Spring Cleaning Behind These Stone Walls, And News from the Front

My dear old friend, Jacquie Miles, now an avid reader of These Stone Walls from her Northwest Kentucky home, sent me this story a few weeks ago – sort of an “inside” joke:

A young man wandered into a Southern church during a healing service. The exuberant preacher invited anyone in need of prayers to step forward. The 20-year-old, thinking he had little to lose, walked up the aisle. “What can we do for you, son?” the preacher asked loudly. “I’m worried about my hearing,” the young man replied.

“Step right on up here!” shouted the preacher as his flock braced themselves for a miracle. The preacher placed his hand on the boy’s head and called upon the Lord to restore him body and soul and cast out every discomfort. After several minutes of the preacher’s ALLELUIAs and a chorus of shouted AMENs, the preacher stepped back from his subject. “How’s your hearing now, son?” the preacher asked loudly. “I don’t know,” said the young man. “It’s not ’til Thursday!”

The story was a big hit in my current locale where the only kind of hearing anyone ever worries about is the latter. If you read Ryan MacDonald’s brief “Special Report,” you know that I also have one to prepare for. I’m not sure when it’s coming, but it’s coming. It could be many months away. Justice at this level moves at a glacial pace. It takes a lot more effort and evidence to get a priest out of prison than to put one in these days. Catholic League president, Bill Donohue also wrote of these developments in a great editorial in the April issue of Catalyst entitled “Father MacRae’s Appeal.” Rill Donohue wrote:

“The website Of the National Center for Reason and Justice, (www.ncrj.org) provides all the legal information you need to make up your own mind.”

That must be true because there are some who don’t want you to read those documents and make up your own minds. Just last week, a friend read me a series of ugly comments posted by SNAP members denouncing my appeal. The comments were posted at the website of the Philadelphia Inquirer after a story about the ongoing prosecution/persecution of Catholic priests and Church officials there. I had not realized how much of a threat to the agenda of SNAP my own appeal might be until I read Ryan MacDonald’s report, “Why Do SNAP and VOTF Fear the Case of Fr. Gordon MacRae?” at his A Ram in the Thicket website.

Right now, however, I have a far greater challenge to face than the temper tantrums of SNAP members long accustomed to having their distortions rule the day. It’s a greater challenge even than waiting for the legal system to catch up with justice. The most immediate and daunting challenge I face at this moment is one many of you have to take on as well. It’s called spring cleaning.

As you know well, my world of the last nearly 18 years consists of an 8 by 12-foot cell which must be shared by two prisoners, one of whom wrote “The Duty of a Knight” two weeks ago. Well, it turns out that it isn’t the duty of a knight to do all the spring cleaning while I just sit here on my bucket (umm . . . I mean this big plastic one) and type. We need to do something prisoners are required to do periodically. We have to empty out this cell completely, and clean everything.

That’s not as easy as it sounds. It’s true that our “home” consists of four concrete walls, a concrete floor, and a concrete ceiling. It can all be cleaned and painted in no time, hut having to first empty the cell is intimidating.

There are strict limits on the amount of paper prisoners can have in their cells, and I now face the daunting task of reviewing every one of the thousands of pages of paper amassed over the last three years of investigation, legal review, correspondence, and my writing for TSW, Catalyst, Spero News, et. al.

Our friend, Pornchai, will attest to the fact that 50 percent of my writing time is spent trying to find things I cannot ever seem to find. Of course, even back in the more peaceful days of priesthood when I had ten times this much personal space and my own office, I still could never find anything. Maybe its just me!

TALES FROM THE SCRIPT

My “filing system” is not very well thought out. It consists of just stacks upon stacks of paper which I have to excavate whenever I’m in search of anything I previously wrote. I’m at a point at which I must better organize all that I have written, remove duplicates, file it in some semblance of order, and be able to refer to it all for future posts. And I have to do all this while also reducing my volume of paper by at least 50 percent.

I’m blessed with a very good memory. I keep a list of all my TSW titles over the last three years, and when I quote from past posts I can usually do so accurately just by looking at my list of titles. I can remember everything I’ve written and most of what I’ve read. As my list of titles grows longer, however, I see the need to re-read past posts and collect them in a better filing system that I can refer to.

