After I refused several offers of a “plea deal” to serve only one to three years in prison (I was eventually sentenced to more than 20 times that for refusing the “deal”) my lawyer had to prepare for a trial. The trial-by-media was already in full swing.
At some point, the lawyer asked if I would be willing to undergo a series of polygraph examinations arranged with an expert who conducted the tests for state and federal law enforcement agencies. My lawyer said he wasn’t suggesting this because he did not believe me – he said he did, and I believed HIM! – but because he felt a positive outcome may put us in the position of asking for similar polygraph testing of the accusers.
I agreed to the tests, though the idea was very intimidating. I had seen “lie detector” tests only on television police shows, and they were a scary ordeal. When I reflect back on the scene now, I can’t help but wonder if the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI would include this as an example of suffering for the sake of the truth.
There I was, a 41 –year-old Catholic priest strapped to a chair in a dank office surrounded by electronic equipment with sensors on my fingers, and probes monitoring my heart rate, respiration and blood pressure while a poker-faced examiner asked me graphic questions about sex. When it was over, he told me we would be repeating the test with “re-phrased” questions in a week’s time, and then again a week after that. “Don’t even think about it,” I was told.
I left having no sense of the outcome, and I felt dismal. It was only after the second round of tests that I learned that the third examination was canceled. The results, the examiner said, were “conclusive” on both tests. I paid $3,000 to learn what I already knew. I was telling the truth and was about to suffer for it greatly.
In the end, however, no one else would ever hear these results. Prosecutors – and even officials of my diocese – declined to review the test results, and the contingency lawyers for my accusers would not let their clients anywhere near a polygraph machine.
At trial, the jury never even heard that I submitted to these tests. Some in the news media learned of it, but carefully avoided any reference to polygraph tests. I have often wondered, had the outcome been different and I “failed” the polygraph exams, if those results would have been shouted from the rooftops by the news media. We’ll never know.
One legal observer, in writing of the scandal of sex abuse claims against priests, suggested that the passage of time and the financial motives of so many claimants leaves us no longer able to distinguish between victims and perpetrators. There’s a measure of truth in that.
You may wish to read Truth in Justice by Ryan MacDonald regarding my case.
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