We shall see whether Canadian police have any record that confirms that in 1989 Earle told them about Lahey’s possession of child pornography. At that time, the possession of child pornography was not a crime in Canada, and the police may therefore not have made any record, even if Earle in fact told them.
Lahey’s testimony in the Burton case is however a matter of record, and it should have raised suspicions. Why would anyone give a character reference to a confessed child molester? Why would anyone claim that boy flourished during the time of the abuse?
An even deeper mystery is how a man otherwise apparently humane and a good Christian would have use child pornography. Even the victims of child abuse in his diocese said that Lahey treated them fairly, generously, and humanely.
Men who have been very wicked in their sexual behavior have done much good both in society and the Church: Polanski – child rapist but a great director; Maciel – a seducer of boys and women, but a builder of schools for the neglected Mexican poor; Bruce Ritter – who liked blond boys in his bed but who helped thousands of black and Latino throw-away children through Covenant House, and so on.
I have no easy answer to this mystery. Society is built upon trust, and we assume that people who do many good things are in fact good people and can be trusted. The mystery is even deeper in the Church. If any ordinary sinner tried to found a religious order, he would get nowhere. But Maciel attracted thousands of followers.
But total cynicism about human nature, inside and outside the Church, is also not a proper response. Ordinary people and ordinary Christians have to develop a great spirit of discernment so that they can distinguish between those who are truly doing the Lord’s work from those who are disguising themselves as angels of light.