Father Gordon has sent Holy Souls Hermitage a three page, single space, typewritten letter, of which I can share the last two pages with you, pages which were fully intended to be shared by Father Gordon. He wanted this to be a mere comment on another post, which has now already scrolled off to the second page of the blog. Not good, that. So, he gets his own post! Sorry, Father!
I have a bit of fear in putting up this post. I don’t fear that this will put me in SNAP’s line of fire, for they already know my opinions about their ideological, utilitarian, cowardly usage of the sufferings of others to advance their own anti-Catholic agenda, which I think makes them abusers of children a thousand times over. Instead, what I fear is that I am not up to the task. The reason for that is that although I could just type in his letter and hit the publish button, I think that it is necessary to do the “blog thing”, adding videos, pictures, links and, I think, the kind of clarifying comments that I would appreciate if I were not yet introduced to Father Gordon and the sufferings of falsely accused and wrongly convicted priests. This is the kind of thing which I previously would have clicked away from, thinking it sad and unjust, depressing and without hope. It would have helped me to keep reading if there were some extra bits grabbing my attention until… until… I was overwhelmed with the reality of what is going on in the post itself. Will I exaggerate, hurting Father Gordon, hurting the goal he has in writing this letter? I can only trust in our Lord’s mercy. Just putting up this post is a great education for me, and helps me to know what offering my hermitage experience for priests suffering through the purgatory of this life or the next is really all about. Come along.
Please forgive me for adding emphases and [comments]. Now, before getting to those two pages of his letter, let me cite the first bit on the first page.
* * *
Gordon J. MacRae
P.O. Box 14 – No. 67546 [67546 = prisoner number.]
Concord, NH 03302-0014 [Within the Diocese of Manchester, N.H., in which Father Gordon is incardinated and which sports a new bishop. For rules about mailing anything to Father, read over the contact page first]
10 April 2012
Dear Father George,
May grace and peace be with you. I hope this letter finds its way to you without delay. All of my communications from prison go through a third party since I have no on-line access at all. So I am glad to have this address to be able to send some thoughts directly to you without going through friends. [This is not to bypass friends. It’s just that any freedom at all is a freedom in which to rejoice. That should give us pause for thought, we who take so many, many little freedoms for granted when Father Gordon cannot at all do this.] It may surprise you to learn that I have never actually even seen These Stone Walls [his blog put up with the help of friends], but I do get to see my completed posts when they are printed and mailed to me.
Before I go on, I want you to know that [... Let's skip to the next page... Yikes!]
When I was Admissions Director for the Servants of the Paraclete programs in the early 1990s [which has a totally different vision today than it did a score of years ago], a small number of bishops were willing to review the cases of accused priests for possible assignment and incardination on a case by case basis. If prudence and the threat of media harassment prevented a priest with a single, questionable accusation [questionable=not credible] from returning to ministry in his diocese, a few bishops were willing to consider him. [“willing to consider” and not abandoning fatherly episcopal governance to anti-Catholic media... – O.K.] All sorts of reviews, safeguards, and follow-up procedures were in place. [Just to say, in the case of a Father MacRae, should his conviction be overturned, even these things should be considered an unjust harassment of an innocent person.] One bishop accepted a fine priest and an old friend who ministered for over a decade in his new diocese without incident.
Then the U.S. Bishops’ 2002 Dallas meeting took place resulting in the Charter [Here's the *.PDF from the USCCB, including the Essential Norms]. Bishop Wilton Gregory, then USCCB President, invited speakers from [Anti-Catholic] SNAP – and no one else – to address the Conference. [Click here for dozens of articles at the Catholic League. SNAP has admitted to proffering false allegations against priests. Hey! Maybe one of the them will be cell-mates with Father MacRae, just for some days though, as he’s hopefully on his way to having his conviction overturned.]
