Most of what you know about Catholic scandal is from the news media, the one institution that polls lower in public trust than Congress. Is there more to this story?
While writing about the Senate Judiciary hearings over the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, I spent a lot of time with the whole sordid affair on the three major cable news stations. After we posted “Justice Brett Kavanaugh Is Guilty for Being Accused,” a media watchdog site published a report on average daily viewers. FOX News had a daily average viewership higher than CNN and MSNBC combined and more than twice that of the network news at ABC, CBS, or NBC.
This is not an advertisement for FOX News, at least not an intentional one. The good people at FOX have their infuriating moments too. But I have to admit that I spent longer on FOX News than the others, though I did make an effort to give each a fair shot at my news consumption. It was just that my own life experience has left “me painfully aware of how very much politics can influence our view of justice.” The panels and pundits of the left-leaning news media seemed to accept without question the “guilty-for-being-accused” dogma and spin it as justice.
But the FOX News panels and pundits did something only slightly less irritating. They treated as entirely new something that they claim to be aware of only now from the Judge Kavanaugh Senate hearings: the idea that some who are accused can be summarily condemned for reasons more connected to identity politics than evidence or corroboration.
Even as the FOX News pundits feigned being aghast at this during the Kavanaugh hearings, their news ticker at the bottom of my screen ran stories of the various state justice systems around the country demanding new investigations of Catholic priests going back decades, not because there is evidence, but because they are priests. I wrote of this in a comment when The Wall Street Journal published its lead editorial of Sep. 24, 2018:
“I hope the Journal editors are not just catching on to this. A precedent to what is happening to Judge Kavanaugh and other targets of the #MeToo movement can be found in the Catholic scandals of the last two decades. Beginning in the early 1990s, the news media aided and abetted a push by activists and tort lawyers to treat every claim of decades-old abuse as true until proven false. The bias that the media helped create was built on easily quoted but false mantras such as ‘children never lie about sexual abuse’ which entirely disregarded the fact that 70% of the accusing ‘children’ were adults in their forties and fifties. The Wall Street Journal once boldly exposed the moral panic when its targets were innocent daycare workers in the 1980s.” Gordon J. MacRae, WSJ Sep. 24, 2018
But even here at These Stone Walls, where the concept of due process has been front and center, one faithful reader abandoned it in a comment declaring Judge Kavanaugh to be “a rapist and a drunk.” We did not post it, but not because we are opposed to contrary points of view. We did not post it because it would be spreading a slander with no real evidence to support it.
THE RISKS OF A VICTIM CULTURE
During the Kavanaugh hearings, The Wall Street Journal ran a full page ad containing only two words in huge block letters “BELIEVE WOMEN.” Presumably other newspapers ran the same persuasive ad. Think about this, please. It suggests that corroboration can and should be replaced in identity politics as gender loyalty takes precedence over the discovery of facts and truth.
During the day care sex abuse scare of the 1980s, a similar mantra, “Believe the Children” replaced due process, and in the 1990s it was The Wall Street Journal’s Dorothy Rabinowitz whose Pulitzer prizewinning Journalism unmasked the panic and exposed it in the Journal and in her chilling bestseller, “No Crueler Tyrannies: Accusation, False Witness, and Other Terrors of Our Time” (Wall Street Journal Books 2003).