About a year ago, my friend, Joseph – whom I wrote of in “The Fermi Paradox” – took all my TSW posts during a boring day in prison and placed them in chronological order in the hope we could find some binders to store them in. Joseph’s neat organization didn’t last long, however, once I got back to business as usual.

So between preparing for my upcoming appeal, and collecting past TSH posts, I need a time out. Last year at this time, TSW went on a one-month hiatus with a series of re-runs. I thought of doing the same for the month of May, but then our friend, Pornchai had a much better idea. Emboldened by his well received recent guest post, “The Duty of a Knight,” Pornchai suggested inviting a few other guest writers to stand in for me.

So I put together a short list of writers I thought you might like to hear from during my brief time-out from These Stone Walls.  I needed only four guest writers, but I made a list of twelve names thinking that some might not want their names and work associated with TSW. To my shock and great surprise, the first four people on my list – three of them priests – all accepted immediately.

I have asked our guest writers to write on any topic they wish, and to submit their posts a week in advance to our TSW editor, Suzanne.  I told them that they need not share their posts in advance with me. I’ll read them just a few days after you do, when printed copies are mailed to me during May. These guests are all far more accomplished writers than I am, and their stepping up is giving me a much-needed month off to prepare for many upcoming challenges.

I would like to ask you to welcome these guests. Please let them know you have read their posts by leaving lots of comments. (Well . . . maybe not TOO many!) I am not actually going anywhere. Your comments will still be printed and mailed to me. I might even have a chance to leave a few comments of my own.

It’s interesting how things change. For my first twelve years in prison, I wrote and wrote to deafened ears in our Church. From my cell in prison, I must have written thousands of letter, articles, and commentaries that were never seen or acknowledged. One does not have to be guilty of any crime to be tainted by scandal, but today it is that very taint that enables me to see the state of justice in our Church a little more clearly. As I wrote in “Faith Trumps Relativism” last October:

“In the Solar System of Church life, I often feel as though I’m writing from the Oort Cloud, that cast-off rocky debris field circling our Sun out beyond the orbit of Pluto. Sometimes life out here lets me see a bigger picture. This might be one of those times.”

Now, three years after These Stone Walls was launched, I find myself increasingly in the opposite position. In recent months, I have had to turn down three invitations from three major Catholic publications to write for them. The problem was that all three publications wanted original articles and not anything previously published at TSW. Armed with just an old Smith Corona typewriter – all that my prison will allow – I just could not keep up with both a weekly TSW post and articles for other publications. I also could not do this to Charlene Duline who spends a good deal of her spare time scanning and correcting my typewritten posts every week, and to Suzanne, our Managing Editor, who is masterful at formatting and choosing graphics to publish our posts.

I also turned down an offer to let These Stone Walls be “absorbed” into a much larger Catholic publishing venue on-line. These Stone Walls is unique in the Catholic on-line world. We very much admire and appreciate our readers, and will remain an independent Catholic blog.

IN THE SPIRIT OF FR. RICHARD JOHN NEUHAUS

These Stone Walls will be three years old in July. As I did this year in “New Year’s Resolutions and a Remembrance from East of Eden,” I have begun each of those years with a post about how deeply felt is the loss of Father Richard John Neuhaus. The religious arena of the American public square is diminished by his absence and that of his long time friend, Avery Cardinal Dulles. These were great American Catholic churchmen. As is clear on our “About” page, their joint suggestion that I write became the inspiration behind These Stone Walls. So the credit for TSW’s very existence – or the blame, as the case may be, falls partly on them.

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus was born on May 14, 1936. It is the Feast of Saint Matthias, the person chosen by the Apostles to serve the Church in place of Judas, the betrayer. There is something prophetic in this fact. Please join me in prayer for Father Neuhaus on May 14, his 76th birthday.

And as a tribute to his memory, there is something you can do to help both me and These Stone Walls during the month of May if you’re willing. Changing minds and hearts about the state of justice for priests in both our culture and our Church is a huge challenge from behind prison walls. Rut it’s a challenge we have met with some milestones along the way. Increasing the visibility of These Stone Walls in the Catholic on-line world is the single most effective tool we have.

You can help in this by sending a link to TSW to your friends and contacts, by posting links on your social network pages, and by mentioning TSW in your comments on other sites. There is in fact much more to the story of accused Catholic priests than what SNAP and the secular media have spread about. The other side of this story needs to be told. Thanks for helping.

