Cardinal George Pell and Father Gordon MacRae, falsely accused and unjustly in prison, personify what happens when accusation alone is a weapon of Mass destruction.
- “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” – King Henry II before the martyrdom of St. Thomas Becket, December 29, 1170. History repeats itself.
If you visit These Stone Walls often, or even just on occasion, then you have likely noticed some dramatic changes in its content and appearance. I will explain some of the changes in this post, but among the most important for me is our new subscription feature. Subscribing is entirely free and barring anything Earth shattering we will send you only one email notice per week.
We will not share or publish your email address. So if you have not done so already, please take a moment to subscribe to my weekly posts. Just select “HTML” as your preferred option when you subscribe at http://TheseStoneWalls.com/subscribe/.
These Stone Walls also now has a new dedicated Facebook page. It was established on August 14, the Feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe, by our friend, Esther. Her seemingly mystical discovery of TSW was described recently in my Independence Day post, “It Echoes off These Stone Wall: ‘Let Freedom Ring!’” I invite you to “Like” and “Follow” this prayerful and inspiring presentation of These Stone Walls on Facebook.
Finally, I want to thank the many readers who have reviewed the video documentary interviews with me that were produced by Father Kenneth Gumbert and recently published by Attorney Franklyn Friday. You may view the video presentation in two parts at TheFridayEsquire. TSW reader Donald Brignac in Texas recently echoed in a comment what many readers have already expressed:
“I have read a lot about your situation but to hear you explain it in the two posted videos was simply wonderful. There is definitely a difference in the audio-visual presentation and in the written word.” (Letter dated August 18, 2019)
I am most grateful to Ryan MacDonald and Father George David Byers for a pair of eye-opening posts over the last two weeks. I have to admit that I struggled with the timing and content of these accounts. Ryan’s post on events in The Diocese of Manchester and Father Byers’ on The Signature of Fraud both address recent dark times in the Church that many find burdensome.
I think it is safe to say that few Catholics find these events more painful than I do. And now, as you may know, Cardinal George Pell has joined me among the falsely accused and unjustly imprisoned for whom a biased justice system has failed. I have written several posts about this, and will link to some of them at the end.
On just the day before I type this, I received news from Australia that an appeals court there has affirmed the deeply unjust verdict against Cardinal Pell. The split decision (two to one) includes the clear dissent of one appellate judge who holds that the evidence against Cardinal Pell did not support a verdict of guilty. Those who have studied this case and have stood in solidarity with Cardinal Pell – just as so many have done for me – experience deep sadness over the martyrdom of his good name.
As these newest waves of Catholic storm rage on, I believe it was no accident that also from Australia, TSW Publisher and Technical Editor, Suzanne Sadler, chose this time – before the above posts were written and before the decision of Cardinal Pell was published – to present a reconstruction of These Stone Walls. The first hint I had of it was when Suzanne sent me the new Home Page graphic depicting this dramatic and familiar scene from the Gospel of St. Matthew:
“And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea so that the boat was being taken” by the waves; but Jesus was asleep. ‘Save us, Lord,’ they cried. ‘We are perishing.’ And he said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, O men of little faith?’ Then he rose and rebuked the wind and the sea; and there was a great calm.” (Matthew 8:24-26)
THE GREAT STORM UPON THE SEA OF GALILEE
We chose that image for These Stone Walls because it is a graphic depiction of the state of the Church and the world in our time. If my false imprisonment means nothing else, may it at least be offered in solidarity with you as you come to a suffering Church for your Sacraments. On the day before I typed this, I received the message I cited above from reader Donald Brignac in Texas who continued:
“On June 29, we celebrated the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul which included the reading of St. Peter’s remarkable release from prison (Acts 12:6-11), one of my favorite passages from Acts of the Apostles. I think, in many respects, your weekly writing at These Stone Walls symbolizes St. Peter’s release.
“Granted you are physically still in prison, but your message goes out into all the world. You affect the lives of so many people with your writing. It is as though, in 2009 when you began to write, the chains fell from your wrists as you offered these examples of faith, hope, and charity to your readers, and we are better for it.”
As much as I hope and pray that Cardinal Pell will prevail in his quest for truth and justice, I also hope that in these present moments – which neither of us can control – he will join me in the sacrificial offering of our priesthood and our imprisonment for the life of the Church and the hearts of believers who are wounded in this time of crisis. I am unable to write to Cardinal Pell directly. I hope someone among our readers will send him this message. (Please let us know in a comment so he doesn’t get multiple copies of it.)
I also hope and pray, and urge with the meager voice that is given to me, that the Church will not abandon Cardinal Pell to this fate. Pontius Pilate scandalized humanity for all time when he washed his hands of the Blood of Christ. The Church must now emulate Jesus rather than Pilate in this. We priests who have faced the scourge of falsehood know only too well the great harm done to the people of God when our spiritual leaders assume the demeanor of Pilate. There was a lasting wound when “The Chief Priests Answered: ‘We Have No King but Caesar.’”
Many Catholics have felt demoralized by the abuse crisis, but now there is a troubling spinoff: the abuse of the abuse crisis. Around the world, the Catholic Church is being unjustly singled out for ridicule, disrespect, and special sanctions as the Church and priests are held to standards for which no other institution is held accountable. The Church is shamed in the public square for not acting in 1950 as it would today.