I was most impressed during the Kavanaugh hearings by some of the Letters to the Editor in The Wall Street Journal written by women who see the great risk to justice posed by identity and gender politics. I’ll cite a few here:
“The Kavanaugh hearings painfully reminded me of the time I was drugged and assaulted during college in the 1970s. My disgust for my assaulter is equal to my abhorrence of the ‘believe survivors’ diktat of the left which dangerously seeks to negate due process.” Margaret Bowen, WSJ Oct. 10, 2018
“I don’t think Brett Kavanaugh owes anybody an apology for expressing emotion in a hearing where his good name… was at stake. The only ones owing anyone an apology are the particular senators who ambushed him to increase their own political power while not caring if they destroyed his or Prof. Ford’s lives in the process.” Heather Jones, WSJ Oct. 10, 2018
“Am I the only mother of a teenage son who is terrified by the Kavanaugh circus? I have taught my 17-year-old to be respectful of everyone… but what if in 10, 20, or 30 years some woman accuses my son of sexually assaulting her? Of course he will deny it, but will anyone believe him? Melanie Prieger, WSJ Oct 10, 2018
“I want to thank Senator Susan Collins as the mother of a son who I pray is never wrongly accused and considered guilty until proven innocent… and as a citizen who is scared for our nation after watching the Kavanaugh hearings Sen. Collins’ speech was a master class in how politics is supposed to work and why it didn’t in this case.” Carla Albers, WSJ Oct 10, 2018
“I have been both sexually assaulted and falsely accused. I am hard pressed today to say which was worse.” Name Withheld, WSJ Sep 24
“The letters of Sept 21 included one from the honest 81-year-old woman who told of the attempted sexual assault she so unfortunately endured when she was 11. She states, ‘It is as clear to me now as the night it happened.’ She makes the point that victims of such horrible, unwanted sexual advances have vivid, specific memories while, according to her attorney, Christine Blasey-Ford did not.” Mary DuCoin, WSJ Oct 3, 2018
In 2005, Dorothy Rabinowitz at The Wall Street Journal wrote her first installment in a series of expository articles about my charges and trial. Her opening article in her series was published with a descriptive subheading: “Some claims of abuse in the Catholic Church turn out to be untrue.”
In 2013, Ms. Rabinowitz wrote a third installment about my trial entitled, “The Trials of Father MacRae” which was summarized in an often cited quote: “Those aware of the facts of this case find it hard to imagine that any court today would ignore the perversion of justice it represents.”
Unlike the claims and charges themselves, these articles were well researched and heavily investigated. They also alarmed a number of people whose investment in the business of accusation and settlement was well known. The WSJ received hundreds of letters and comments from readers who were aghast at the story of fraud and greed masked as victimhood that Ms. Rabinowitz had uncovered.
“A RAPIST AND A DRUNK”
But one letter that was not published by the WSJ came from an angry New Hampshire woman who did not know me or anyone who was a party to the claims against me. Her two-page letter accused the WSJ editors of orchestrating a “right-wing conspiracy” to undermine “the cause of survivors.”
It felt almost surreal for me when a TSW reader tried to post a comment declaring Brett Kavanaugh, without evidence, to be “a rapist and a drunk.” The same phrase was applied to me. When I wrote “Justice Brett Kavanaugh Is Guilty for Being Accused” for These Stone Walls recently, I recalled a painful chapter in my own experience of being “guilty for being accused.”
I wrote of how the same activist mentioned above did a Google search of my name and came up with a false media report that I am an alcoholic. She then ran with that story, spreading it everywhere. It showed up on social media and in letters to the editor of local New Hampshire newspapers. And she got away with citing the fake story as “evidence” that I may have abused others but simply don’t remember it.
I always wondered where this woman had obtained her information, so, as I wrote in the above post, some friends who had known me for some time went in search of a source and found it. Then a real investigator a former and highly decorated FBI Special Agent, took up a real investigation of the story and also went in search of the evidence not only for that claim, but for others.
And he also found it. As I mentioned in my post about Justice Kavanaugh above, it was in a published interview with actress Meredith MacRae who wrote of her late father, the 1950s and 1960s Broadway and Hollywood star of Carousel, Oklahoma and other plays and films. “My father, Gordon MacRae, was an alcoholic,” she asserted in the interview. Intentionally or not, the line taken out of context easily fit the New Hampshire woman’s narrative in her SNAP-sponsored crusade.
Her persecution did a lot of damage to me, to my reputation and my efforts at self-defense, and to my family. Her purpose for spinning it was an attempt to halt the rising tide of people who had come to believe that I just might be innocent of the charges that put me in her state’s prison. Just like Brett Kavanaugh in the eyes of the left, there was no corroboration to justify the claims against me other than the conclusion now formally adopted for the #MeToo era.
It’s a new category of justice that has a precedent. Our bishops had already adopted it to apply to all priests accused since the bishops themselves began to be smeared in the news media. It is a category of justice called “guilty for being accused.” When the newly radicalized left tried to apply it to Judge Kavanaugh, however, the nation simply wasn’t having it.
Back to the New Hampshire crusader: For her efforts at persecution, she was given a “survivors support” award from SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, and she was publicly honored by the Catholic reform group, Voice of the Faithful.
