In various places I saw this week the announcement from the Canadian bishops' conference regarding bishop Raymond Lahey having been dismissed from the clerical state. (Read the whole thing here.) Lahey, you will recall, was caught with child pornography at the Ottawa airport.
The bishops' announcement details the effects of the penalty: "loss of the rights and duties attached to the clerical state, except for the obligation of celibacy; prohibition of the exercise of any ministry, except as provided for by Canon 976 of the Code of Canon Law in those cases involving danger of death; loss of all offices and functions and of all delegated power, as well as prohibition of the use of clerical attire."
But it's the next sentence that struck me the most: "Lahey has accepted the Decree of Dismissal, which also requires him to pray the Liturgy of the Hours in reparation for the harm and the scandal he has caused, and for the sanctification of clergy."
I find that very comforting.
Even I should make a complete ruin of the vocation God has given me in his mercy, and even if I should become such a wicked priest as to require my dismissal from the clerical state, I will still have the Liturgy of the Hours and the privilege of praying it for the Church and the world. Even if I should make such a mess of the vows of my religious profession and the promises of my ordinations, that promise I made to pray the Hours on the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary in 2006 will always be with me. Even if I should die and go to hell, it will be my last joy to tell the devil that it was the privilege of this ruined soul to pray his breviary up to that moment.
One doesn't just all of a sudden have a laptop full of child pornography. I'm guessing that on the way to such a thing there are various moments when one might notice the destructive and abusive descent he was making. But anyone who is a sinner knows the power of concupiscence and denial in this regard.
So as I was praying the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer today, it was one of my intentions to pray for those who were abused in the production of the images on Lahey's laptop. And I pray also that all the victims of sexual abuse by priests would forgive me for praying for them without knowing what else to do about the sicknesses in the clergy at the root of their victimization. And I hope that Lahey, according to his decree of dismissal, is praying for me.