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.

A few weeks ago, I received a copy of David F. Pierre’s newest book, Catholic Priests Falsely Accused: The Facts, The Fraud, The Stories (The Media Report, 2011). 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 details.

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.

AS THE OTHER SHOE FALLS

But the chapter on my trial isn’t why I recommend that you consider this book as a gift to your parish priest. Just three hours after David Pierre’s book, Catholic Priests Falsely Accused arrived in my hands, I received a letter from an old friend, “Father C,” a 71-year-old priest who retired from full time ministry just months ago. Father C has been a faithful and much beloved priest for over 45 years, and I knew how much he looked forward to retirement and “senior priest” status in his diocese. Many older pastors look forward to ministry as priests free of all the administrative responsibilities of a large urban parish. Few priests can ever actually retire, but Father C looked forward to the title, “senior priest,” and deserved it.

Then the other shoe fell. During the last decade in the child sexual abuse witch hunt, Father C’s name showed up on a contingency lawyer’s personal “suspect” list. Despite the fact that no claims or accusations were ever brought against Father C, this lawyer doggedly pursued something against the priest because he thought he could eventually drive an accuser out of the past. In a decade of stalking Father C, the shameless lawyer could find no one to accuse the priest, and his witch hunt tactics eventually backfired. The lawyer was suspended from the practice of law for falsifying evidence and for what a judge called “a personal vendetta against the Catholic Church.”

Ironically, the Introduction to David Pierre’s new book covers the story of this very lawyer as an example of how greed drives the Catholic scandal. Now, just months after Father C’s retirement, he has been accused in a claim driven by this same ex-lawyer. The claim is from almost thirty years ago, and the accuser is a man Father C has never met or even ever heard of. And – I hope you’re sitting down for this – Father C is the FIFTH priest this same man has accused over the last decade. When he runs out of money, this con artist has gotten away with simply creating another “recovered” memory and selecting another priest to accuse.

Rut despite all that, thanks to the U.S. Bishops’ SNAP-friendly, one-size-fits-all “Dallas Charter,” Father C is suspended, his faculties as a priest revoked, and he is banished from church property. Father C must spend his retirement years under a cloud of suspicion with an imposed alienation from the Church and priesthood unless and until he can prove the thirty-year-old claim never occurred.

Fr-Dominic-MennaThis same story has happened to many “senior priests” at the hands of con men posing as victims whose cause is championed by lawyers who score 40 percent of every settlement plus expenses. I wrote of an almost identical account in “The Exile of Father Dominic Menna” on These Stone Walls.

Father C’s letter told of the crushing weight of this terribly painful end to a half century of faithful priestly witness and ministry. He added at the end of his letter:

“I want you to know that These Stone Walls has been an inspiration and a beacon of hope to me in this valley of tears.”

That’s when I was no longer able to hold back my own. I wish our bishops and priests would read “If Night Befalls Your Father, You Don’t Discard Him,” a July post on TSW. The story of old men being “credibly accused” (aka “settlement”) and then cast out alone and adrift is itself getting awfully old.

A lot of people write to ask me what they can do about all this. Please bear with me. I’m getting to that. But first, I want to convey to you just how vulnerable all priests are right now, and just how oblivious most of them are to the danger lurking at the other end of the telephone line. As I wrote in “A Treacherous Descent,” ignorance of persecution is not bliss. It is dangerous.

In the same week that I received both David Pierre’s book and Father C’s tormented letter, a SNAP member sent an e-mail message that was read to me. It was in response to my post, “SNAP’s Last Gasp: The Pope’s Crimes Against Humanity.” The SNAP member wanted me to know that I may well be innocent of any crimes, but I am wrong to defend myself, wrong to defend the Pope, and wrong to defend the Church. She wrote that if five people accuse a priest and four of them are lying, the Church should settle with all five just to be certain the real victim is compensated. And if five priests are accused and four of them are innocent, all five should “shut up and go to prison” just to be sure justice has been done for the victims of the guilty one, and for “having the arrogance to become priests in the first place.”

BACK TO SALEM – CIRCA 1692

Then came the scariest notion of all. I’ve been following the news media’s newest sound bite, “Scandal at Penn State.” Now come the contingency lawyers, and some of you may have noted some familiar names among them. Jeff Anderson – the same lawyer who became a multi-millionaire when he vowed to “sue the sh– out of the Catholic Church everywhere” (his very own words) – is leading the media charge to restate the Penn State Scandal in its inevitable monetary terms.

