Pope Benedict appoints new bishop for troubled Nova Scotia diocese

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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HALIFAX - The bishop appointed to oversee a Nova Scotia diocese tainted by sex abuse allegations and child pornography charges says he recognizes it will take time to bring people back to the embattled church.
Bishop Brian Dunn, appointed Saturday by Pope Benedict, takes over the diocese of Antigonish two months after his predecessor, Bishop Raymond Lahey, was charged with possessing and importing child pornography.
Dunn, the auxiliary bishop of the diocese of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., said it will be a challenge to restore people's faith in a parish also tarnished by decades-old charges of sexual abuse by its priests.
"Whenever there's a tragic situation like this, you know, healing takes time," he said from Sault Ste. Marie after the announcement was made.
"So I'm very aware that it's going to be difficult."
Dunn said he won't take up his role until the new year, when he expects to begin travelling through the sprawling diocese and its 118 parishes and missions.
His test will be to rehabilitate the diocese and appeal to increasingly disenchanted congregants who began turning their backs on the Catholic church in the days after the charges against Lahey surfaced.
Father Paul Abbass, spokesman for the Antigonish diocese, said he's relieved the Vatican made the rare move of quickly appointing a replacement for Lahey.
"There's a lot of pain and struggle that so many people in the diocese feel," he said from Sydney, N.S. "It really changed in some ways how people see church...Right now it's a struggle and he is going to step into the middle of that struggle."
Abbass, who is a priest in four parishes, said he knows a couple of families in each of his parishes who walked away from the church in the wake of the latest allegations.
Lahey was charged in September with possessing and importing child pornography after he was stopped at the Ottawa airport.
The 69-year-old clergyman resigned his position and has been staying with other priests in Ottawa since he was granted bail Oct. 1. He is due back in court next month.
Police said they found hundreds of files and dozens of videos on his laptop, many of them showing young males engaged in sex acts.
Police warrants indicate some images show boys as young as eight, though none of the allegations made in the warrants has been proven in court.
Court documents state that border officials flagged Lahey because he was a man travelling alone and his passport showed several trips to Southeast Asia, Germany, Spain and other areas known for child pornography.
One warrant said Lahey told Ottawa police he "had no time for child exploitation, no time for child pornography."
He is alleged to have told one officer he is attracted to young men, aged 20 or 21, and that he had never done anything abusive to a child and would "never have any sexual interest in a person under 18."
Two search warrants were used to seize more devices from Lahey's apartment in Sydney, N.S., and his office and home in Antigonish, where he served as bishop for the past six years.
The Antigonish diocese has also been named in a civil lawsuit by a Nova Scotia man who alleges that he was abused by a priest decades ago.
Philip Latimer opted out of a landmark $15-million sexual abuse settlement negotiated by Lahey, arguing that he wants more information on what the church knew at the time of the alleged abuse and if it failed to act on that knowledge.
The settlement, which was certified by a Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge in September, is intended to compensate anyone who was allegedly and known to have been sexually assaulted by a priest of the Catholic Episcopal Corp. of Antigonish since Jan. 1, 1950.
Dunn was born in St. John's, N.L., in 1955 and ordained in 1980. He served a number of parishes in the diocese of Grand Falls, N.L., until 1988 and then moved to Ottawa to complete his doctoral studies.
He became a faculty member at St. Peter's Seminary in London, Ont., in 2002 and was ordained as a bishop last year.

Organizations: Catholic church, Nova Scotia Supreme Court, Catholic Episcopal Corp. of Antigonish

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Antigonish, Sault Ste. Marie Ottawa HALIFAX Sydney Vatican Southeast Asia Germany Spain St. John's Grand Falls London, Ont.

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