Cell mates Fr Gordon J MacRae, wrongly convicted, and Pornchai Moontri, “guilty as charged,” both now wrongly imprisoned, rejoice to be captives of Irony Incarnate.
Note from Father MacRae: One more guest post! Almost. Father George David Byers, Missionary of Mercy, has been collecting notes from our frequent communications and has tacked these together to provide what he calls an introduction to Jesus as Irony Incarnate, who was Himself convicted and imprisoned before being put to death. This is the final chapter in a series of great importance to our friends behind these stone walls.
Let’s begin with an incisive presentation of the state of affairs which Father MacRae dictated to me over the phone just some hours ago:
“Throughout the whole Kavanaugh affair the conclusion, voiced perfectly by Senator Susan Collins, is that it is a terrible betrayal of justice and the Constitution to equate being accused with being guilty. Our bishops have practiced that very injustice for the last sixteen years (since 2002). To be merely accused is to be summarily convicted, thrown out of ministry, separated from the whole, and no longer welcomed. To be merely accused means that a bishop will release an accused priest’s name to the public not only banishing him from the priesthood but branding him forever without investigation, without a defense, without a trial. The Judge Kavanaugh affair taught the nation that such a horror is a return to the justice of 1692 in the Salem Witch Trials. How can the Church up to the very top embrace this today? It is far more Calvanist than Catholic. The Puritans have never left America, and McCarthy is here to stay as well.”
Indeed. Father MacRae was accused for money and suffered a conviction that was co-engineered with jury tampering wrought by the chancery bureaucrats of his diocese. Father MacRae, imprisoned for life (and already for 2 ½ decades as of this writing), is at the very heart of the abuse crisis not because he is guilty but because he knew too much and had to be discredited and marginalized. There was no better way to do this than the irony of him being accused and wrongly convicted of the very evil from which he was trying to protect us.
Meanwhile, an out of state prisoner, Pornchai “Maximilian” Moontri, convicted of murder, was transferred and unceremoniously thrown into the cell of Father MacRae after seven years of solitary confinement and is still with him today so very many years later. Frontline’s documentary “Locked Up in America – Solitary Nation” depicts the nightmare of that solitary confinement immediately prior to that transfer. Pornchai knows the prisoners you see in that documentary and was himself in the very cells you see, daily flooded with blood… for seven years.
Porchai’s back story is, in his words, much worse than the imprisonment. He was taken by his new step-father as a child from Thailand and then, in Maine, was raped for years by that step-father. In a strange country with a strange language, Pornchai attempted to run away from this living hell of continuous rape, and was almost unconscious from drinking in a convenience store with “friends,” where he continued drinking without paying. Tackled by the manager, all he could think of was that he again had his step-father on top of him, attempting to rape him again. He had a pocket knife for protection against street gangs and blindly swiped with it. Pornchai was quickly convicted of murder.
A first reaction to reading over Pornchai’s own VIS (Victim Impact Statement) presented in court for the recent sentencing of his step-father for the abuse wrought against Pornchai and his brother was to pray to Saint Michael. The abuse to which Pornchai was subjected is monstrously demonic.
Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly hosts, by the power of God, cast into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits, who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
IRONY – STEP ONE:
Thailand has long been frowned upon for being the sex-tourism capital of the world. But don’t blame Thailand. The “tourists” are not Thai citizens, but rather Europeans and Americans. An American citizen went to Thailand with the intention of getting a couple of kids to rape continuously for years, bringing them back to the United States for this. One of those kids winds up in prison and then is transferred to the prison and to the very cell of the man, the priest, who is at the epicenter of the abuse crisis. That priest was wrongfully accused and wrongfully convicted, but the young Thai prisoner didn’t know that at the beginning. Over the years, they both came to know Jesus and His blessed Mother better, together. The irony is one of shock and awe.
But let’s hear from Pornchai himself, who just now wrote the following for this post:
“Father G showed me a letter to the editor in The Wall Street Journal on Sept. 21. It was from an 81 year-old woman who wrote that she was sexually assaulted at age 11. She wrote: ‘It is as clear to me now as the night it happened.’ She wrote that for all these years every detail of this event is burned into her memory. The problem is not that she could not remember. The problem is that she cannot forget. That is my problem also. It is like a cross. My abuser was convicted of over 40 counts, most with violence. I was 12 and 13 and every detail is burned into my memory. I am now 45 years old.
