, when Bishop Lahey landed in Ottawa airport, border services agent Venessa Fairey inspected his passport at her counter. She noticed from his passport that the bishop had made several trips to Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Spain, and Germany since 2005. These countries have international notoriety for facilitating and producing child pornography.

The agent then asked the bishop if he had any lap-top computer, but he hesitated before replying "Yes." Then the bishop was flagged for a second inspection for the following reasons: 1) He was a male travelling alone; 2) He had travelled extensively to source countries for child pornography; 3) He had evasive responses to questions pertaining to his possession of electronic media; 4) There were changes in his vocal tone during specific questions. 5) He avoided eye contact during specific questions.

On inspection of the computer, a second border services agent, viewed three images on Bishop Lahey's computer and arrested him for smuggling prohibited material into Canada. During a later interview with an Ottawa police officer, Lahey said he was attracted to males aged 20 to 21.

Since, at the time, the officers could not determine the ages of the males in the images, the bishop was released unconditionally, but his electronic devices were seized. Later another search revealed five more sexually explicit images, which featured males aged eight to 10 years old. Then the police obtained a search warrant for Bishop Lahey's laptop, four memory sticks, three memory cards, two cellphones and a portable hand-held device.

On September 25, he was charged with possessing and importing child pornography and on next day he announced his resignation as the bishop of Antigonish. He turned himself to Ottawa police on October 1 and was released on $9,000 bail the same day. His next court appearance is on November 4.

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Bishop Lahey Affair and the Question of Catholic Priesthood and Celibacy -- 2

Unpriestly Activity in the "Year for Priests"

Bishop Raymond J. Lahey of the Diocese of Antigonish, Nova Scotia, led a double life -- his public persona was quite opposite to his private life. His child pornography affair burst into the limelight at a time when the Catholic Church all over the world has been observing the "Year for Priests" since June 19, 2009. The theme of this special year is "Faithfulness of Christ, Faithfulness of Priests." The role and mission of the clergy in the Church and in modern society will be highlighted through the promotion of different initiatives throughout the Catholic Church.

On the occasion of the Year for Priests, Pope Benedict XVI, in a letter to all Catholic priests, placed emphasis on the life and mission of a priest. In this letter, he highlighted the exemplary life of St. Jean-Marie (John-Mary) Vianney, an ordinary French parish priest (1786-1859), who was renowned for his very austere, sacrificial and holy life. In the same letter, the pope quoted this saintly priest thus: "The reason why a priest is lax is that he does not pay attention to the Mass! My God, how we ought to pity a priest who celebrates [Mass] as if he were engaged in something routine!"

Scandals Are Bad Examples, Condemned by Jesus

What Bishop Lahey did with his child pornography catalogues is scandalous. He was so indifferent to consequences and callous that he left these within reach of others in his residence and invited boys to spend weekends with him. If he did anything physical with some of these boys, it must have been the ultimate scandal in the book. We yet do not know what he did with his child pornography on his laptop computer.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) says: "Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor's tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death. Scandal is a great offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense," (CCC#2284).

The same catechism book continues: "Scandal takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it or the weakness of those who are scandalized. It prompted our Lord [Jesus Christ] to utter this curse: 'Whoever causes one of these little ones [children] who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea,' (The Bible: Matthew 18:6)", (CCC#2285).

CCC#2285 continues: "Scandal is grave when given by those who by nature or office are obliged to teach and educate others. Jesus reproaches the scribes and Pharisees on this account: he likens them to wolves in sheep's clothing," (The Bible: Matthew 7:15)

CCC#2287 says: "Anyone who uses the power at his disposal in such a way that it leads others to do wrong becomes guilty of scandal and responsible for the evil that he has directly or indirectly encouraged. 'Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come!' (The Bible: Luke 17:1)."

Unfortunately, Bishop Lahey, being a Catholic priest and theologian, knew and taught these teachings of the Catholic Church, but he himself fell short of them.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Bishop Lahey Affair and the Question of Catholic Priesthood and Celibacy -- 1


Bishop Possessed Child Pornography For Years

As days go by, more news of recently-retired Antigonish Bishop Raymond J. Lahey's possession of child pornography is coming to light. According to the Canadian Press, Archbishop Martin Currie of St. John's in Newfoundland province said a review showed that Father Kevin Molloy of Portugal Cove came to know of Bishop Lahey's ownership of child pornography in 1989. At that time, an official investigation was going on about several priests' sexual abuse of boys at Mount Cashel orphanage in St. John's. Shane Earle, one of the abused boys, one day told Father Molloy he saw child pornography catalogues in the residence of the then Father Raymond J. Lahey in 1985. The catalogues were addressed to "Ray Lahey." Shane also had told police about it during the investigation earlier. Father Lahey used to befriend boys at the orphanage and take them out to movies or to his residence in the weekend.

Recently Father Molly told The Globe and Mail daily: "Just the fact that he [Bishop Lahey] was a priest [at that time] and this young boy would find this kind of material in the priest's rectory appalled me terribly." Father Molloy immediately reported the matter to Archbishop Alphonsus Penney of St. John's. When Father Molly telephoned Bishop Lahey in St. George's in Newfoundland, Bishop understood what it was about and told Father Molloy: "Would you keep in touch with me if anything were to come up?" After that nothing happened on this matter and Father Molloy did not need to contact him again.

It is noteworthy that the possession of child pornography was not illegal in Canada until 1993.

Troubled Clergy Shun Help, Experts Say

National Post daily reports that when priests face deep psychological problems, they often shun help. Experts say: "Many clergies are so concerned about undermining the holiness of their calling that they would rather live with their troubles than come forward."

The report also says that "these experts are well familiar with the special pitfall priests face and why seeking out treatment -- for anything from alcoholism to depression to addiction to pornography -- can be so problematic even though help is widely available."

