Cardinal George Pell in Australia, Archbishop Anthony Apuron in Guam, Msgr William Lynn & Fr Charles Engelhardt in Philadelphia, martyred names for hidden agendas.
Father George David Byers and I were both recipients of unexpected recognition for our respective writings this summer. Father Byers, whose status as a Missionary of Mercy has been extended by Pope Francis, received a First Place citation by the Catholic Press Association for his articles in Catholic media about the Year of Mercy. Father Byers tried to play it down, but it’s a bigger deal than he lets on. [See: Missionaries of Mercy: “New Phase” from the Holy See (Amoris laetitia internal/external forum guidelines?)]
I, on the other hand, should shout from the rooftops the most unexpected recognition ever bestowed upon These Stone Walls. TSW has been cited by an organization to which I have never aspired. The site, Today’s Martyrs Resources for Understanding Current Christian Witness and Martyrdom, published a short list commending “organizations engaged in original reporting, evangelical witness, political advocacy, refugee services and other activities, led by people who have experienced some degree of persecution firsthand.”
The page of commendations at Today’s Martyrs includes Aid to the Church in Need International, Open Doors International, Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, Issues of Rights and Justice, Revival Chinese Ministries International, China Aid, and (Who would have thought) These Stone Walls.
When I was notified of this recognition, I at first thought it was due to my posts, “Criminal Aliens: The ICE Deportation of Augie Reyes,” and “Dreamers of Home The ICE Deportation of Kewei Chen.” It made sense that articles about the treatment of our fellow humans during deportation proceedings caught the attention of this international Christian human rights forum.
But I was wrong in that assumption. My writing about my friends, Augie and Chen, may have caught the eyes of some social justice concerns, but the persecuted people that the Today’s Martyrs site recognizes as the subjects of TSW’s “original reporting and evangelical witness on contemporary Christian martyrdom” are Catholic priests. Let it sink in for a moment, please, that this concern for the persecution and suppression of fundamental rights for priests comes not from a Catholic human rights forum, but from an Evangelical Christian one.
At first, this had a sense of the surreal for me. Revelations of great irony often do. Aspiring to martyrdom has never been on my personal list of career milestones. Some readers suggest that there may be elements of a sort of “white martyrdom” in my story, but I have never seen myself in that light.
The irony is that the other organizations on this list are in the trenches taking steps to counter persecution and martyrdom around the world. In the eleventh hour, the organizers of Today’s Martyrs included These Stone Walls on that list. At first it seemed a great honor. And then a great responsibility. I wondered where the heroic Catholic voices are in this recognition, but then I found some. They were loud and clear. I’ll name them in a moment.
FALSE WITNESS FOR PROFIT ON THE ISLAND OF GUAM
As June turned to July this year, a time when most Catholic blogs experience their annual summer readership slump, These Stone Walls had a huge and unexpected surge in readers, doubling, at times even tripling, our usual summer readership. Of the five most read posts in the first half of 2017, three of them were in June.
I ended last month with two “heavy” posts that brought lots of heat – and I hope some light – to two tough subjects. The first post, on June 21, was “On the Island of Guam, Is the Eighth Commandment Discarded?” The day after it was posted, it became the feature article for the National Catholic Register’s The Big Pulpit which chooses the best in Catholic media daily.
It was also featured on Pewsitter. Both sites courageously stepped up to promote an uncomfortable topic among Catholics: the recognition that the sex abuse scandal in the priesthood has taken on elements of a classic moral panic resulting in the unjust persecution of Catholic priests and open suppression of their rights under both Church and civil law. As a result of their coverage of that post, TSW reader Dorothy Stein – one of over 1,000 who came to it via a link at The Big Pulpit, published this very incisive comment:
“Your account of the origins of the Commandment against false witness is most compelling. So is this entire article. I have been following its many threads and it is clear to me that there are agendas behind this story on the Island of Guam that are just as dark as sexual abuse itself. The first victory of those agendas is to convince people that child abuse is as dark as it gets. That usually lights the match for moral panic.