What happened at Penn State, if true (it’s all still “alleged” at this writing), is tragic. But I welcome the media pursuit of the truth. Despite all the efforts by SNAP leaders to drag the Catholic Church into the Penn State story – and thereby assure some on-going headlines for themselves – the effort is failing under the sheer weight of sexual abuse in the American education system. If this lid is peeled back fully, what just might be exposed is the extent to which the Catholic Church and priesthood have been wrongfully scapegoated and vilified as some sort of special locus of sexual abuse. Only time will tell whether the news media has the courage to expose and air out all the dust of this full story. I have my doubts.

What links the Penn State story with the priesthood scandal is the reality that people with social agendas have already latched onto it to exploit it for their own ends. In an article by William M. Welch in USA Today (“Sandusky: He ‘horsed around’,” Nov. 15) SNAP advisor and contingency lawyer Marci Hamilton also re-stated the nature of what constitutes child abuse worthy of a cash settlement, and I found it a very scary thing.

“Even when a child is just touched in passing by an adult, it can affect them.”

So now, for Marci Hamilton, the bar for child sexual abuse has been recast to include claims for damages in even the most innocent and inadvertent brush-up between any adult and any child. Under such a standard, no priest is safe from decades-old and money driven abuse claims. No teacher is safe. No coach is safe. No doctor or nurse is safe. No parent, grandparent, step-parent or foster parent is safe.

For Marci Hamilton, every child should now live in a world in which even the merest human contact from any adult, and especially men, could be seen as a criminal act – decades later – but for the sole purpose of lining the pockets of contingency lawyers – like Marci Hamilton, for example! David Pierre profiled Marci Hamilton in his new book:

“Under the banner of ‘protecting children,’ [Marci]Hamilton has made it her crusade to lobby state legislatures to remove the statute of limitations in order to inflict maximum financial and institutional damages to the Catholic Church.”  (Catholic Priests Falsely Accused, p. 101).

This is an important point. Groups like SNAP, Voice of the Faithful, and Bishop-Accountability have been lobbying for a decade to remove statutes of limitations in order to “bring molesters to justice.” Don’t be lulled into a false sense that justice is behind this. The Supreme Court has already ruled that statutes of limitations for criminal prosecutions cannot be extended and then applied retroactively. This is not about “bringing molesters to justice.”

No, this entire agenda is about civil statutes of limitations so that – as Marci Hamilton now proposes – even an innocent touch can later be re-framed as abuse if a deep pocket like the Catholic Church is in the background of the accused. This is all about money. Just money. People who set out to serve both God and money usually end up not believing in God.

One civil liberties expert has written to me about the efforts of Marci Hamilton to inflict “justice” on the Catholic Church:

“[Marci] Hamilton is part of a group that believes they can and should accomplish certain ‘human rights’ and ‘civil rights’ goals by resort to means that are anathema to civil liberties, free speech, due process, reasonable punishments, and other civilized values . . . I consider myself to be a liberal civil libertarian, but I would not recognize a world run by people like Hamilton, nor would I want to live in such a world.”

CALL TO ACTION

So many readers have asked me what they can do to stop such evil from proliferating. The most effective way you can help is to arm yourself with the truth and then use it as a compass to point others in the same direction. Too many priests contribute to the presumption of guilt when their brothers are accused. Too many gain their distance from the accused, ostracize them, and blindly convince themselves that the same fate cannot befall them.  It can, and it is the responsibility of those of us who know this to tell them of the danger.

David Pierre Catholic Priests Falsely Accused

You might remember David F. Pierre, Jr. as the host of The Media Report, a site I have often recommended on These Stone Walls. His previous book, Double Standard: Abuse Scandals and the Attack on the Catholic Church was a real service to the Church because of its lucid explanation of how the Church’s painful – and all too real – grappling with sexual abuse transformed into a contingency lawyer’s feeding frenzy with no regard for truth or justice. These two books together should be on the shelf of every priest and bishop.

I highly recommend Catholic Priests Falsely Accused: The Facts, The Fraud, The Stories. It takes a giant step in conveying to the Church the human dimension of what happens to priests when their priesthood is for sale to anyone who points a finger. Having these facts and stories in the open in a compelling book format is a great service to the Church and priesthood. It is a great service to the people of God who have suffered a decade under the millstone of scandal.