Cardinal Avery Dulles tried to be a moderating voice of reason, but it was futile. Bishop Gregory led the bishops into an emotionally charged and one-sided panic in full view of the news media, and thus handed administration of the U.S. Catholic Church over to SNAP, The Boston Globe, and The New York Times. At the end of the day, the bishops collectively agreed that no U.S. priest facing even a single “credible” allegation – regardless of from however long ago – would ever again minister in any way in any U.S. diocese. Then the real witch hunt began. [Father Gordon’s quotation marks around the word “credible”, coupled with the element of distant time, refers to the extremely controversial “recovered memories” phenomenon, debunked by David F. Pierre, Jr. There are resources cited there. Truly worth the read. By the way, "witches" were thrown into rivers. If they drowned, they were declared innocent. If they survived, they were done in anyway. And that's the most reasonable way to go about things, right? That's what Jesus would do, right? Really, really wrong. If one can kill a priest for fear of the media, one can overlook sexual abuse for fear of the media. Truly. If one is not just in one thing, one will not be just in anything.]
My friend was immediately called in by his bishop, and given 24 hours to pack and leave the diocese. Nationwide, bishops and their lawyers scoured personnel files. Any man found to have even a single unfounded allegation [Note well that word: unfounded] in his file was called in and given hours to pack and leave their bewildered congregations. Some 700 priests in active ministry were simply discarded, many with no means to support themselves [“discarded” – There's a lot of pain in that word. I’ve often heard priests say: “The bishop just threw me on the trash heap.” That alone, dear readers, should tell you something about the mindless hissy-fit lack of charity of some of our bishops ten years ago, very many of whom are still in office. And that should tell you something about self-interest, with zero interest in justice. Get it? Same ol' same ol'?]. Bishops then sent case after case to the CDF [Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the old Holy Office or Holy Roman Inquisition)] in Rome asking for dismissal from the clerical state ["laicization"] without regard to “prescription,” the Church’s own statute of limitations. The so-called “credible” standard” came to mean any case for which there was a monetary, often “blanket” settlement. Often, there was no other evidence of credibility. [In other words, for instance, in Boston, to get on the money band-wagon, one merely had to call the victim’s office just before a settlement hearing that was burdened with very many cases -- "too many" to handle individually -- and your name was taken down, and you were then delivered untold thousands of dollars. Just like that. “Credible”, right? Judas took 30 pieces of silver for betraying Jesus. The bishops, in doing this, “took money” in slitting the throats of priests like this by going for the quick settlement. No expenses for extra attorneys; no “full” "payment" necessary. 30 pieces of silver saved is 30 pieces of silver earned, right? Do you think the bishops involved in such injustice are going to want to jump up and down for joy saying that they did this, or do you think they want the evidence of their crimes, the priests whose throats they slit, to be as good as dead, to disappear, not to exist? More on this below.]
If you find time for it, there is a gut wrenching analysis of what happened at Dallas in 2002. The late Father Richard John Neuhaus published a series of commentaries in First Things magazine that are collected under “Articles” at These Stone Walls, aptly titled Scandal Time: A Collection of Essays [This is a 61 page *.PDF ! Download it. Save it to your computer desktop. Read it! -- Gut wrenching -- Find the time to have your guts wrenched. I've read through it. This is Father Neuhaus at his very best. I laughed out loud many times in joy at seeing the incisive veracity with which he write: Scandal Time] Throughout its writing, Father Neuhaus was corresponding with me, and received much input from me on the matter of due process for accused priests [none of which due process was provided to Father MacRae].