“The problem [in Guam] is that those who incite the moral panic also profit from it. Young people must be protected and guided, and a community that preserves its cultural and spiritual heritage will see to that. What appears to be happening in Guam is just the opposite. The cultural and religious heritage of a people is being squandered by the greed and hidden agendas of a few and the apathy of a few too many. Let us hope for the good people of Guam that this … will serve as a wake-up call. Your effort has lifted this story from Guam and put a floodlight on it around the world.”
It’s that floodlight that seems to be a problem for those in Guam who plotted to bring down Archbishop Anthony Apuron for apparent agendas of finance and property control having nothing to do with protecting young people from abuse. These same people collaborated with SNAP early on to develop tactics that would serve their cause. Sexual abuse claims against the Archbishop formed within a context of those other agendas, and appear to have been used, under the guidance of SNAP, as a weapon of mass destruction to get rid of some priests, the Archbishop included.
With typical and shameless “island mentality,” the problem that some of the Guam antagonists had with my post was that “outsiders” are now looking in. “Diana,” in her Neocatechumenal Way blog, followed up my June 21 post with a defense of it entitled, “The Cost of Appeasement” (June 23, 2017). It’s worth a read!
PROSECUTOR SETH WILLIAMS TAKES A PLEA DEAL
Don’t let that subheading fool you. The plea deal worked out by Philadelphia prosecutor Seth Williams was not for Msgr. William Lynn. It was for himself. Just one day after I posted “Will Fr Charles Engelhardt’s Prosecutor Take a Plea Deal?” the question was answered. My post revealed that Mr. Williams faced a 23-count federal indictment for fraud, bribery, and corruption.
At some point in the early stages of his trial, the charges were increased to 29 felony counts. Then, a day after I published my post, Seth Williams took a deal to plead guilty in exchange for a five-year prison sentence. He also resigned from his office that same day.
According to the terms of the deal, the former state prosecutor admitted to the truth of all 29 counts, but was allowed to plead guilty to only one corruption charge, thus limiting his deal to a five-year term in federal prison. U.S. District Court Judge Paul Diamond ordered him detained until his October 24 sentencing. The statement of federal prosecutor Robert Zausmer served as a stunning summation of the case:
“Today Mr. Williams admitted that he sold his office in exchange for a corrupt series of payments.. [This is] a great victory in the battle against corrupt conduct by public officials.”
This story brings to the fore once again an important distinction that Catholic writer Ryan MacDonald once made in “The Post-Trial Extortion of Father Gordon MacRae.” “Plea deals work well for the guilty, but for the innocent, not so much.” For Seth Williams and other guilty defendants, a plea deal is a way to keep a light glowing at the end of a tunnel. An innocent defendant who cannot fathom freely taking such a deal will end up spending far more time in prison than one who is actually guilty. The late Father Charles Engelhardt got a longer prison sentence than his guilty prosecutor, and died there, an innocent man chained to a gurney.
I wrote “Will Fr Charles Engelhardt’s Prosecutor Take a Plea Deal?” because it was a small way to bring a bit of justice to the stories of the late Father Engelhardt and Monsignor William Lynn. The outcome of the Seth Williams case is another nail in the coffins of their unjust prosecutions and the integrity of the Philadelphia justice system that allowed them.
Once again, a number of brave Catholic voices took up my post about this story and promoted it. Both Pewsitter and the National Catholic Register’s The Big Pulpit featured it prominently. Father George David Byers made it a headline on his Arise! Let us be going! blog, and so did Bishop Rene Henry Gracida, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Cristi at his Abyssus Abyssum Invocat blog.
And with the force of conviction, Father John Zuhlsdorf promoted that post at his celebrated and popular “Father Z’s Blog” drawing readers to my post by the thousands. Father Z introduced it:
“Please run, don’t walk, to These Stone Walls, the blog of Fr. Gordon MacRae, unjustly jailed and innocent of crimes against minors. Its a long read, and lurid in many ways, but it reveals the slimy underside of the Accuse-a-Priest industry. It seems that fraud is catching up with some of the frauds who made false accusations. The question is, will there eventually be justice?”