Just as we were getting ready to post this, I learned that my friend, “Father C” was cleared of any wrongdoing by a Diocesan Review Board.  It’s got to be a record for any such exoneration. It’s also a hopeful sign that at least not every diocese is ready to cave in to litigious con men and their “victim advocates” all too ready to take up their cause whether it’s true or not. But this story is also proof of the need for David Pierre’s book.  Catholic priests everywhere are being falsely accused.

My call to action is as simple as that. Help us spread news of this book. Consider giving it to the priests you know. Consider reading it yourself. Above all, encourage the priests you know and make them a part of your daily prayer.

And there is another way you can help, especially now as we prepare to revisit my own case for a possible new appeal in the new year. If you like this post – or any other – you can help by tweeting it, pinging it, sending a link to your e-mail contacts, Facebook pages, and posting the link in comments on other blogs and Catholic websites. There is a viral effect among faithful Catholics, and its power should not be overlooked.

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About Fr. Gordon J. MacRae

The late Cardinal Avery Dulles and The Rev. Richard John Neuhaus encouraged Father MacRae to write. Cardinal Dulles wrote in 2005: “Someday your story and that of your fellow sufferers will come to light and will be instrumental in a reform. Your writing, which is clear, eloquent, and spiritually sound will be a monument to your trials.” READ MORE

Comments

  1. pauline belviso says:

    Dear Father,
    I write to you from Australia. Ipray for you in your trials.We have theMarian Movement for Priests in our Parish each week
    and I will place you at the feet of the Daughter of the Father,
    Mother of the Son and Spouse of theHoly Spirit.
    God loves you.

  2. Barbara Edsall says:

    The “Catholic scandal” has touched the very small town where I live, through an absolutely unscrupulous newspaper editor who does not deserve the title. No priest has been accused, but a connection has been made without factual support between an organization which has bought property intending to create camping for troubled youth, and “the ongoing lawsuits against the Catholic Church.” This thing is touching everywhere. It’s been obvious to me for years, even before I became a Catholic, that the Catholic Church is the biggest, juiciest target of the forces of darkness. If they can wound us, the 34,000 Protestant denominations in this country are easy pickings.

    I am excited to hear of a possible appeal. I trust that Bill Donohue will keep his readership apprised when the time comes. For Christmas I gave two gift subscriptions to his newsletter to (obviously) two people. So, the word travels.

    Wishing you a most blessed Christmas, with joy that nothing and no one can take away.

    Barbara

  3. Carl Urban says:

    The book is clear, concise and to the point. Indeed, not a literary masterpiece yet needs to be read and heeded.

    From someone who was falsely accused.

  4. DPierre says:

    Thank you, Father Gordon, for the truly wonderful review. I am genuinely flattered and grateful. You are in my prayers. I pray that my book heralds truth and justice for you and all accused priests.

    And thank you to everyone for the encouraging comments and support!

    Oremus,
    Dave Pierre
    author, Catholic Priests Falsely Accused

    -

  5. jamil malik says:

    I withheld my comment on this post until I could obtain the book. It is a very disturbing account of injustice, but what makes it so compelling is that it is written so simply and matter-of-factly. The chapter on your own trial made me wonder how many other cases have been railroaded through the courts based on hype but with no evidence. You quote from Marci Hamilton was chilling. This entire picture is that of a disturbing witch hunt. Both the book and this post were eye openers.

  6. Domingo says:

    Merry CHRISTmas, Father! Your post is full of hope, as befits this season of joy! Like what Msgr Michael said, keep on speaking the Truth! Your witness behind bars becomes more powerful when joined with Christ Suffering. I remember that moment in “The Passion of the Christ” when Christ was in some dungeon and the Blessed Mother tried to listen to His Presence through a crack on the floor. May Our Blessed Mother console you every moment of your stay there and always. Yes, I will buy the book you mentioned and give it to the priests I know.

  7. M says:

    Dear Father G,

    Have been having computer problems and have only just managed to read your latest post and to my surprise and delight I find you writing of a book I decided to order online a month ago .
    Your post is now making me look forward to its arrival all the more.

