The human trafficking bombshell in Pornchai’s Story, Cardinal Zen and the unholy Vatican-China deal, Cardinal Pell in prison, the ACLU’s bold push for prison reform.
- “Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien or the orphan of justice. All the people shall say, ‘Amen!’” (Deut. 27:19)
Inside the front page of The Wall Street Journal every day is an invitation to request corrections and amplifications, and an email address through which to do so. I rarely have readers asking for corrections – except perhaps for a typo or two – but I often receive requests for amplifications. Many readers have asked for updates and further developments on some recent posts.
1. PORNCHAI MOONTRI’S BOMBSHELL
Our first amplification this week involves explosive new information about a most important post published near the end of 2018. That was when Richard Alan Bailey was convicted in Penobscot (Maine) Superior Court on forty felony charges of violent sexual assault. You may think you know the sad truth of that story and how it relates to your friends behind These Stone Walls, but I urge you to read on.
The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights will soon be promoting a recent follow-up post entitled “Pornchai Moontri: The Catholic League Changed My Life Too.” It is a remarkable account of Divine Providence. After it was posted, I set out to write and publish new information on this story which is now drawing international attention from the United Nations and human rights organizations seeking to investigate and prevent human trafficking. The brief introduction to my new article tells a story of its own:
- “In 1992, Thailand ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The United States never ratified it. The nightmares suffered by this young Thai citizen all took place in America.”
I struggled with how and where to publish this shocking account. It should be in The New York Times, but I cannot imagine them publishing anything from a Catholic priest unless I become willing to aid in their ongoing slander of the Catholic Church. I had to publish it someplace that would not suppress or distort it. This story has already been suppressed enough. So I chose the publishing platform at Linked-In Pulse which has published a number of articles from me.
Some of it will seem familiar to you. Most of it will raise your ire. It should. This story is a bombshell report, and I have never written anything more important. A day after it went up on LinkedIn, I was contacted for reprint permission by a global human rights group determined to expose the worst cases of human trafficking at www.TheSilentVoicesProject.org.
So please read it, share it, recommend it, and if you have a LinkedIn page, please re-post it. My bombshell article is “Human Trafficking: Thailand to America and a Cold Case in Guam.”
2. THE VATICAN’S UNHOLY CHINA DEAL
In early 2020 These Stone Walls published “Catholics, Communist China, and Hope for Hong Kong,” by James W. Harris. James is a former resident of China where he taught English at the Hua Mao Foreign Language School. His post is a well written eye-opener from someone with firsthand experience of life as a Catholic under a repressive Communist regime.
In 2018, as that post describes, the Vatican signed a concordat with China’s Communist government. The terms of the agreement are still not made public, but the most well known concession hands over the selection of Catholic bishops to the Communist regime instead of the Holy See. Bishops are thus chosen from the state sanctioned church under the authority of Beijing instead of the underground Church that remains loyal to Rome.
After the post by James Harris appeared on These Stone Walls, much of what it predicted would happen did happen. Once the Vatican concessions were in place, the Communist government of the People’s Republic of China launched a wave of suppression including disappearances of priests, destruction of churches, and forced removal of crosses and other Catholic symbols.
In follow-up comments on social media regarding that post, I wrote (with the help of third parties, of course) about Beijing’s newest demand. Beginning in March 2020, Catholics in China must profess that ultimate authority rests not with God or the Church, but with the Chinese Communist Party.
The Vatican-China deal stands in stark contrast to the papacy of Saint John Paul II who boldly confronted communism in Western Europe. He is widely believed today to have been an essential force in the collapse of the Soviet Union. Sticking my own neck out perhaps a bit too far, I wrote that with the concordat signed by Pope Francis, the Chief Priest answered Pilate, “We have no king but Chairman Mao” (see John 19:15).
In the February 18, 2020 edition of The Wall Street Journal, one of my favorite columnists, William McGurn, wrote “The Vatican’s Unholy China Deal.” You may not be able to view it without a subscription so I will mention its major points. It begins with a pointed statement of Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong from his September 2019 appeal to the world’s 223 cardinals:
- “The Catholic Church in China is being murdered while the Vatican stands idly by.”
Cardinal Zen was recently in Washington where he was presented with the Chinese Democracy Champion Prize. It was much deserved. Bill McGurn had an opportunity to interview him and asked about his “murder” remark. Cardinal Zen’s reply was that of a courageous man, a prelate worthy of the Church’s history of pushing back against oppression and violations of human rights:
- “You can never compromise with a totalitarian regime because they want everything. Would you have encouraged St. Joseph to have negotiated with Herod?”
WSJ columnist Bill McGurn points out that the Vatican-China agreement was exclusively the work of European bureaucrats to the almost complete exclusion of Chinese Catholics – including Cardinal Zen. He likened it to the 1933 concordat that Germany struck with the Vatican when Hitler came to power. Both Cardinal Zen and Bill McGurn omit any mention that the groundwork for this deal was laid for the Vatican by then Cardinal Theodore McCarrick sent by Pope Francis as an emissary to China.
In 1933, Church authorities questioned the Third Reich’s post-concordat abuses. In response, the Nazi Party launched a deadly campaign of persecution (see “Saints and Sacrifices: Maximilian Kolbe and Edith Stein at Auschwitz”). Under Xi Jinping in China, increased persecution also followed the current agreement. The Vatican may be trying to protect lives by being silent, but the True Church of China will not be silent – as evident in the courage of Cardinal Zen. For him, the price extracted from all this has been high: “the pope’s silence.” But Bill McGurn is more pointed:
- “Yet the leader of the world’s largest religious denomination – a pope who rails against everything from air conditioning to Donald Trump – utters not a peep of protest against what is arguably the world’s largest persecutor of religion.”