Just two years before the Dallas Charter, our bishops challenged the U.S. justice system to reform its one-size-fits-all laws and counter-productive and unjust concepts such as “zero-tolerance.” State by state our bishops have quite rightly fought against efforts to extend civil statutes of limitations. SNAP, VOTF, and contingency lawyers have long argued for such extensions solely to bankrupt diocese after diocese. Our bishops have fought these attempts, declaring that statutes of limitations exist in legal systems to promote justice, not hinder it. [Again, see how the extremely controversial “recovered memories” phenomenon was debunked by David F. Pierre, Jr.] At the very same time, the very same bishops privately and aggressively lobbied the Holy See for a blanket dispensation from the statues of limitations in Canon Law so that accused priests can be discarded long after the Church’s own legal system allows. The duplicity has been staggering. It cannot possibly reflect the urgings of the Holy Spirit. [That's right. Damage control wrought by injustice and lying is not the work of the Holy Spirit, but I have seen Him given "credit" for all sorts of horror. The old blasphemy about the "Spirit of Vatican II" permitted anything and everything, including, I think, in the minds of some, the sexual abuse of minors, say, in the name of "Spirit filled counselling." Note well: same duplicity, different applications.]
I know you understand, my brother, that I am not a priest who views all this in terms of myself. [Well, my brother, you know Jesus. He’s a common friend. I totally understand those who are friends of His. Friends of His cannot view all this in terms of themselves.] Just the opposite. My own family, friends, and supporters recoiled in horror when I told my bishop [at the time, the Most Rev. John B. McCormack] in 2004 that I would remain silently in prison, and never defend myself, if he asked this of me for the good of the Church. My Bishop’s closest advisor, Msgr. Edward Arsenault – now Director of St. Luke Institute [sigh] – urged him to take me up on that offer and just leave me in prison in silence. [I asked Father Gordon for a clarification about this, and he had this to say: “The offer to remain silent if my bishop asked this of me ‘for the good of the Church’ was made as a result of my experience that the bishop was extremely uncomfortable with my defense of myself. He seemed to take it as a personal affront and so I made this offer in an effort to help him realize that the good of the Church, and not my personal freedom, was my foremost agenda.” When I asked Father Gordon if there was ever a juridical imposition, he had this to say: “No, there was never a juridical imposition. The bishop told me that he was advised to take me up on the offer, but could not in good conscience do so.” Good for the bishop!... um... on that point.
You should know, dear reader, that Monsignor Edward Arsenault's post-2002 recommendation of silencing Father MacRae was not made with the good of the Church in mind. It had the aim, instead, of getting Father MacRae out of the way. I say this because there is such a sharp contrast to what he said before the 2002 Dallas meeting. Ryan MacDonald relates what happened: "In another confidential 2001 memo, diocesan Chancelor Rev. Edward Arsenault noted that errors occured in MacRae's trial, and cited the unfairness of the diocese's refusal to assist him with an appeal forcing him to rely on a public defender for his only remaining hope for justice. Arsenault recommended that the diocese deal with the matter of funding an appelate defense for MacRae by coming up with a remedy for "the lack of base remuneration" from the diocese as required by Church law. On the very verge of these Church officials finally stepping to the plate to help their priest, the 2002 national scandal implicated Bishop McCormack and cast Father Gordon MacRae back into the abyss." What "errors occured in MacRae's trial", you ask? Ryan has this for us: "In a 2001 confidential memo to Bishop McCormack, diocesan attorney Bradford E. Cook wrote: 'There were certainly imperfections in the judge's handling of [MacRae's trial].” In regard to the actual claims against Father MacRae he wrote: ‘Whether it was all trumped up or totally manufactured is impossible to know… That it was embellished is clear.” Actually, there’s new evidence that makes it very possible to know that Father MacRae was totally innocent. Anyway, all this looks bad for the old Monsignor, but what about the Bishop? He must have been pretty sure of Father MacRae’s innocence if he didn’t take Monsignor Edward Arsenault’s recommendation, right? Yep. Ryan notes that “Two persons, a New Hampshire attorney and a former television news producer, have attested under oath that in 2000 Bishop McCormack told them of his belief that Father MacRae is innocent of the claims for which he is in prison, then demanded secrecy, saying, “None of this can ever leave this room.” “Secrecy”? In what context have we ever heard that word before? With abuse cases? At any rate, Ryan adds this: “In a defensive missive to Rome, Bishop McCormack wrote that he and the diocese would risk public ridicule if they helped Father Gordon MacRae.” I see his point, which, however, is not the same as that of Father MacRae, that is, protecting the office of the Bishop and the Diocese from further scandal. That’s limited to Father MacRae, who had to think that the bishop didn’t have the guts to do the right thing. The bishop, instead, could overwhelm any humiliation for his past mistakes by a vigorous defense of Father MacRae. That’s the only way. Writing a missive like that is not the way. I cite all this from Ryan’s article “To Azazel” linked elsewhere in this post.]