Just at the time that I recalled and wrote about the New Hampshire woman’s alcoholism claim, I learned that she had died on September 5, 2018, the same day I posted “That Grand Jury Report on Abusive Catholic Priests.” I learned of her death by accident, and in so doing I also learned that her son is a New Hampshire priest. It made me wonder about the woman who wrote in The Wall Street Journal that the Kavanaugh affair makes her fear for her 17-year-old son.
I have spent many days now praying for the New Hampshire woman, and have approached the altar at which I know I must forgive her. Thanks to the Amish, to Pornchai Moontri, and to Malcolm Farr who wrote “The Pain of Suffering and the Power of Forgiveness.” I had living daily reminders that I must forgive this women for her blind persecution. I am grateful that, in writing the above account, I have not identified her. I have a long-standing desire not to speak ill of the dead who are no longer here to defend themselves.
Think about that, too, please, as we peruse the long lists of long-dead priests thrown under the bus by accusers and contingency lawyers looking to score a windfall, by politically ambitious prosecutors on a career-building mission, and by bishops looking for relevance and hero status for their zero tolerance which is starting to sound far more Calvinist than Catholic.
The leaders of the Church are not brain dead. Of course there should be zero tolerance for sexual abuse. But to apply it to an 80-year-old priest accused from 50 years ago with zero evidence or corroboration is the stuff of witch hunts. When U.S. bishops settled on the term “credible” to settle claims, it means only that a claim “could have happened.” I profiled one such case in “When Night Befalls Your Father You Don’t Discard Him. You Just Don’t!” But we do discard them – by the hundreds – merely for being accused.
I am amazed and alarmed at the extent to which Catholics are willing to let others do their thinking for them on this issue. Not many of you reading this have any first hand experience of abuse by Catholic priests that so many now accept so blindly as having been rampant in the Church. Beyond the accusations themselves – most of which are decades old and subject to lucrative financial rewards – there is little evidence to support this.
But even when the claims are true – and sadly, some are true – why should we believe that the evil that has come into our world in the age of relativism should exempt Catholic priests from its affliction? On the contrary, we are its primary targets. Do you think that any priest ever woke up one day and said to himself, “I think I will sexually abuse someone today?” The very fact that such a thing is so contrary to priesthood is what makes them targets for the Satanic attack underway both against and within our Church.
And some of the self-proclaimed heroes of this war also need a second look. After igniting a whole new chapter in the moral panic about Catholic priests, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro has declared it to be a strangely personal affair. A TSW reader in Indiana recently sent him “That Grand Jury Report on Abusive Catholic Priests. He wrote in response defending his crusade in very personal terms:
“My office works to protect children throughout Pennsylvania every single day. As Attorney General, I am dedicated to rooting out child predators no matter where they hide. Whether it’s a pediatrician in Johnstown, a deputy coroner in Schulkill County, a firefighter in Carbon County, a former National Guard officer in Dauphin County, or a predator priest in one of these dioceses, I will not tolerate anyone who victimizes Pennsylvania’s children.”
I read recently that there have been some 80,000 sexual abuse complaints lodged against public school personnel in America in the last decade, but they are curiously omitted from the list of people Attorney General Shapiro will not tolerate. Powerful teacher unions make that politically unfeasible for upwardly mobile prosecutors.
The Brett Kavanaugh story has emphasized the difference between being guilty and being merely accused. There is also a difference between actual cases and mere claims. The vast majority of claims in Pennsylvania and across the nation were not brought by children, but by adults with an expectation of virtually unquestioned settlement. The truth is that the Catholic Church in America is the sole institution to have virtually eradicated contemporary sexual abuse.
If you or someone you know is citing the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report as a cause for losing faith, it seems that Fred Thieman, former U.S. Attorney for Pennsylvania agrees with my assessment, not only of its value, but of its Constitutionality:
“The grand jury report focuses on what happened decades ago rather than in changes of practice that I have seen and been involved in over two decades. I question the wisdom of the entire process in Constitutional terms. I don’t think the grand jury report provides ample basis for anyone to draw conclusions from older evidence and state them as current fact until the evidence has been examined and tested.” (Former Pennsylvania U.S. Attorney Fred Thieman)
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Editor’s note: Please share this post. You may also like these related posts from These Stone Walls about the current crisis in the Church:
- The Lying, Scheming Altar Boy on the Cover of Newsweek
- Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and the Homosexual Matrix
- Cardinal Sins: A Puppet Show from the Sexual Revolution
- Catholic Scandal & the Third Reich: Rise & Fall of a Moral Panic
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