So, first up as our guest writer on These Stone Walls next week is a Catholic voice many of us have come to respect and admire: Father George David Byers, STL, STD from Holy Souls Hermitage. Please welcome him and our other May guests. I’ll be back in one month, ready to write anew, but you may also hear from me here and there with some comments of my own.

In the meantime, I will offer each day in prison in the month of May as a share in the suffering of Christ for the readers of These Stone Walls. Our friends in Christ who are with me behind these walls pledge to do the same. May the Lord bless you and keep you.

About Fr. Gordon J. MacRae

The late Cardinal Avery Dulles and The Rev. Richard John Neuhaus encouraged Father MacRae to write. Cardinal Dulles wrote in 2005: “Someday your story and that of your fellow sufferers will come to light and will be instrumental in a reform. Your writing, which is clear, eloquent, and spiritually sound will be a monument to your trials.” READ MORE

Comments

  1. Helen says:

    Oh Fr. Gordon!!!

    Hello… How good to ‘see’ You.

    Recently, I’ve started the 33 day prep time for the total Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus thru the Immaculate Heart of Mary. (Please pray for me). It seems that each day, before following the book and reading the daily readings and praying the daily prayers, I come to it when I really don’t feel like doing it. I’m not ‘feeling’ the love. So, I push, any way. I’m thinking that is a sort of a warfare. I don’t know, but there is something inside, driving me to finish to the end.

    I mention this, Fr. Gordon, because of how, by reading Your wonderful posts, I realize how very self centered I am. As I am writing this to You, I am, also, listening to a biography of
    St. Damian, the leper. Both of You are such spirit-filled, generous Sons of the Father. You both make it sound easy to die to self. Oh…what a lesson I take from You each and every time I read You. I am hoping, that realizing the shallowness of my own doings, that perhaps our Lady is working on my consecration by showing me my short-comings thru You??? I hope it’s Her. How much more blessed are the graces of God when we realize that we are ‘nothing’ in reality…. “Why is God mindful of mere man”?
    God is love.. He ‘is’ compassion… and there IS a reason He does what He does in our lives.

    Fr. Gordon…You’re still in my daily prayers…NOT forgotten. But, in case I’ve not mentioned it, ever before, thank YOU for being in MY life. You surely make a difference…You enhance my life…You teach me!

    God bless, care and FREE YOU!

    Thank You for all that You do!

    Gratefully,
    Helen

  2. Antoinette says:

    Well Father, off you go, the sooner you go the sooner you come back! Thank you for all your efforts in communicating to us and educating us. It is quite a miracle that you can be running this website the way you are. I am grateful to you and to all who make it happen.

    I was just reading the news online and I saw an article regarding the parish priest from my childhood (see http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/its-been-33-years-in-the-making-expriest-set-to-be-charged-over-sexual-abuse-20120501-1xw2d.html). In fact, I ran into him at a funeral in January and he told me part of his story, that a woman who was trying to get money from the Church made allegations of sexual abuse. Now he is being charged. Please pray for him too! So saddening.

    But as for you Father, I am waiting and praying with great anticipation for your return. God bless you xxx

  3. Ramon L. Santos says:

    Thanks Fr. Gordon, for leading the way, sharing your experiences with us. Also, Thanks for letting us know your praying time. I hope that we all joing you. We love you.

  4. Ann Couper-Johnston says:

    You have my heartfelt sympathy – I am another who has piles of paper ….. and more …… and more!

    Added to that we have been clearing my mother’s flat, getting rid of every last thing inside to put it on the market, things that she has had since before we were born and things that have been at home for as long as we have been aware (like the roasting tin for our Sunday meat). As we progress, so our home ceases to be (although the greatest wrench was when my mother sold the home where we grew up). It is strange to be without that point of reference more experienced than we and to be deciding what to do with what is now only the detritus of a life; things my mother needed and used every day are no longer of use.

    Our own memento mori …..

    I am once more making a resolution to say the Rosary, for several intentions, of which the well-being of priests comes pretty much at the top of the list. May is an appropriate time to get the habit …..

    Best wishes for your blessing

  5. Dear Father Gordon: I’ve been able to schedule and offer Masses for your intentions in these days. May the outcome of your intentions be blessed abundantly by our dear Lord.