[Father Gordon was willing to be thrown under the bus in order to spare more scandal to the Church due to such unjust betrayal. However, note well, dear readers, times have changed. Today, no one would be scandalized by an effort to set the record straight. Instead, this would be – and, dear readers, this is, in fact – inspiring! It was as if Father Gordon was the goat upon whom all the sins of Israel were symbolically burdened, a goat which was then brought into the desert, to the desert demon Azazel, throwing him into whatever hell the minions of hell would want to create for this vicarious sacrifice bearing the sins of all. Reminds me of Jesus, who died "outside the camp", just out of the Holy City. More on this below.]
Nonetheless, the Charter, as it is now applied, means that even if my convictions are overturned with new evidence and I am released from prison, I remain a “credibly accused priest” solely because large sums of money have already changed hands. The bishops can never admit that they have settled accusations that they know to be untrue. They can no more admit to this than prosecutors and judges can admit to having executed men who were wrongly convicted. What a tangled web we’ve woven. [You know, on that "credible" thing... I've even heard that for the review boards of many, if not all (arch)dioceses, the definition is this: "If it's theoretically possible, then it could have happened, and therefore it's credible."]
[Father Gordon is not talking about individual bishops. He is speaking of the will of the USCCB as expressed in the collectively approved Dallas Charter with it's Essential Norms. There is, in fact, no policy of ecclesiastical legal process to follow by bishops who repent of having slit the throat of innocent priests for the sake of political correctness. I mean, did anyone expect that? So, I propose a complementary document entitled “The Manchester Charter”, in which the rights of priests will be delineated, and in which possibilities for individual bishops to come clean will be provided. Heaven is forever, as is hell. We have to provide a means of mercy, do we not?]
If our current efforts [for a retrial] are successful, and I am declared no longer convicted and released from prison, I will walk out the prison door a homeless man. [Dear readers: step into his shoes for a moment. Now then, do I have any readers saying with me: “We won’t let you be homeless!”? ] The news of new evidence in my case seems least welcomed in my own diocese. Three months have passed since my appeal was filed. I have not heard from any priest in my diocese. I have not heard from my [new] bishop [the Most Rev. Peter A. Libasci]. As Ryan MacDonald wrote in the enclosed article [To Azazel: Father Gordon MacRae and the Gospel of Mercy], I have been in prison for over seventeen years just fifteen miles from the Chancery Office of my Diocese, but I have never been visited by any priest of my Diocese. I have ceased to exist. [Totally awesome, Father! “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2,20 -rsv). Now, if we could only get the clergy of the diocese not to exist in this same way! Here’s an interactive map for them:]
If I am released from prison, my standing as a priest will be even more complex. I would remain “credibly accused” and only a Canonical trial could reinstate me. Such a trial could never take place because my accusers are now in hiding, fearing perjury charges should they ever again surface. It is the most Kafkaesque [=absurd] part of this story that the same false witness that wrongly imprisoned me would still bar me from priesthood if released from prison. [Not necessarily, Father. I’m sure you’re ready to offer them immunity in exchange for testimony. Perhaps the Attorney General would even accept that, or, at the worst for them, an offer of a suspended sentence as a plea bargain. I know that you would also make a plea that bishop emeritus, the Most Rev. John B. McCormack, be given immunity from possible charges regarding his part in your wrongful prosecution and imprisonment. If he were to come clean, perhaps his example would bring the false witnesses out of hiding. He could appeal for them to do that, with the new bishop.]
