ANTIGONISH, N.S. — The bishop of a Roman Catholic diocese in Nova Scotia has resigned less than a month after the diocese reached a $15-million settlement with alleged victims of sexual abuse.
Bishop Raymond Lahey, named to the position in 2003 by Pope John Paul II, is a Newfoundland native who once served as a professor of theology at Memorial University in St. John’s.
Lahey released a letter Sunday saying he was resigning for personal reasons.
“I recognize that my resignation takes place at a time when the diocese is facing a variety of demanding challenges,” he wrote.
“While I will no longer be with you on this journey, I am confident that your faith and compassion will continue to sustain you as they have always done … I have already left the diocese to take some much-needed time for personal renewal.”
Ronald Martin, whose brother wrote a suicide note in 2002 that led to charges of sex crimes against a priest from the diocese, filed a class-action lawsuit last year against the organization.
In the suit, Martin claimed that the diocese failed to protect children in its care when it became aware of the alleged abuse.
The Nova Scotia Supreme Court certified the settlement on Sept. 10.
On Sunday, the diocese announced that Anthony Mancini, the Archbishop of Halifax, had been appointed as administrator of the diocese until Lahey’s successor is chosen.
Rev. Paul Abbass of St. Mary’s Parish in Cape Breton, a spokesman for the diocese, said the settlement of the lawsuit remains “very much in the public eye.”
“I want to assure everyone, and particularly the victims of sexual abuse, that nothing in the recent, court-approved class action settlement agreement will change as a consequence of this transition in leadership.”
The settlement is aimed at compensating 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.
Last month, Lahey said the agreement was the first step in recognizing the alleged abuse of children as young as eight years old.
John McKiggan, Martin’s lawyer, has said he has already heard from more than two dozen people who claim they were sexually assaulted by priests in the parish in the ’50s and ’60s.
Up to 70 people may receive a share of the money from the diocese. Claimants will go before retired justice Walter Goodfellow for adjudication of their claims.
Police began looking into the case after they reviewed allegations in David Martin’s suicide note.