    Dear Readers of TSW: Hey! That’s an idea! Have Mass offered for the intentions of Father MacRae in your parishes. That’s also a way to touch the hearts of priests who have never heard of Father Gordon. Your priests might even be brave enough to say a few words about Father Gordon at that Mass. Be sure to give them the web address of TSW on a little card. Make it easy for them to come to know Father Gordon. I wish I had had someone to do that for me years ago.

    Prayers and blessings for ye all. And Father Gordon: I need your fraternal, priestly blessing. Send one my way, please! Thanks!

  6. Robyn says:

    Father Gordon,
    Will miss you but also will welcome all your guest writers!..Father Neuhaus is sorely missed by many..and will be in my prayers..as are you and all other priests and religious.. Wanted to also let you know that I do promote TSW as much as I can as I believe in it, in you and think it something everyone should read.. God Bless you Father and God speed..
    Robyn
    South Carolina

  7. paulineo says:

    I look forward each week to your writings, Fr. Gordon, and I have not been able to do so for a while. We will all pray, especially in the month of May, for our Blessed Mother’s intercession in you upcoming appeal.
    God bless you always

  8. Vince Pereda says:

    As a regular avid reader of TSW, I shall miss your posts for the month of May. However, I think you have worthy substitutes and so I shall continue to read on. Like so many of your other supporters, I keep you in my daily prayers for your eventual exoneration and release from false imprisonment. I am confident that our Lord in good time will allow justice and vindication to prevail. My very best to you Father.

  9. Mary Jean Scudieri says:

    Hi Father!
    I will miss your wit and wisdom for the month but look forward to your guest speakers and also your comments!
    I just recommended These Stone Walls to someone yesterday.
    It was also recommended at my Bible study for Lent.
    I talk of you and the abuse to priests every chance I get…..but most importantly I pray for your freedom every day……the best part I can do for you is putting you in His Hands every day…..you and Pornchai, and Donald and Scooter….all that are
    yearning to be heard and to be free.
    God love and bless you always.
    Always your friend, Jeannie

  10. Mary Elizabeth says:

    Although I look forward to reading what others have to write here at TSW, I will miss your writing Fr. MacRae. Will look forward to your return, unless you should happen to be released from TSW. Praying for that you know.

    Thanks once again for all the food for thought. I have needed for so long to sort through the collected mess I have managed over a few years. I keep thinking of how awful it would be for my kids if I left this world and left behind all that stuff for them to sort through. But I am a procrastinator. This is one sinful area that needs my attention.

    I have to say I am in envy of a man who can remember everything he has read and written. How blessed you are! I only wish to be so blessed. Memory does not serve me well.

    Enjoy your spring cleaning. I know that a clean and ordered environment can provide room for, well, more stuff!!

    Blessings to you Fr. MacRae.

    St. Martha, pray for us!

  11. karin says:

    Dear Fr. Gordon, I am glad you are keeping TSW as is. I am looking forward to your guest posts in May. My continued prayers for your appeal. I will also keep your spring cleaning in them too :) As for SNAP, well all I can do is loosely quote Shakespeare: I believe they do protest too much! God bless you and all the men there.

  12. Esther says:

    Aloha Father:
    I look forward to reading the guest blogger’s posts! Also, so glad you are keeping TSW as it is. Your blog is unique!
    As for SNAP, I will be praying for their conversion and change of heart.
    God bless!

  13. M says:

    Dear Father G,
    Good luck with the spring cleaning As a born clutterer and hoarder I know how hard it is to sort out the chaotic mess that can accumulate.
    Pornchai is very clever and wise coming up with the idea of a series of guest writers to give you the necessary time to prepare your appeal and complete your spring cleaning.
    My thoughts and prayers go with you and all in the Big House.
    God Bless

  14. Sarah says:

    I’m very much looking forward to reading Father George’s upcoming column!

    (Don’t take that the wrong way, Father G…I hope you accomplish much of your spring cleaning during your respite from TSW).

    Praying as always for you, your very talented craftsman cellmate Pornchai and our other brothers in your prison.

  15. Judy Stefencavage says:

    I count myself exceedingly “lucky” to have found this site, as it has given me a brand new perspective about the injustices being done to priests regardless of their guilt or innocense. I say that because none has been given the right to say anything regarding their case until they are either defrocked, sent far away or in court. So I continuously pray for ALL priests.