"Priests will sin," Archbishop Mancini

The CBC reports, Archbishop Anthony Mancini of Halifax, Nova Scotia, addressed the issue of Bishop Lahey with the parishioners of St. Mary's Basilica, Halifax, on October 4. This archbishop, who has been appointed the Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Antigonish after Bishop Lahey's resignation, in his Sunday sermon said: "You think, and many people think, that all we got to do is throw more money at it, throw more structure at it, throw more psychiatrists at it, and at the end of it all, we're going to come up with this wonderful, perfect structure. And you know what? That's never going to happen."

He also said: "So is it gonna happen again? Yeah, of course, it's gonna happen again. What all we can do is try to prevent and try to make sure that we put up all the safeguards that we can possibly put up."

Antigonish Diocese Won't Pay Bishop's Legal Bills

Archbishop Anthony Mancini in a statement on October 5 said that the Diocese of Antigonish would not pay the legal bills of retired Bishop Raymond J. Lahey, who is facing child pornography charges. This decision was made after Church officials met with the diocesan lawyers.

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Friday, October 2, 2009

Antigonish Bishop Faces Child Pornography Charge


Bishop Raymond J. Lahey of the Diocese of Antigonish

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Bishop Raymond J. Lahey (69) of the Diocese of Antigonish in Nova Scotia, Canada, has been charged with possessing and importing child pornography in his laptop computer. He resigned as the bishop of the diocese before the news of the charge became public on September 30, 2009.

"Images that were of concern"

Bishop Lahey -- a theologian, liturgist and former professor of theology at the Memorial University in St. John's in New Foundland -- was returning to Canada from the USA on September 15 when his computer was randomly checked at the Ottawa airport. In the initial check-up, Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) personnel came across "images that were of concern," reports the Canadian Press.

The CBSA officers then seized the bishop's computer and other media devices and let him go pending further investigation. After a thorough forensic examination and audit of the computer, the Ottawa police were handed over the results of the investigation. On that basis, the police, on September 25, laid a charge against Bishop Lahey and issued a country-wide warrant for his arrest as his latest whereabouts were not known to them or to other bishops. On October 1, the bishop turned himself into the Ottawa police and was released on bail. He is to appear at the court hearing on November 4.

His Resignation

On September 26, Bishop Lahey, in a letter to the priests, deacons, Religious and laity of the Diocese of Antigonish, wrote: "I want to let you know that after much thought and careful consideration, I decided to submit to the Holy Father my resignation as Bishop for personal reasons. I have now received word that the Holy Father has accepted my resignation and made a formal announcement in Rome this weekend."

Archbishop Mancini as the Apostolic Administrator of Antigonish Diocese

On September 30, Archbishop Anthony Mancini of Halifax in Nova Scotia was named the Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Antigonish until a new bishop takes over.

Reacting to the news of the charge, Archbishop Mancini said: "I am shocked and saddened by this devastating news. For the priests and people of Antigonish Diocese, this is a terrible moment."

In a press release on October 1, Archbishop Mancini, as the Administrator of the Diocese of Antigonish, wrote: "As Apostolic Administrator for the Diocese of Antigonish, I have come to be with you in the midst of this sadness, pain, and anxiety. I come with what I have, that is, my care and concern. It is in this sense that I understand the shepherding role that I am asked to exercise here...I am well aware that everyone is in shock. I am concerned with all who try to find any meaning in this devastation. I d not have the solution to this problem, or the capacity to take away the pain, or the means to erase this tragedy. It may be that some would wish for a quick solution to the problems we are facing, but all that I know is that whatever the solution may be, it will be a matter of collaboration and faith, and we all must do our part."

Archbishop Mancini concluded his press release thus: "We are going through a very painful contemporary experience of the mystery of our Faith, which is all about Passion and Death, yes, but it is also about the promise of Resurrection, without which we have no future. So I call on you to be hopeful because we believe in new life and new possibilities."

Bishop Lahey Brokered Clergy Sex-Abuse Settlement

Bishop Lahey has been quite known for his cooperation with the clergy sex-abuse cases in his diocese. From 1950 till recent times, several priests in the Diocese of Antigonish were involved in sex abuses. On behalf of his diocese, the bishop came to a $ 15-million settlement with the victims of sexual abuse by priests. A Nova Scotia court approved this settlement on September 10.


It is not clear or known yet why and how child pornography found its way into the laptop computer of Bishop Raymond J. Lahey. As the case progresses, it may be clearer in the future.

If he was not responsible for it, why did he surreptitiously and instantly submit his resignation from the bishopric of Antigonish for "personal reasons?" Other bishops even did not know about the charge until they heard it from the media.

The Internet has become a great purveyor of pornography. Before the Internet, people would have to go out and secretly find places to get access to or acquire pornography. Now everything is available in homes through the blessing of the computer and the Internet. Religious people are also increasingly falling prey to this.

Several years ago, a seminarian in Toronto was arrested on charges of possessing child pornography through his computer (Procuring child pornography is a crime in many countries. If anyone downloads child pornography in his computer at home or office, the police have the means to detect it). Another seminary student in Denton, Nebraska, USA, was also arrested in November 2007 for accessing child pornography through his laptop computer. In 2004, St. Poelten seminary in Austria became international news when thousands of pornographic photos, a substantial number of them dealing with child pornography, were detected in the computers of seminarians. There were cases of homosexual activities between seminary directors and seminarians, too. Later the seminary was closed down under a big uproar from the local Catholics. In some other countries, a number of Catholic priests have been arrested on child pornography charges.

If the Bishop Raymond J. Lahey's charges prove true, we can just painfully say: "Et tu, episcopus (And you, too, bishop)?"
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