Many Catholics have felt betrayed and hurt by revelations that some of their spiritual leaders behaved more like predators than priests. Many feel equally betrayed when some of their priests are exposed as self-serving narcissists. A recent post by William Mahoney, Ph.D. at ChurchMilitant.com tells the sad story of two priests, one from my diocese and one from a neighboring diocese, who have abandoned their parishes.
Letters to their former parishioners written after the fact were filled with narcissistic obsession about their own needs “to completely heal” from unnamed deprivations. After assuring their parishioners in their letters that they may return as “better priests” they moved to Minnesota and entered into a same-sex “marriage.”
I wrote about the link between homosexuality and narcissism, and the threat that the latter especially poses to the priesthood, in “Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and the Homosexual Matrix.” Do not think for a moment that such betrayals are unique to the priesthood. A full eighty percent of the young men around me in this prison were also abandoned by their fathers. Our culture is not having a crisis of priesthood. It is having a crisis of manhood.
GUILTY FOR BEING ACCUSED
Compounding betrayal with further betrayal does not mend fractured allegiances nor does it heal wounded souls. After Ryan MacDonald published his post, “In the Diocese of Manchester, Transparency and a Hit List,” he sent me a troubling article written by my bishop, Bishop Peter Libasci, an inherently good priest and faithful bishop who, I think, knows not the extent to which bishops are misguided in the politically correct era of #MeToo.
In “Restoring Trust,” an article in the September-October issue of Parable magazine, Bishop Libasci wrote of his decision to publish anew the list of 73 priests that Ryan wrote about. Here is the excerpt of the Bishop’s article that I find so distressing. You should too, and I will explain why:
“I wanted to let you know that the Diocese of Manchester has launched a new section on our website designed to provide further transparency to our ongoing commitment to protecting minors. Here we have not only compiled resources for victim-survivors, families, and those who wish to report abuse, but the site also includes a single place to review the names of priests who have been accused of sexual abuse of a minor since 1950.”
Since the so-called “Dallas Charter” was adopted by the American bishops in 2002, a “credible” standard has been adopted to determine an accused priest’s suitability for ministry. There are serious flaws with the term and its application. A “credible” accusation means only that it “could” have happened.
For example, if both a priest and his accuser were present in the same community forty years ago, then the accusation is seen as “credible.” But Bishop Libasci’s statement, and that of other bishops who have released lists of names, omitted that weak and unjust standard. Priests now appear on these published lists merely for being accused at all. Bishops sometime say that this is not a prejudgment of guilt or innocence. If not, then what is it? Of all U.S. citizens, only Catholic priests can be robbed of their good name and deprived of their livelihood on such shaky grounds.
And there is a reason why Ryan A. MacDonald referred in his recent post to my Bishop’s published list of accused priests as “a hit list.” As soon as Bishop Libasci’s list was published, activists and lawyers began clamoring for more details such as the actual abuses claimed, the places and locations, time periods, etc. The reasons for these demands may not seem clear to fair and honest people in the Church, but they are crystal clear to the people who populate my current environment.
Having such information in addition to the names of the priests accused, invites false accusers to file claims similar to those that have already been filed against a specific priest. I, too, have been victimized by this. In 2004, just months before The Wall Street Journal published a two-part analysis of my trial, I was accused in a demand for money by two men I have never met or even heard of before. Despite my strenuous objections my diocese mediated those settlements anyway.
Despite the closed-door settlements and the signing of nondisclosure agreements, I released the names of these and other false accusers to The Wall Street Journal, and those names were published. As a result, I was never again accused while many other priests whose names appear on diocesan hit lists have been subjected to multiple claims by people they do not even know.
In October of 2018, I wrote a post entitled “Justice Brett Kavanaugh Is Guilty for Being Accused.” With that now notorious public spectacle, the term “Guilty for Being Accused” has been revealed as a mockery of justice and a denial of due process rights everywhere but in claims against Catholic priests.
Now, thanks to the proliferation of these lists of names published by bishops, merely being accused is held in the public eye to be compelling evidence of a priest’s guilt. Catholics are only slowly catching on to this. The traditionalist Catholic news venue, The Remnant recently published a fair and bold podcast about this by Michael J. Matt entitled “Presumed Guilty: Open Season on Catholic Priests.” I am giving the last word to The Remant:
“Michael J. Matt considers the ramifications of weaponizing the clerical abuse crisis. Should we operate under the presumption of guilt, or do we stand in defense of the right of every priest in the world – Novus, Sede, Trad, Neo-Cath – to have benefit of due process and the rule of law?”
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Editor’s Note: Please remember to fill in the Subscribe link here on TSW if you have not done so already. And please do not forget to like and follow These Stone Walls on Facebook. You may also wish to read these related posts:
- Cardinal George Pell Is on Trial and So Is Australia
- Cardinal George Pell and Other Martyrs for a Nefarious Cause
- The Credibility of Bishops on Credibly Accused Priests
- Catholic Scandal and the Third Reich: The Rise and Fall of a Moral Panic