    I have a friend who was very involved w/a group of other priests who have been vocal in our diocese about this very subject…..several months ago he was unceremoniously removed from the flock he pastored. Nothing has been heard about the “charges” if any, we have only heard it is not sexual but something financial. Sounds very odd to myself and many others who look to the priest for mentorship, leadership and the word of God. We are devastated! and if I knew of his location I would send him the link or web address to your blog. Maybe God has led him to it….that would be neat. I just want him and you to know Father that many prayers including mine are going up to heaven for your emotional suffering and physical in your case. May Mary the Mother of God, who loves her priests so much keep you well and bring you to her Son’s Sacred Heart.

  16. Gérald C. LaJeunesse says:

    Gordon

    I’m thinking of those words from the Passion reading on Good Friday, “Woman, here is your son … Here is your mother!” (Jn 19, 26-27. Sorry if it’s not exactly the wording to which you are accustomed: no English bible at hand so I’m translating freely.) Go to her and also let her in during the month of May … Upheaval and uncertainty ahead need that you prepare yourself AND that you be well rested.

    En toute amitiés,
    Gérald, ptre

  17. Theresa says:

    I pray for you and all priests falsely accused. Your courage and strenght along with your humor is very inspiring and I look forward to Wednesdays to read your articles. May God continue to give you strength in all you do.

    Theresa

  18. bernadette mck says:

    Oh no! and I was just about to post some English news cuttings to Fr Gordon! I am sure he is not going to welcome any more bits of paper so shall not burden him with any more – for the moment.

    I wish him well in his mammoth task of getting his papers in order. Having written a magazine column for many years I have amassed many piles of papers, scraps of paper with notes and ideas etc. I have recently given up my column and am in the same process of going through everything and trying to put things in order. I could never find anything either but no doubt the spring cleaning will rectify this. However unfortunately I do not share Fr Gordon’s excellent memory.

    While we will miss his contributions to TSW for May I am sure we will appreciate the writings of his guests. Imagine my surprise when he gave the name of his first guest – Fr Byers – who is familiar to many who follow his blog written from his Hermitage. I was privileged to speak to him when he was a chaplain in Lourdes and attended several of his Masses there. I particularly remember one where he apologised to the congregation that he was having to give his homily in English before he had perfected his French, and I may have been the only one there who understood him then!

    Like Trish and no doubt many others I will keep you particularly in mind at Adoration this evening, Fr Gordon. Be assured of my prayers for you and I will be thinking of you too as I try and put my own papers in order. You have given me new impetus to get things done instead of procrastinating as I usually do – thank you, you influence us in so many ways.

  19. Trish says:

    God bless you, Fr Gordon as you take a ‘break’ this May, the month of Mary! Will keep you in my prayers and ask our Mother’s powerful intercession for you and your intentions….I have often found the quote below very comforting but not always easy to embrace:
    “Do not despise your situation; in it you must act, suffer and conquer. From every point on earth we are equally near to heaven and to the infinite….” – Henri Frederick Amiel
    The first thing I do when I get to work early on Wednesday mornings is to visit your site, so will miss your writings for a while but am sure your guest writers will not disappoint! Will keep you in mind and lifted up in prayer at our hour’s Adoration tomorrow evening.
    Trish

  20. Father Gordon,

    Perhaps two good penances for the three major Catholic publications for asking you to do the impossible would be (1) for them to write original articles/editorials about you and These Stone Walls and (2) for them to link to the original article you nonetheless very recently sent to me to have published over on my blog at Holy Souls Hermitage. Of course, neither of these two things above should be penances for these publishers, but rather a joy for them to do: here!

    I’m very happy you’ll be remaining an independent Catholic blog, and I hope these others will put up ever-present links to TSW.

    Father, you are almost singlehandedly bringing the entire abuse crisis full circle. You are leading us to Christ Jesus. That “us” includes bishops, priests, laity, and abuse victims. Even some of those providing false allegations are starting to be moved.

    It’s Jesus who has been forgotten in all of this, as Father Neuhaus pointed out so eloquently, but TSW is helping all of us to see Jesus in our midst once again.

    And, just to say it, there are no stone walls that can keep you, “G”, from being a true Father to us in the midst of this great Family of Faith. What can keep us from the love of Christ in our midst? Prison walls? Never! May the love and joy of the Prince of the Most Profound Peace flood your heart with the knowledge that we are all with you.

    Your brother priest,

    Father George

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