After 14 years as friends and cellmates at These Stone Walls, Pornchai Moontri writes of his coming deportation while Fr. Gordon MacRae remains unjustly in prison.
Editor’s Note: The following guest post by Pornchai Maximilian Moontri is his last for These Stone Walls until he arrives and is settled in Thailand. After 28 years in prison commencing at age 18, Pornchai will soon be handed over to the custody of ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) for deportation. For the unforgettable story of Pornchai’s life, don’t miss Father Gordon MacRae’s gripping article: “Human Trafficking: Thailand to America and a Cold Case in Guam.”
To My Dear Friends Beyond These Stone Walls: It was not until my friend, Father G wrote “Pornchai Moontri in Thailand, Patrick O’Brian at Sea” a few weeks ago that the weight of the coming change really hit me. My emotions are on a roller coaster right now. We are approaching a day that Father G and I worked long and hard for over the last 14 years that we have been friends and cellmates. I could not have imagined on the day we first met that I would be facing this coming day with hope.
Hope is just one of the emotions competing for space in my heart right now. I am also scared beyond measure, and anxious, and excited, and I am very deeply sad. I guess I have to try to sort this out for myself and for you. I am scared because my whole life, and all that I have known since I was a homeless and lost teenager 28 years ago, is about to change completely.
I am anxious because I will be cast among strangers for a time, and it could be a long time due to Covid-19 and the constraints on international flights. One day soon, ICE agents will take me away to be a prisoner in another crowded, chaotic place where I will live among strangers, taking only the clothes I am wearing.
I am excited because this journey may well be the last of the nightmares of my life. At the other end, on some day weeks or months away, I will be left in Thailand where I will be entirely free for the first time in my memory. I will be adjusting to freedom and a new country and culture all at once.
Father G wrote about my life before prison in an article that changed everything for me. I have not read it myself because I can’t. I will explain why, but I already know what is in it because I have lived it. I am just not ready to see it in print. (Note: The article is linked in Father George David Byers’ Editor’s Note at the top of this post.)
Soon, all that has become familiar to me must be left behind. Far worse, Father G must be left behind and for that I am also sad beyond measure. I know that when that day comes in a matter of weeks, I will likely never see my friend, Father G, again in this life. There have been times when I lay in the dark in my upper bunk in our prison cell at night, and my darkness and dismay about this feels overwhelming. The person who gave me hope will remain in prison while I will be set free.
But I was set free in another way, too, and it was Father Gordon MacRae who brought it about. I can only barely remember being a happy 11-year-old boy living and working on a small farm in the North of Thailand. In December of 1985, I was taken from there and brought against my will to the United States. Though it was my mother who took me, I did not know her. She had abandoned my brother and me in Thailand when I was only two years old.
She waited until I was age eleven to come and take me away because her life was under the control of a monster who sent her to bring me to him. It is that simple, and that terrible.
ENTANGLED BEHIND THE TAPESTRY OF GOD
I have always wondered if readers know how unlikely this alliance between me and Father G is. To explain it, I have to go into what happened to me. That is very painful so I will spare you what is known only to Father G and God, Father G wrote of this in his human trafficking article linked above. I was brought to America as a child. I was eleven when taken from my home and twelve years old when I arrived here. I spoke no English at all so I could not tell anyone what was happening to me. I became afraid to go to sleep at night.
This went on for over two years before I escaped into the streets. I was fourteen in a foreign country fending for myself. While trying to protect my mother from what she was also suffering,
I kept what happened to me a secret even though it had severely affected my mind and destroyed my spirit. This was no story about repressed memories like so many of the stories against Catholic priests. My burden was that I could not forget a single moment of what happened no matter how much I tried.
So when I was sent to prison at age 18, I was broken and bitter. It is not a good place to grow up. I was forced to fight, a lot, and I convinced myself that I will never again be anyone’s victim. Eight years after I was sent to prison, I learned that my mother was murdered on the Island of Guam. She was brought there by the man who arranged for me to be taken from Thailand. It’s all in Father G’s article, and it is an American horror story.
I ended up in solitary confinement for years, a prison within a prison that just magnifies the inner madness. In 2005, at the age of 32, I was chained up and transported to a prison in another state, New Hampshire. As you already know, I met Father G there. I heard why he was in prison. I wanted him to help me transfer to a Thai prison, something that he refused to do, but I also knew
that he and I could never be friends. Then I heard that there were articles about him and his charges in The Wall Street Journal so I read them. The articles were the result of an honest investigation.
