Not long ago I came across the following website:- 'These Stone Walls -Musings from Prison of a Priest Falsely Accused' The author, Fr Gordon Macrae, is now serving his 17th year in an American prison having been falsely accused and unjustly convicted of sexual offences against minors.
'Christ before Pilate' - Munkacsy (1844-1900)
To anyone who goes along with the ‘where there’s smoke, there's fire’ theory, I strongly urge you to read just some of Fr Macrae’s posts. I find the whole saga truly shocking, not because of Fr Macrae, but because of the apparent failings in the American judicial system, particularly the impression I have that justice is really only available for those who can afford to pay for it.
Unfortunately there have been many genuine cases of child abuse by priests and religious, but I suspect that there have also been many cases where prejudice and anger, and indeed greed, have combined to distort the truth, resulting in grave injustice.
The peculiarly American practice of ‘the settlement game’ with substantial sums of money paid to ‘victims’ in lieu of court cases, has inevitably guaranteed a huge number of abuse accusations, the majority probably untrue and many going back decades, often with the accused long dead. Certain Church leaders have acquiesced in this injustice, almost certainly through misguided intentions, preferring to keep matters quiet and out of the Courts, and paying out vast sums of money in ‘compensation’ regardless of the truth of the allegation, and apparently mindless of the character assassination of the accused.
Recently a new book has been published highlighting the experiences of six priests falsely accused and convicted of abuse. To quote from Fr Macrae’s latest post:
"A Book Every Priest Needs to Read: Catholic Priests Falsely Accused ‘Catholic Priests Falsely Accused: The Facts, The Fraud, The Stories’ is a new book by David F. Pierre, and a Corporal Work of Mercy for the Church and priesthood. If you’ve been wondering what might make a thoughtful and practical gift for your parish priest this Christmas, consider arming him – and yourself – with the truth. It might seem a strange thing to give the priests you know a book about every priest’s worst nightmare, but doing so – and reading it yourself – could very well be an act of generosity, justice, and mercy.
The book documents the stories of six priests who have suffered under the millstone of false witness over the last decade of scandal in the Catholic Church, and their arduous trek to exoneration. Having lived in this nightmare for close to two decades, I could not put the book down. But David Pierre also included a seventh account that has not – not yet, anyway – had a happy ending, and it made my hands tremble. It’s Chapter 20 in his book, and it’s entitled “Guilty or Falsely Accused? The Disputed Case of Fr. Gordon MacRae, Diocese of Manchester, NH.” I could feel my anxiety rise as the chapter title jumped off the ‘Table of Contents’ at me, and I braced myself. I have seen the words “the case of Fr. Gordon MacRae” abused and manipulated in the mainstream media far too often to expect anything just and fair. What makes the case “disputed” is the fact that I was convicted in a 1994 trial, and, in covering that fact, most in the news media have overlooked the devil in the detail. Not so for David F. Pierre. He presents in this new book a factual analysis of my trial, and what he calls “an alarming opposite side…that has not been widely told.” David Pierre did his homework, and captured well “the Twilight Zone” aura around my trial, exposing how spectral wisps of rumor and innuendo were reshaped by a prosecutor to get a conviction with no evidence at all. David Pierre simply took the story that has been hiding in plain sight, and stated it in plain speech. The result could rival the legal thrillers of John Grisham and Scott Turow. Sometimes real life makes for the most gripping drama." *********************** This book is available through Amazon (£11.84 from Amazon.com. - £21.00 from Amazon.uk) Both these prices include postage, but delivery takes about 1 month from the USA.)
'Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice, for they shallhave their fill' (Sermon on the Mount - Matthew 5:6) *************************
Figure of Justice, Old Bailey, London
Whilst on the subject of Justice, I think it right to express a muted appreciation of Tesco PLC, for their reply to my recent letter criticising their support for the London Gay Pride parade. I think that their reply, reproduced below, speaks for itself:-
'Dear Mr ... Thank you for your letter ........ We took a decision to support World Pride with a small donation of £30,000.00 following a request for help earlier this year from our Out at Tesco network for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender staff. We believe that everyone should be welcome at Tesco, whether as a customer or a member of staff, and decided that agreeing to a small donation to the event would be a tangible way of demonstrating that we respected and supported our colleagues. We do understand that this decision is not supported by everyone, and indeed that it has aroused some strong opposition as well as some support. It is never our intention to upset our customers, and I am very sorry that our decision to support the event has moved you to write to us to express your concern. I do hope that over time, you will be able to see this small donation in the context of our much wider support for many hundreds of charities and local communities. Over the past year we have contributed over £64 million in total to charities and good causes in the UK and across the world. For example, we raised £7.2m for children with cancer last year, helping Clic Sargent fund specialist care at home for children. We are set this year to raise over £5 million for our current Charity of the Year, the Alzheimer’s Society. Once again, I am very sorry that our donation to World Pride has shaken your confidence in us. I hope I can reassure you that we take your views very seriously and that, through all the work we do for good causes as well as through our core retail business, we do indeed strive to be a company in which you can place your trust. Y.S. Tesco PLC. The tenor of this reply suggests that the efforts of all those who contacted Tesco PLC criticising their support for the Gay Pride event, were worthwhile. I must admit to some surprise that their involvement was a modest £30,000, not a large sum by today’s standards, and assuming there are no ‘hidden extras’, hardly suggests major support for the event. Many consider that any support is too much, and I suspect that the significant adverse public reaction it incurred will not have gone unnoticed - ‘Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam’. *************************
Immaculate Conception - Zurbaran 1598-1664
‘No man can choose his mother; but should such a thing ever be granted to anyone, who is there who, if able to choose a queen, would wish for a slave? Or, if able to choose a friend of God, would he wish for his enemy? If, then, the Son of God alone could choose a mother according to His own heart, we must consider, as a matter of course, that He chose one becoming a God. And as it was becoming that a most pure God should have a mother free from all sin, He created her spotless.’ 'Thoughts from St Alphonsus, on the Immaculate Conception of Mary' (Compiled by Rev C McNeiry, C.SS.R)
Prayer for the beatification of Bishop Richard Challoner, Bishop of Debra, Vicar Apostolic of the London District 1758-1781. O God, who didst make thy servant Richard a true and faithful pastor of thy little flock in England, deign to place him among the Blessed in Thy Church, so that we who profit by his word and example, may beg his help in heaven for the return of this land to the ancient faith, and to the fold of the one true Shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Slightly frayed around the edges and still trying to pretend that I'm not really as old as that! I thank God for all my blessings, particularly my Catholic faith; my wife a 'pearl of great price'; my children and grandchildren; my friends; our dog Dartmoor; and our good neighbours and spiritual mentors, the F.SS.R community from Papa Stronsay.