Then I look at Father G and some of the other priests accused. Some of the accusers say that they just remembered after 20 or 30 years. Father G’s accuser said that he could not remember how he got there or why he kept coming back. He said he ‘repressed’ the details. He was vague and told many different stories to different people. First he was 12, then he was 14, then he was almost 16 but only after someone gave him Father G’s resume so he could get his dates straight. The Church gave him $200,000 for this fraud with no evidence or corroboration to support any of it. Everyone in the Church just accepted that he was guilty. I have lived in a prison cell with Father Gordon for 12 years and, so different from him, I know too well the kind of person who would do these kind of things, namely, my abuser, Richard Bailey. I’m here to say Father G is not guilty.
Does anyone wonder how it is that a falsely accused priest has been carrying not only his own cross, but mine too? Just like Saint Maximilian Kolbe, he has been working to free a prisoner other than himself.
What our bishops and the news media and others have done to priests is a sin almost as terrible as sexual abuse. Their civil rights are destroyed and their bishops just go along with it. After all that happened to me, and all the evidence that has surfaced to support it, when Father G told me what a ‘credible’ accusation means for priests, I was sick over it. How could a Church allow this?
Father G not only helped bring my accuser to justice, but he also helped me show him mercy when very few in our Church have shown any mercy to Father G. The mercy Father G wants is actual justice. I guess he would have more mercy if he was guilty because then he would have just gone along with everything and took the plea deal offered. If he did that, we would have never met, and where would I be now? He still teaches me and others what it means to be a Catholic with a heart for Christ.”
Yes. I’ve always heard the same. The most terrible thing for real victims is that the bishops make settlements for false accusations – making themselves heroes for being “tough on abuse” – with everyone capitalizing on the suffering of real victims. And there’s another irony: people giving hero status to bishops who abuse their office with the same spirit of abuse of power taken up by those who actually abused others with homosexualist bullying.
But let’s hear from Father Gordon MacRae who provided what he calls “just some random thoughts.” These are in bulleted points below. Mind you, “random thoughts” – when the topic involves with intensity one’s entire life – are thoughts which are central to one’s life before God and neighbor.
- Firstly, note that the case against Father Gordon MacRae and the case against Richard Bailey, Pornchai Moontri’s former stepfather, have striking similarities and differences. They are both from the same time period, Father Gordon MacRae’s case stems from allegations alleged to have occurred in 1983. There is, and has never been, any evidence or corroboration whatsoever to support the claims.
- The case against Richard Bailey is from 1985 to 1987 when Pornchai Moontri was 12-14 years old. Even though it was not prosecuted until 2018, the trail of evidence and corroboration extends all the way back to 1986 and includes police reports, school records, corroboration from friends and neighbors, reports from a school nurse, from social workers, from institutions – but nothing happened until Father MacRae began to write of this 30 years later on These Stone Walls.
- Father Gordon MacRae was convicted in New Hampshire of five felony counts of assault in the allegations of Thomas Grover, and was sentenced to 67 years after three times refusing a plea deal offer to serve one year.
- Richard Bailey was convicted in Maine of forty felony charges of violent sexual assault and was sentenced to 18 years probation.
- Father MacRae says that from the day he came to share a cell with Pornchai, he had to wage spiritual warfare against the presence of Richard Bailey. In a post entitled, “If Loved Ones Fall from Faith, Let Them See You Believe,” he described what it was like to face Pornchai’s trauma. At first he was unable to trust. He lived like a cornered animal, unable to sit comfortably in the cell because it meant that Father MacRae would have to pass behind him to get in and out. Instead, whenever he was in the cell with Father MacRae, he had to sit in a huddled corner of his upper bunk facing out so he could see what was coming.
- It took Father MacRae years to drive Richard Bailey out of Pornchai – something akin to an exorcism. He says that whenever Pornchai began even to sense the potential to be victimized – which is a daily event in prison – he would go into a “fight or flight” mode.
- In “Saint Maximilian Kolbe and the Gift of Noble Defiance,” Father MacRae writes that Pornchai and he had very different spontaneous interpretations of a photo of the cell window where our patron saint died. Here’s what I wrote:
“What Pornchai saw as the gaping jaws of evil ready to devour, I saw those same jaws choking on the goodness that dwelled inside. When I suggested this to Pornchai, he saw it too. Stare at the photo for another moment, and you may see what I mean.”