I was shocked by them. As a survivor of horrible sexual abuse and violence, I felt disgusted by what I knew to be accusations made up for money. This guy, Thomas Grover was seen as credible by a police detective, a prosecutor, and a biased judge, but I did not see how that could be possible. Any real survivor of sexual abuse should see right through this. There was a claim that this con man, high school football player at age 15, was raped by Father G in a rectory office, then the guy returned five times saying that he repressed all memory of it from week to week. The stories of his brothers were even more incredible. Then I read that they all stood to get a $200,000 check from the Catholic Diocese of Manchester and no one questioned any of this???
I read that Father G was offered a plea deal from this corrupt detective and prosecutor. One year in prison. If he was guilty, of course he would take it. Even if he was innocent, but had no integrity, he might still take it. But he was innocent, and he did have integrity, so he refused the deal. Then he was sentenced to more than sixty times the time in prison he would have got if he
was guilty. When I read all this, I was furious just as every real survivor of sexual abuse should be furious.
Now I have to jump ahead several years. I made a decision to trust Father G. This was a miracle all by itself because I never really trusted anyone. There is a writer in France named Marie Meaney who somehow wrote about this story. It is not a long version, but she caught every important detail and its meaning in just two pages. Her article is “Untying the Knots of Sin – In Prison.”
EVER DEEPER INTO THE TANGLED THREADS
As the trust grew between me and Father G, I began to reveal all that happened to me. I did not imagine then that he was storing every detail in support of some future deliverance. We had been living in the same cell for two years when These Stone Walls, began in the summer of 2009. I had been secretly thinking about becoming Catholic then, and had been taking correspondence courses in Scripture and Catholic teaching through the Knights of Columbus.
My interest in the Catholic faith was growing because I saw it quietly working every day in the person I was living with in a small prison cell. I remember a day, just after I was moved into the area where Father G lived. It was a few months before we became roommates. I walked into his cell and the first thing I saw was a picture taped to a beat up steel mirror on the wall. I stared at it. The man was balding with glasses, and half in priest’s clothes and the clothes of a prisoner. Father G. was busy writing something. I asked, “Is this you?”
It turned out to be the most important question of my life. Father Gordon then told me all about Saint Maximilian Kolbe, of how he was sent to prison in a Nazi concentration camp on fake charges, of how he helped other prisoners, and finally of how he gave his life to save a younger prisoner from execution. Father Maximilian was 41 years old when this happened. Father G was 41 when he was unjustly sent to prison. I learned about not only sainthood, but manhood from these two men. In another miracle, Felix Carroll, the Editor of Marian Helper magazine, wrote a book with a chapter about me. He wrote of this story:
- “Eyes that once smoldered with coiled rage now sparkle with purpose and compassion. Through Fr. Gordon MacRae, Pornchai discovered the saints and the Blessed Mother. In St. Maximilian Kolbe he discovered what it means to truly be a man, what it means to be tough. A Man doesn’t seek to destroy other men. A man doesn’t hold his own needs above the needs of others. A real man is selfless. St. Maximilian knew what it was like to be stripped of his humanity and dignity. In him, Pornchai found recourse because Maximilian never caved into despair. In 1941 at Auschwitz, he gave his life to save that of another man.” (Loved, Lost, Found, p.166-167)
Over time, Father G became all of these things for me. He never once put himself first, and he made great sacrifices for me. He told me once that sacrifice is the most necessary part of being
a man and a father. While I was slowly being drawn into faith and hope, Father G was always looking out for my best interests, never putting himself first. He became my best friend, and the person I trust most in this world. From prison, he opened for me a window onto Christ.
As I mentioned above, These Stone Walls began in our cell in the summer of 2009. It was another miracle I never would have thought possible. It was proposed to Father G in a phone call and he came to our cell and told me about it. He let me decide what to call it so I chose “These Stone Walls,” I always saw prison as a place where we were sent to be forgotten. Father G said that we could speak to the whole world from here, and we did. I wrote a recent post about the bridge to Thailand TSW built for me. My post was, “Pornchai Moontri: The Catholic League Changed My Life Too.”
