My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
On September 30th, at the Eucharist, we read from the Book of Nehemiah and I preached about the expression “sadness of the heart,” a deep profound pain that cannot be adequately expressed in simple language but only by way of an image. Little did I realize how apt that image would be for so many of us when it was announced that Bishop Lahey was charged with the possession and importation of child pornography. Our sadness, pain and anger seem boundless. I had hoped that we had finally rounded the corner on all the abuse situations within the church and on the part of its shepherds.
In August, the Diocese of Antigonish reached a multi-million dollar settlement with known and alleged child victims of sexual abuse by priests. Bishop Lahey apologized and noted that they were entitled to protection. He said: “Sexual abuse, indeed, any abuse, is wrong. It is a crime and it is a serious sin in the eyes of God. I want to assure you that for some time our diocese, like others throughout Canada, have been taking steps to protect children and youth.”
Although Bishop Lahey has not yet had his day in court, there appears to be a real disconnect between his words and actions. Undoubtedly many of the victims of abuse are feeling re-victimized now in light of the events of the past days.
Let us never forget that any material that demeans the inherent dignity of women, men and children by removing sexuality from the context of meaningful interpersonal relationships denies the image of the Creator within all of us. Pornography and the portrayal of sadistic violence debase sexuality, corrode human relationships, exploit individuals — especially women and young people — undermine marriage and family life, foster antisocial behavior and weaken the moral fiber of society itself.
Pornography degrades those used in its production, as well as those who are desensitized or whose values are perverted through its consumption. We denounce pornography because we believe that it reduces the Creator’s gift of sexuality to a level that is devoid of personal dignity, commitment and spirituality. The sin of pornography involving children is most grave.
As we stand in a place of pain, brokenness and vulnerability right now, we should pray for victims of sexual abuse and pornography, for the priests and people of Antigonish, for Bishop Lahey, and for one another in this time of trial.
☩ Frederick Henry