Father Z asks a question that haunts this story, but he has already helped bring a little justice to it. His effort, combined with those of Father Byers, Bishop Gracida, Tito Edwards at The Big Pulpit, PewSitter, and others made my post, “Will Fr Charles Engelhardt’s Prosecutor Take a Plea Deal?” one of the most widely read posts of the year thus far.
From where I write, there is not very much justice to be had, but these brave voices helped me bring some to the name of Father Charles Engelhardt, martyred in prison for the cause of nothing more redemptive than money and some corrupt prosecutor’s career path.
CARDINAL GEORGE PELL: JUSTICE DESCENDS DOWN UNDER
This corrupt moral panic began in America and spread its tentacles around the world. In its latest chapter, Australian Cardinal George Pell has had to take a leave from his Vatican post to return to Australia to face forty-year-old charges of sexual abuse. This insanity has run amok.
David Pierre at The Media Report has published an alarming review of the source for these unjust charges. What makes them most unjust is the fact that they have been coached, rehearsed, and ritualized over the course of years. Australia’s Royal Commission on child abuse and the Church all but issued an open invitation to accuse Cardinal Pell. If the Commission learned anything at all from America it is how easily the media becomes an all-too-willing tool for moral panic. The Commission targeted Cardinal Pell for a display of “trophy justice” through what one observer calls “a vile harvest of lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
Cardinal Pell’s good name has been the bull’s eye all along, and this is not at all new. I wrote in 2015 of the rumors, innuendo, and other attacks aimed at him in “Peter Saunders and Cardinal Pell: A Trial by Media,” and again in “Mother Angelica and Gerard Henderson on Spin Down Under.”
At a more sane time in a just society, this case would not have proceeded to formal charges. This is a case in which Cardinal Pell became the target of a criminal probe, and then a frantic and agenda-driven search was set in motion to find something, anything to even vaguely support bringing the charge. The result is these forty-year old claims for which this prelate must now offer some miraculous defense to “clear his name.”
The truth is, that can never be done. Once so besmirched and tainted by a Royal Commission, any form of mud could stick in what passes for justice and due process in this story. The world’s 1.2 billion Catholics owe to Cardinal Pell a strong and insistent presumption of innocence.
It is beyond ridiculous that any citizen of a just society should have to defend his reputation and good name against anything less than clear and compelling evidence of guilt when forty years pass before a charge is brought. Catholics must demand that guilt be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and not just assumed. Anything less leaves a cloud of doubt over Australia and its justice system. This should be made clear by Catholic voices on a global scale.
Having lived through this, and living through it still, I can attest to what should be a terminating fatal flaw in these charges. No such evidence exists or ever existed. The real goal is not to take Cardinal Pell’s life or freedom, but his moral voice and his agenda for Vatican financial reform. There are those who are quite happy to have him out of the way.
Mine is not a call to passively seek justice and move on. It is a call to revolution. This nonsense continues because of the clamor of a few and the silence of many. The sexual abuse story in the Catholic Church ended many years ago. All that exists now is vengeance, and the nefarious agendas – like those of SNAP recently exposed – that seek to harness vengeance to satisfy their own ends.
The good people of Australia would do well to remember that your government serves your interests, not the other way around. A point was made in my post, “On the Island of Guam, Is the Eighth Commandment Discarded?” The Eighth Commandment against false witness is at the very heart of God’s justice. False witness for profit – “what is evil in the sight of God” (1 Kings 19:15-21) is the most vile injustice of all.
Note to readers from Father Gordon MacRae: I would be remiss if I excluded The Catholic League for Religious & Civil Rights from my list of loud and clear Catholic, voices concerned for the rights of priests. The Catholic League could not have been more vocal in its concern for me as expressed in Bill Donohue’s “Travesty of Justice: The Ordeal of Father MacRae” and a number of other postings. You would serve the cause of justice well through a membership in the Catholic League.