N.S. bishop preaches forgiveness, as flock grapples with porn allegations

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HALIFAX - The archbishop of Halifax expressed his own frustration and issued an impassioned plea to his parishioners Sunday to keep their faith as they grapple with allegations that one of their bishops was in possession of child pornography.
Archbishop Anthony Mancini said the church has had enough of charges of sexual abuse and impropriety. His comments come days after Bishop Raymond Lahey, from a Nova Scotia diocese, was charged in Ottawa with importing and possessing child pornography.
It was the first time parishioners attended a Sunday mass since word of the unproven charges against Lahey became public. Many appeared fixed on Mancini as he read the two-page letter under the soaring ceiling of St. Mary's Basilica.
"Enough is enough! How much more can all of us take?" he said, as one woman wiped away tears.
"Like you, my heart is broken, my mind is confused, my body hurts and I have moved in and out of a variety of feelings, especially shame and frustration."
Without naming Lahey, Mancini called on parishioners to understand that priests are people and should be entitled to forgiveness.
"People, priests, bishops are human and failure to see, recognize and care about this will continue to produce inhuman expectations," Mancini told the people who filled the church.
"In spite of sin in all its forms, mercy is stronger than anger, forgiveness more powerful than rejection."
Some parishioners were pleased with Mancini's words, but remained perplexed at how the church would get past this latest unproven allegation against a Roman Catholic priest.
"He said very good things," Liliana Krasevac said on a cool, drizzly day outside the church. "I don't know, I don't know what to say about it."
Others too quietly questioned who will pay Lahey's legal bills. The bishop hired an Ottawa-based lawyer and was released on bail last Thursday. He is due back in court on Nov. 4 to face the charges, which have not been proven in court.
Marilyn Sweet, a spokeswoman for Mancini, said church officials will meet with diocese lawyers Monday to discuss who is responsible for the tab. She said each diocese has its own protocols on legal matters and it's not clear who will bear the cost. The diocese lawyer did not want to comment on the matter.
Lahey was reported to be staying at a monastery in Rogersville, N.B., but the abbott of the Trappist monastery said the bishop is not in the town nor is he staying at the residence.
Bishops throughout the region were called on to read Mancini's letter or make it available to their parishioners Sunday. Religious leaders in St. John's, N.L., also addressed the issue in church services over the weekend.
Lahey is well-known for reaching an historic settlement weeks ago with alleged victims of sexual abuse by priests in his parish. In August, the bishop announced a $15-million agreement to settle a class-action suit launched by people who said they were molested as children in the 1950s.
Ron Martin spearheaded the class-action lawsuit after his brother committed suicide and sparked a police investigation that resulted in charges of abuse against priests.
Martin, who claims he was also abused as a boy, said he returned to church in Sydney on Sunday and added he was pleased with what he heard. He said that Mancini and other religious leaders must not let this issue go away.
"My main concern is, does the parish just leave it alone until it's in the news because that's not good enough," Martin said from his home. "This isn't about Bishop Lahey anymore. It's about the damage that's done to the diocese and what do we do with it."
He doubted that parishioners would want to foot Lahey's legal bills.
"I think if they tell the people that they are defending him legally, I think that will blow the roof off the place," he said.
At St. Ninian's Cathedral in Antigonish, parishioners told CTV that the church needs to make fundamental changes.
"Until the church modernizes and woman find a little bit more of their place in the church, and until we get rid of the men's club, we're in trouble," said Hugh Webb, after he heard the archbishop's letter.

Organizations: Cathedral in Antigonish, CTV

Geographic location: HALIFAX, Ottawa, Nova Scotia Rogersville St. John's Sydney Ninian

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