I became a Catholic on Divine Mercy Sunday, 2010. Meanwhile, Father G’s writing at These Stone Walls got the attention of others. One of them was Mrs. Clare Farr, a Trademarks attorney in Western Australia. She and Father G teamed up to begin an investigation of my past life. They were relentless, and over time what they accomplished grew and grew. I never thought justice was even possible, but they kept probing and making connections. Then the police came to interview me. They came a second time along with a District Attorney. As a result, in 2017 Richard Alan Bailey was arrested in Oregon and held on $49,000 bail charged with forty felony counts of sexual abuse against a child.
There was to be no trial, however. Richard Bailey took a plea deal. He today stands convicted of all 40 felony charges. His sentence was suspended and he was given probation. This would be an international outrage if Richard Bailey were a Catholic priest. The story of the murder of my mother when he took her to the Island of Guam remains there a cold case unsolved homicide even though there is new evidence pointing to a solid suspect.
TRUE CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Father Gordon MacRae freed me from the evil this man inflicted on me. He taught me that this evil is not mine to keep. I just see the horrible injustice in the handling of these two cases.
My abuser did monstrous things. His assaults were more than the number he was charged with. There were witnesses ready to testify and lots of clear evidence.
He was sentenced to mere probation because am a prisoner and the prosecutor feared that I would not be a credible witness. So they offered Richard Bailey a plea deal. He took the deal because he is guilty. So for forty counts of rape, he will never serve a single day in jail and all the evidence was never placed before the court.
In the case of Father Gordon MacRae, a plea deal was also offered. It was offered three times, and each time he refused the offer of a single year in prison because he is innocent. These offers were made because Thomas Grover, his 21-year-old accuser at trial, was not credible at all. He was a drug addict with a criminal record that was kept out of the trial by a biased judge. He was biased from the beginning and once told the jury to disregard all the inconsistencies in Thomas Grover’s story. As Dorothy Rabinowitz wrote in The Wall Street Journal, “They had much to disregard.” Father G was not on trial. The whole Catholic priesthood was. Convicted of five counts, he got 67 years in prison.
What do I do with such a story? If Father G had not been here, what would have become of me? This is part of the Cross I now carry through life. I would give my freedom to save his, but he would have none of that.
For the last 14 years in this prison while becoming a Catholic and living as a Catholic, I have also lived in very close quarters with a man I know without a doubt to be innocent. During this time, I have been scandalized by the response of other priests, and especially by Father G’s cowardly bishop who treats him like a dangerous outcast.
When they have come here for an occasional Mass, they barely speak or even acknowledge him. I am ashamed for their cowardly and petty attitude. Father G says the Church and the Mass are much bigger than the flawed human beings behind them.
After 28 years in prison, 14 of them as Father G’s cell-mate, and 10 of them as a Catholic, freedom came to me in steps. In a few weeks, I will be free of this prison, but I will never be free of Father G. It breaks my heart that the man responsible for my freedom will be left behind unjustly in prison.
When I asked that question all those years ago – “Is this you?” – I got my answer. It was Saint Maximilian in that picture on the mirror but it is also Father Gordon MacRae, the man who freed my mind and soul from the horror inflicted on me by a real predator. I cannot bear to leave my friend, but I must. So I entrust him now to God and to you.
Please do not forget Father G behind these stone walls.
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Editor’s Note: Next week on These Stone Walls – a blistering post by Father Gordon MacRae on the injustice of deporting Pornchai Moontri while the man convicted of 40 felony counts of abusing him lives comfortably at his lakeside home. Don’t miss it.
If you are in a position to assist Pornchai Moontri is starting a new life, please consider a gift to him.
You may use the PayPal link at These Stone Walls. Just add his name in the subject line. You may also send your check in his name to Pornchai Moontri, to:
These Stone Walls
P.O. Box 205
Wilmington, MA 01887-0205
Finally, a PayPal account has also been established in his name. The donor address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
You may also like these related links:
- When Justice Came to Pornchai Moontri, Mercy Followed
- by Clare Farr
- Thomas Merton & Pornchai Moontri: A Prayer for the Year of Mercy
- by Ryan A. MacDonald
- A chapter in the book, Loved, Lost, Found: The Divine Mercy Conversion of Pornchai Moontri
- by Felix Carroll
- Imprisoned by Walls, Set Free by Wood
- by Pornchai Moontri