And it’s worse than that. Rome has thus far opted not to dismiss me from the clerical state. [Nota bene to Padre Funes, Capo-Ufficio of the Disciplinary Section of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith: Father Gordon is not complaining! He wants with all his heart and soul to remain a priest at the service our Lord and His Bride, the Church! What he’s saying is just a premiss for what he will now say:] If I am not assigned and I am not dismissed, the Charter allows for only one other option: a life of prayer and penance in silence. How bizarre would it be if I am free to write These Stone Walls in prison, but not as a free man? [Father Gordon, you’ll have to rename your website to something like “Tear Down These Stone Walls!” for you are beginning to do that now on behalf of all falsely accused priests. I am reminded of a certain speech at the Brandenburg Gate:]
[Also, I mean, what do I know, but from my reading of the Dallas Charter – or, more precisely, the Essential Norms for Diocesan/ Eparchial Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons – there is no mention of any imposition of silence. Perhaps, by your experience (perhaps the nervousness of Bishop Emeritus McCormack and his advisor), you’ve been led to believe that this is the inevitable application of the Essential Norms, but from what I gather from a trusted Canon Lawyer familiar with disciplinary law, it is extraordinarily difficult to make any arbitrary silencing of a priest stick, if such does occur over and above the Essential Norms. For the Holy See, the silencing of a priest seems to be reserved to only the most obnoxiously obstinate heretics. Believe me, Father, you’re not one of those! Here are the relevant parts:
8. b. If the penalty of dismissal from the clerical state has not been applied (e.g., for reasons of advanced age or infirmity), the offender ought to lead a life of prayer and penance. He will not be permitted to celebrate Mass publicly or to administer the sacraments. He is to be instructed not to wear clerical garb, or to present himself publicly as a priest.
9. At all times, the diocesan bishop/eparch has the executive power of governance, within the parameters of the universal law of the Church, through an administrative act, to remove an offending cleric from office, to remove or restrict his faculties, and to limit his exercise of priestly ministry.=[Cf. CIC, cc. 35-58, 149, 157, 187-189, 192-195, 277 §3, 381 §1, 383, 391, 1348, and 1740-1747. Cf. also CCEO, cc. 1510 §1 and 2, 1°-2°, 1511, 1512 §§1-2, 1513 §§2-3 and 5, 1514-1516, 1517 §1, 1518, 1519 §2, 1520 §§1-3, 1521, 1522 §1, 1523-1526, 940, 946, 967-971, 974-977, 374, 178, 192 §§1-3, 193 §2, 191, and 1389-1396.]
I looked up all the canons on preaching as well. Nothing. But, let’s take the worst case scenario. Let’s say you’re not only not assigned, but you are also suspended “a divinis”, which, mind you, is an administrative act aimed at liturgical functions, so that faculties to preach were removed, well, even that would not forbid you to write. Should you even be put under interdict by ecclesiastics gone wild with paranoia, this would usually refer to territory. Should someone go even a step more and specifically forbid you to write, and that to save themselves from public knowledge about any harm they may have done you, well then, a simple appeal of that, which you win forthwith, and that’s the end of that – in my opinion. (And since I’m not a canon lawyer, I can’t really have an opinion, but there we are.)]
I thank you for [...] You are a great writer, a courageous priest – the very best of priests. [Jesus is!] I admire your heart of justice and urge you to keep reading, keep uncovering the truth, and keep writing it. [Thank you, Father. Likewise!]
May the Lord bless you and keep you. [and may He continue to bless you according to the perfect intercession of the Immaculate Conception.]
[ Let’s not forget 13 of the Essential Norms: “When an accusation has been shown to be unfounded, every step possible will be taken to restore the good name of the person falsely accused.” --
So, let's snatch Father MacRae back from the grip of Azazel! Let's see him shine as a hero for true abuse victims, for whom he's suffered in perfect solidarity, taking the abuse of those who would doubly rape the true victims by bearing false witness against priests so as gain money, thus taking advantage of the sufferings of true victims.
And, on that note, let's pray the Saint Michael prayer for Father MacRae: Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle...]