The New York City Saint Patrick’s Day Parade is world famous. Every year on Saint Patrick’s Day, Catholic league President Bill Donohue leads a contingent of CL members down Fifth Avenue bearing the Catholic League’s banner. It is far more than a statement of honor for the Shepherd of Ireland. The Catholic League’s presence in that parade is a declaration of the struggle for religious rights and civ1l liberties. It was a hard won struggle, not only for Irish Catholics but for all Catholics throughout America.
It was a victory that is often placed in jeopardy, as it is now. The rights to practice the tenets of faith and maintain Catholic ideals are constantly eroding in our increasingly secular culture. The Catholic League is always on that front line. As I wrote in my March 17, 2010 post on These Stone Walls:
“If you’re not a Catholic League member, I highly recommend becoming one. A monthly subscription to Catalyst certainly woke me up to the reality of anti-Catholic prejudice in our culture, and to a growing effort to remove a Catholic voice and Catholic influence and values from the public square.”
I didn’t think those words were actually prophetic, but if you’ve been reading newspapers in the last few months, or hanging out at Catholic blogs, then you know first hand how very much Catholic values are under assault – and not, if you know history, for the first or last time.
In many ways, I see my own struggle for justice as linked to that of all Catholics. I am often asked whether I would be in prison today if I were not a Catholic priest. Readers often point out to me that the standard of justice applied to accused priests is far different than that applied to everyone else.
And as I once wrote in “The Mirror of Justice Cracked,” justice for priests has eroded not just for the Church, but in the Church as well. As I have seen so many other priests exiled under the millstone of scandal – accusations so old that the priests accused are left defenseless – I have to repeat a thought from my Ash Wednesday post, “A City on a Hill“: “A part of our sacrifice as a Church must not be to sacrifice justice for priests falsely accused.”
In the March, 2010 issue of the Catholic League’s monthly journal, Catalyst, These Stone Walls and I shared the spotlight w1th plans for that year’s Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. That issue of Catalyst had an editorial entitled “These Stone Walls” in which the Catholic League recommended TSW to its readers and members. I was very moved, as were many of TSW’s readers.
I don’t think it is by design – at least not human design – but I am also sharing the March 2012 Catalyst with Saint Patrick. The current issue has a superb article by Father Michael Orsi, Ed.D., an author and professor of law at Ave Maria University, entitled “Bogus Charges Against Priests Abound.” The article is primarily an extended review of David F. Pierre’s book: Catholic Priests Falsely Accused. Both the book and the Father Orsi article contain an analysis of the case against me. Father Orsi introduced this segment thusly:
“A sure way to ameliorate the injustices perpetrated against priests and to rehabilitate the reputation of the Church would be to re-examine the cases of those priests found guilty due to false or dubious claims filed against them. The widely reported case of Fr. Gordon MacRae, of the Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire, would be a good place to start.” (Fr. Michael Orsi, Catalyst, March 2012).
Some people would be honored to be included in such an article, and I am, but at the end of the day “humbled” wins out. I find it humbling because the struggle I am in is not my own. It is rather a small, small part in the immense fabric of grace woven by God, and as I wrote in “The Gravity of Grace” last week, grace calls us to build trust in God’s plan not just for us as individual souls, but as a Church in the modern world.
The story of St. Patrick of Ireland is a perfect example of the gravity of grace. We tend to reduce Saint Patrick to the whimsical Shepherd of Ireland who inspires our parades (and maybe a snort or two of Jameson’s) this week, but the life of the real Saint Patrick is one of terrible tragedy responded to with the courage born of sanctifying grace.
Stepping for a moment into the life and lore of Saint Patrick of Ireland will help us see more clearly these labyrinthine ways of grace. Whether you’re Irish or not – and whether you’re Catholic or not – the story of Saint Patrick is one of profound struggle against the forces of human evil, tragedy, and salvation against the tides of human history.
So please join us this week for an encore presentation of my favorite Saint Patrick’s Day post. It’s worth the effort even if only for the beautiful Irish graphics from TSW’s Managing Editor, Suzanne. And for another brief review of one of my favorite books, Pillars of the Earth.
Click here to read: “The Catholic League, Saint Patrick, and the Labyrinthine Ways”