    In my prayers as always.Hope the light of the Christ Child helps dispel the coldness of prison for you and all those within.

  8. Esther says:

    Aloha Father,
    I wanted to wish you and Pornchai, et al. a very blessed Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

    Mahalo for this post. I hope to be able to read this book soon. Thanks to Vince for letting us know it is available on Kindle. I will also do my part in spreading the word about the book.

    God bless,

  9. Patricia says:

    God bless you Father Gordon and David Pierre. Following your posts, Father, and trying to remember to join in the holy hour on Sunday night. I always share your good posts on Facebook. For so long, many of our hearts have been burdened by these false accusations and the blows to Holy Mother Church. Praise Jesus and His Immaculate Mother Mary. Mother, you are the best of mothers and we love you and honor you. Thank you for watching over us and your beloved priest sons.

  10. Monsignor Michael says:

    Dear Fr. Gordon,

    Please excuse my silence. I’ve been a little overwhelmed with work lately. I never miss an occasion to read your posts. This one is particularly good and poignant. You are doing a great service to the Church. Please keep on talking. Don’t stop and don’t ever let anyone silence you. You are speaking the truth that our World needs to know.

    With great admiration and sacerdotal friendship

    Msgr. Michael

  11. Juan Oskar says:

    There are accused priests in my diocese that I suspect are innocent. But the American Bishops brought so much of this mess on us and themselves for putting “Institution” and status first. I believe there are many more Penn States out there, and I think the sleazy lawyers should lift the filthy carpet off of Hollywood and find the horrors that exist there.

  12. Ted says:

    Fr. Gordon,

    Thank you for the fabulous article. As an abuse victim (who did not sue the Church or the priest), I find that SNAP and other abuse advocates and victims have gone way too far and do not realize that the old boy in the shadows is prodding them on and that they are doing his bidding. The comment from the SNAP member was frightening. I guess I now understand how the Soviet Communists went about their work, at least under Lenin and Stalin. My late father the lawyer would have been disgusted with Marci Hamilton. From what they say to me in private, lawyers are disgusted with her type but say nothing in public. When I comment online in our local paper whenever an abuse case comes up and talk about forgiveness, the vitriol from abuse victims and their advocates is hideous. The farther we remove ourselves from the sacraments, the more vulnerable we are to error. No amount of money can heal but forgiving and accepting a tiny amount of healing grace from God works wonders. God bless, Father, you are now in my prayers.

  13. Mary Jean Scudieri says:

    Hi Father! I ordered the books for my kindle and also the 2 books for my pastor and weekend priest for Christmas. We have a church library and I will put copies in there also. I have e-mailed it to my friends and will verbally pass it on also. I pray for you, Fr. Dom and all every day at Mass. Fr. Dom and I grew up in the same town and I knew him as a small child. He will always have my love and admiration as a true man of God.Prayers are being answered Father,in His own time! God bless you! Jeannie

  14. Finola says:

    I also will order the book and let others know about it. My prayers go out to you Fr Gordon and for all priests especially tomorrow on the feast of the Immaculate Conception.
    God Bless and thank you for this excellent post.

  15. Vince Pereda says:

    Dear Fr. Gordon,
    Excellent post Father, I intend to purchase the book right away. It is available on Amazon in print paperback format as well as the Kindle edition which is only $3.95, very affordable. As usual, you’re always in my prayers.

  16. Liz F says:

    Excellent post, Father. I look forward to reading this book.

  17. Veronica says:

    I wish I could afford the book for myself, let alone give it as a gift to our parish priests! Maybe some day it will miraculously fall into my hands!!

    God bless you always, dear Father! You are never out of my prayers. I hope you pray for your blog readers as well!

  18. Cheralyn says:

    Father Gordon,
    Thank you once again for bring to light what’s happening to you our Priests. I’m going to call friends of mine about this book, we have a Spiritual Motherhood Apostolate in our Parish and Diocese, I’d like to have all the Spiritual Moms read this book and give them to our Priests as well. Father you remain in my daily Prayers.
    God bless you,
    Cheralyn

  19. Trish says:

    Dear Fr Gordon

    Thank you for this. I will pass on the news of this book as well as make others aware of your plight and the plight of others who are accused unjustly….you and all priests are constantly in my prayers…may the truth come to light and may the victors in this battle against darkness be Christ and all of his faithful followers.

    Trish

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