- In “Letter 12” of The Screwtape Letters by C S Lewis (Harper, 1942) the demonic “Uncle Screwtape” describes perfectly the slippery slope that suffering and sin conspire to spread the contagion of evil. Their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.
• Father MacRae’s approach to Pornchai had to be the reverse of what “Uncle Screwtape” left him with. The road to Heaven had to be a gradual one, a gentle incline, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” The irony was so overwhelming, Father MacRae says, that he had to live the Gospel every second of every day in his presence and never waver. As Pornchai described his conversion in “Pornchai’s Story.”
“Father G never once said anything to me about becoming Catholic. I was drawn to it by the sheer force of grace through example.”
- The greatest irony for me throughout these years with Pornchai, Father MacRae says, has been the fact that Pornchai brought his inner captivity to a priest – “Father” – accused of the very same behaviors that so destroyed his life, haunted his nightmares, and oppressed his soul. Of all the men he has met in prison, Father MacRae is the only one Pornchai has ever come to trust. Pornchai came to see Father MacRae as the very antithesis of the man who professed to be his stepfather only to enslave him.
- The courts never saw the irony. As mentioned in my final passages of “Pornchai Moontri Bangkok to Bangor, Survivor of the Night,” neither the courts nor the news media will ever juxtapose these two cases and conclude that there was any injustice. Could you image the outcry of a Catholic priest convicted of forty counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault was sentenced to probation without a single day in prison?
- Could you imagine the calls of “cover-up” if a paper trail about abuse by a priest spanned 33 years before a criminal charge was brought?
IRONY – STEP TWO:
We would miss out on the glorious truths of irony if we were not thrown into it with some violence, of a sudden dropped onto Calvary before the Cross, of a sudden captivated by Him held captive on the Cross, captives of Irony Incarnate, Jesus.
To be a Catholic, a Christian, it is entirely necessary to have a sense of irony, to see that, in Jesus, justice and mercy are one, He taking on the death we deserve in all justice for original sin and our own personal sin, so that He, standing in our place, the Innocent for the guilty, might have the right in His own justice to have mercy on us.
That mercy is founded on justice is quite the irony for our fallen human nature to take in. We rebel. We don’t want to look at God on the Cross and see our own sin reflected in Him. We don’t want to see our lives written out in His wounds. We don’t want to be convicted of making false heroes out of those who falsely convict so as to be hailed as heroes. We don’t want to be found out, discovered. Jesus almost seems cruel in His mercy, relentlessly showing us how much He loves us, laying down His life for us, allowing Himself to be falsely convicted, wrongfully imprisoned. It is not that He plays hide and seek with us as some abstract “god” out in outer space; rather, He is there for all to see, stripped down, tortured to death. If we but lift our eyes by His grace, we will be captivated by the glory of the love of Him who is captive on the Cross out of love for us.
But let’s hear from the great historian, Hilaire Belloc, who wrote of the difficulty we have in being made one with irony, with Irony Incarnate, who hangs on a tree, as if He Himself were evil:
“To the young, the pure, and the ingenuous, irony must always appear to have a quality of something evil, and so it has, for […] it is a sword to wound. It is so directly the product or reflex of evil that, though it can never be used – nay, can hardly exist – save in the chastisement of evil, yet irony always carries with it some reflections of the bad spirit against which it was directed. […] It suggests most powerfully the evil against which it is directed, and those innocent of evil shun so terrible an instrument. […] The mere truth is vivid with ironical power […] when the mere utterance of a plain truth labouriously concealed by hypocrisy, denied by contemporary falsehood, and forgotten in the moral lethargy of the populace, takes upon itself an ironical quality more powerful than any elaboration of special ironies could have taken in the past. […] No man possessed of irony and using it has lived happily; nor has any man possessing it and using it died without having done great good to his fellows and secured a singular advantage to his own soul.” [Hilaire Belloc, “On Irony” (pages 124-127; Penguin books 1325. Selected Essays (2/6), edited by J.B. Morton; Harmondsworth – Baltimore – Mitcham 1958).]
In seeing Jesus as Irony Incarnate, imprisoned and then hung on a tree, we are then captivated by such love, are transformed in irony, made one with Jesus, Irony Incarnate, so that we might bring this greatest love of our lives to others, but always through this very Irony in which we rejoice. That rejoicing in being captivated by Irony Incarnate is what both Father Gordon MacRae and Pornchai “Maximilian” Moontri have brought to us, and we thank them both for that.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)