Posted: May 30, 2011 5:15 PM AT
Last Updated: May 30, 2011 5:15 PM AT
Related LinksBishop pleads guilty to child porn chargeN.S. bishop apologizes for Lahey affair anguish30 Antigonish diocese properties for sale
The Roman Catholic diocese of Antigonish, N.S., has created a planning committee to find ways to cope with a rapidly shrinking supply of new priests to carry out its work in the area.
The shortfall of new recruits could see the closing of churches and more duties handed over to laypeople.
Father Paul Abbass, director of pastoral services for the diocese, said the church needs to think about its future. He announced a year-long planning process that could mean consolidating some parishes.
"Do we need all these church foundations in every little village or in the city?" he asked. "The city of Sydney has, I think, 11 churches to supply the Catholic population there. Do you need 11 churches to do that?"
Abbass said the planning committee will also consider whether parishioners can take on more work traditionally done by priests, such as visiting the sick or leading prayer groups.
In 2007, there were 82 priests in the diocese. Today there are 50 and current trends suggest there will be about 30 in 2021, because the average age of a priest in the diocese today is 61.
Nova Scotia's rural populations are also shrinking, leading to fewer people in the pews. The global pedophilia scandal surrounding the Catholic church has further dampened turnout, including the high-profile Bishop Raymond Lahey affair.
Lahey was Antigonish's bishop in 2009 when he unveiled a $15-million settlement between the church and victims of clerical sexual abuse. He was stopped at the Ottawa airport that year and found to have child pornography on his laptop computer.
He pled guilty May 4 and is due in court for sentencing later this summer.
The church has had to sell many of its properties to pay for the settlement.
'Right track' for church's future
Pat Bates, a Catholic churchgoer in Sydney, said Abbass's planning was a good move because the church must adapt to survive.
"He's on the right track and I think he's trying to alert people that we have to take these trends seriously," he said.
Abbass said the committee will consult widely throughout the diocese and aims to create a plan within one year.
Roman Catholic Bishop was convicted on child pornography charges earlier this year
Posted: May 16, 2012 1:57 PM ET
Last Updated: May 16, 2012 5:16 PM ET
Related StoriesBishop Lahey gets time served for child porn
The Catholic Church announced the decision regarding Raymond Lahey today.
"We have been informed that the Holy See has dismissed Raymond Lahey from the clerical state, one of the most serious penalties that the Church can impose," according to a news release from the office of the bishop, Diocese of Antigonish, N.S.
"This will mean that he will no longer function as a cleric, will no longer have the rights and duties of being a cleric, is not permitted to exercise any ecclesastical offices or functions and is not permitted to preside at any of the sacraments or religious services. However, any sacraments that he performed prior to this decision continue to be valid and effective."
Lahey, a Newfoundlander, was acting as bishop of the Nova Scotia diocese of Antigonish when he was stopped at the Ottawa airport in 2009.
Police found a large quantity of child pornography on the computer he was carrying.
Last January, Lahey was sentenced to 15 months in jail for possessing and importing the images.
The Crown's case against Lahey involved 588 photos and 63 videos, with the Crown pointing out that some involved adolescent boys engaged in sex acts while wearing a Crucifix and rosary beads.
Some of the images shown to the judge depicted scenes of bondage, featuring young men who were bound and on all fours.
At a sentencing hearing in December, Lahey apologized for his actions, describing himself as a man who became addicted to internet-based porn "on an indiscriminate basis."
Lahey, whose career included serving as a bishop in western Newfoundland before moving to Nova Scotia, said he wanted others to learn from his mistakes.
The faithful in the Diocese of Antigonish have indeed been on the Way of the Cross.