Readers of these pages know of our close ties with a friend in China who was well on his way to a Catholic conversion when he left us. After two years of ongoing contact since his return, our calls are now diverted to some unknown third party. Our letters never arrive. Our posts are blocked. When our friend was with us, he had never even heard of the 1989 slaughter of pro-Democracy protesters at Tiananmen Square, nor had he ever seen the famous photo of the protester known only as “Tank Man.”
The much feared pro-democracy protests that have spread from Hong Kong to mainland China have now completely stopped. I am no conspiracy theorist, but the Corona Virus could not have come at a more opportune time for Beijing.
3. HOPE FOR CARDINAL GEORGE PELL
I hope Catholics have not stopped praying and hoping for justice for Cardinal Pell. I recently learned that he was moved from a relatively safe environment to a far more secure (which usually means far more oppressive) prison. The reason for this has nothing to do with Cardinal Pell’s demeanor or behavior.
From what readers in Australia have reported, some Australian media outlets thought it might be a good idea to fly a drone into the prison complex to locate his cell window and snap a photo of the imprisoned prelate in his “natural habitat.” They should have left Cardinal Pell where he was and sent that ethically challenged news editor to the high security prison instead.
I am also told that Cardinal Pell’s final hope for appeal is scheduled to be heard before a seven-judge panel of the High Court of Australia on March 11 and 12. Pray for Cardinal Pell. The whole world is watching, a point made in my post about all that is wrong with this story, “Cardinal George Pell Is on Trial and So Is Australia.”
4. A SMART JUSTICE FIELD ORGANIZER AT THE ACLU
In several posts over the years, I have mentioned Joseph Lascaze, one of my good friends in this prison. A title that readily comes to mind is a nerdy science post, “E.T. and the Fermi Paradox: Are We Alone in the Cosmos?” Another, a sort of portent of his future efforts for prison reform, is “Unchained Melody: Tunes from an 8-Track in an iPod World.” (That post explains the prison origin of the Righteous Brothers hit song Unchained Melody.)
Joseph Lascaze is a remarkable young man. He came into this prison at age 18 and from day one, he counted Pornchai and me among his friends. Some of his other friends were, alas, a little more nuanced about life on the other side of the tracks. But Joseph served a purpose among them. He drew some toward higher roads than the mean streets they already knew too well.
Many of them became my friends as well. Such associations in prison might usually mean having my cell searched on a regular basis, but I like to think that the powers-that-be here thought Pornchai or I might have a greater influence on them than the other way around.
Joseph was paroled from prison in 2019. I saw him almost daily in the weeks before he left. It is a nerve-wracking thing to exit prison after a number of years. “Where will I go?” and “What will I do?” are not easy questions to answer from inside a prison cell.
Joseph is not an ordinary ex-prisoner. He aimed high, very high, and landed a position that sets a landmark precedent. Joseph applied to, became a finalist for, was interviewed for, and then was hired for the position of Smart Justice Field Organizer for the New Hampshire chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Whatever one thinks of the ACLU, there has been a recent, hopeful sign of common ground at least for us behind these walls. Branch offices of the ACLU throughout the United States sought and received grants to create the position of a Smart Justice Field Organizer to organize and mobilize a statewide alliance of advocates committed to criminal justice reforms.
The goal is to enhance public safety, strengthen communities, and eliminate racial disparities in the criminal justice system, all with a goal to cut the incarceration rate and reduce the prison population by as much as fifty percent. Retaining Joseph Lascaze for this position is an opportunity for many more than just Joseph himself. It carries with it some hope for restorative justice for many.
Having formerly been a Resident in the NH State Prison, Joseph has both the skills and the personal experience to educate legislators about the successes – there are some – and the failures – there are too many – of the criminal justice and prison system as they now stand.
Joseph has been in the employ of the ACLU for eight months at this writing, and has been very active with presentations, legislation, and other endeavors. He was recently able to return behind these prison walls to meet with me and the other nine members of the Resident Communications Committee along with the prison Warden and Commissioner of the Department of Corrections.
Coming back “inside” had to be difficult for him, but Joseph handled it well. He explained in our meeting that the ACLU’s Smart Justice Campaign is a national, multi-state effort to reduce the prison population and the incarceration rate through alternatives and both smart and safe measures.
Joseph’s efforts have already been felt behind these walls resulting in increased interest from some of the legislators. In just the last several months, three groups of legislators have requested to come into the prison to meet with my Committee about pending bills. These meetings took place in late November, mid-December, and early January, and all were made possible by Joseph’s groundwork.
Smart Justice Field Organizer Joseph Lascaze has been in numerous meetings with state legislators to describe the nature of prison, what works and what does not, and what is needed to slow the tide of recidivism. He is also advocating for a number of pending bills that, if passed, would benefit New Hampshire prisoners who have committed crimes, but should not be defined for life as “criminals.”
Perhaps it may even benefit the few who committed no crime at all.
- “None of what is happening today has happened before,” Joseph said. “We can draft prison reform legislation right here inside this prison.”
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Note from Father Gordon MacRae: Please do not forget to read and share with others this most important contribution to truth in justice: