The Catholic Press Needs to Get 
Over Its Father Maciel Syndrome

The Catholic Press Association’s June convention handed out lots of awards, but none was for covering the story of Catholic priests falsely accused.

This is Part II of a post I wrote at this time last year entitled “The High Cost of Father Marcial Maciel and Why I Resent Paying It.” To explain exactly what I resent and why, I have to first tell you an old story.

When I was twelve years old, another boy in my neighborhood had a beautiful dog, a German shepherd, kept tethered 24/7 in his backyard. It used to break my heart to watch as this spoiled bully tormented his dog for hours on end. He would stand just beyond the limits of the tether, and taunt the dog mercilessly. This dog would bark and stretch his tether to the point of exhaustion. I feared the poor dog would go mad.

The bully and I were the same age. I tried to intervene using reason, but diplomacy got nowhere and day after day the taunting continued. One Saturday morning, I felt I had no choice but to take a more direct approach. I climbed over the fence, and told him I was going to knock him on his ass if he did it again. He never did it again.

Sometimes, today, I feel like that dog. I feel as though I am kept at the end of a tether, and taunted with a steady barrage of one-sided news about priests while my constant barking about another side of the story is simply ignored. Sometimes I feel as though I have stretched my tether to its limits. Now and then, some TSW readers ask me if I ever feel like giving up. I do, sometimes, but only about three or four times a week. Our friend, Pornchai Moontri, who wrote “The Duty of a Knight” awhile back, pretty much tells me what I told that kid next door all those years ago. Apparently he thinks its part of the duty of a knight to knock me on my keister if I ever mention giving up again.

So I’ll keep barking and stretching my tether, and this is what I am barking about: As I type this, I have in front of me the July issue of a popular monthly Catholic magazine. Its “News Briefs” section includes these gems:

“A member of the Legionnaires of Christ . . . has admitted to having a relationship with a woman and fathering her child.”

“Files detailing claims of sexual abuse by a group of Franciscan priests in California were made public . . . ”

“Five Philadelphia priests declared ‘unsuitable for ministry’ . . .”

It wouldn’t matter to me so much if the Catholic magazine contained some balance in these stories. I happen to know that several new developments in my case have been sent to its editors. The response has been absolute silence.

They are not alone in this. The Jesuit weekly news magazine, America has devoted much space to Catholic scandal, even giving a platform to the extreme views of Marci Hamilton who has championed the causes of SNAP and some contingency lawyers. Meanwhile, America editors have consistently ignored developments in my case. Even my occasional letter to the editor in response to its one-sided articles has been ignored. We published one, “A Letter America magazine would not publish,” under “Commentary” here on These Stone Walls. I recently wrote asking that my subscription to America be cancelled. Even that was ignored.

Editors at Commonweal magazine, on the other hand, at least had the grace to respond to a news development in my regard that was sent to them. In an e-mail response to writer, Ryan MacDonald, a Commonweal editor bluntly wrote, “We will not be covering the story of Father Gordon MacRae.” So be it. At least now we know, and I can stop this incessant barking.

THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE (IF SOMEONE PRINTS IT!)

David Pierre James Valladares

I am fortunate to have the attention of a few Catholic writers who join me in my exasperation with the Catholic news media. Both David F. Pierre of The Media Report and Ryan A. MacDonald of A Ram in the Thicket have told me that they think it is an important news story that evidence now shows that a Catholic priest in America has been falsely accused and wrongly held in prison for eighteen years. However, getting someone in the Catholic press to write about this new evidence has been an incredibly frustrating ordeal.

David Pierre’s recent book, Catholic Priests Falsely Accused, has a chapter detailing information on the case against me – information that for some unknown reason has been omitted from almost all other accounts of this case. Father James Valladares’ new book, Hope Springs Eternal in the Priestly Breast, devoted about a third of its content to coverage of my case and These Stone Walls. However, reviews of both books are conspicuously absent from the pages of too many Catholic newspapers now trumpeting sordid and distorted headlines like the ones described above in a Catholic magazine.

On February 20, 2012, David Pierre published a news story at The Media Report entitled “Exclusive Report: Alarming New Evidence May Exonerate Imprisoned Priest.” David Pierre spent many hours doing something he knew most in the news media would not bother to do. He poured over hundreds of pages of new investigative documents about my trial and new appeal now published at the National Center for Reason and Justice, a wrongful conviction organization that endorses and helps sponsor my defense as well as These Stone Walls.

David Pierre submitted his summary of my new appeal and its new evidence to most of the secular news outlets in New England that had been covering the story of accused priests. Predictably, most of them ignored it. One commendable exception, however, was the news team at WMUR-TV News in New Hampshire which aired a factually truthful news report (which takes a few moments to load if you click on it).

Priest Convicted of Abuse Seeks New Trial

Most troubling of all – for me, at least – was that David Pierre also submitted his report to many Catholic newspapers and news magazines. They also ignored it, and frankly I had hoped for better. I can only conclude that the Catholic press has failed to cover the story of new evidence in my own case, and the much broader story of Catholic priests falsely accused, because of one individual case. In “The High Cost of Father Marcial Maciel and Why I Resent Paying It,” I wrote of the priestly profiling that has taken place in the wake of evidence of guilt – mostly post-mortem – in the case of Father Maciel, founder of the Legionnaires of Christ.

Writers with an agenda have used that post-mortem evidence to cast a shadow on those who gave Maciel the benefit of doubt. Some of the reasoning of these writers defies logic. Typical of the agendas at work was an extended article in The Nation by Jason Berry (“The Shame of John Paul II,” May 16, 2011), who used the Maciel affair to undermine the beatification of the late Pope. Berry cited “a chorus of criticism from prominent Catholics and survivors of sexual abuse by clergy” over the beatification of Pope John Paul II. The only “prominent Catholics” he went on to cite were Rev. Thomas Doyle, Terrence McKiernan from BishopAccountability.org, and “distinguished University of Notre Dame theologian,” Rev. Richard McBrien. It’s of interest that last year’s Catholic League report, “SNAP Exposed” cited some of these very same names as orchestrating a choreographed media campaign filled with propaganda.

Jason Berry’s article went on to list those who publicly gave Father Maciel any benefit of doubt. His evidence for “How the Sex Abuse Scandal Stained His Papacy” (Berry’s subtitle) was a claim by Terence McKiernan that “John Paul received many letters from sexual abuse victims which he simply ignored.”

It’s the utter narcissism of such arguments that is hardest to take. There are 1.2 billion Catholics in the world. The Pope and Vatican receive thousands of letters daily. To claim that a few should have put the Pope on notice is absurd. I have sent letters to BishopAccountability.org which Terence McKiernan has simply ignored. I asked only for a fair account of both sides of the story.

media-frenzy

Jason Berry’s article was a clear attempt to build a case for dissuading any support or presumption of innocence for any other accused Catholic priests. It was little more than character assassination by rumor and innuendo. To lend credence to his “corrupt Vatican” scenario, Jason Berry cited the classic anti-Catholic mythology from the Galileo story all the way down to the “wartime reticence on Nazi atrocities” of Pope Pius XII.

A result of one-sided articles like Jason Berry’s is the sort of headline I cited from that unnamed Catholic magazine above. Writers and editors no longer want to risk any presumption of innocence or even calls for due process for those accused. Catholic writer, Ryan MacDonald writes periodically for Spero News, a worthy enterprise bringing a religious context to world news events. After The Media Report published David Pierre’s bullet summary of new evidence in my case, Ryan MacDonald said he was troubled by the almost total lack of coverage of it by the Catholic press. So he put together a news release of his own and sent me this printed copy:

“As a Catholic writer, I am very concerned about the case of a priest whom I believe – to a moral certainty – has been wrongly imprisoned on false charges of sexual abuse for 18 years. I have researched this case extensively, as has Dorothy Rabinowitz, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for The Wall Street Journal. We both drew the same conclusion: the case was a fraud. Now, a veteran Special Agent for the FBI has issued his own report in which he concluded: ‘In the entirety of my three-year investigation of this matter, I discovered no evidence of Father MacRae having committed the crimes charged or any other crimes.’
Most recently, a new appeal has been filed in this case, but for the most part both the secular and Catholic news media have been silent about it. This concerns me greatly.”

His message included links to The Media Report, the WMUR-TV News clip, and two of his own investigative articles. Ryan sent the message and links to the editors of over 20 Catholic news sites, newspapers, and magazines. Not one responded. Not one.

In “David v. Goliath” a few weeks ago, I wrote of the chronic anti-Catholic bias evident in some secular newspapers. Many readers cited The New York Times, and The Los Angeles Times as examples of an especially toxic anti-Catholic bias. I wrote that conscientious Catholics should re-think their choices as consumers of the news by cancelling or not renewing papers that exhibit such bias. One reader made me laugh with this comment:

“I don’t subscribe to or read any secular city daily newspaper. I occasionally buy the ever-shrinking-and-more-expensive L.A. Times – because I have a puppy.”

The L.A. Times lost over 157,000 print subscribers since 2008. That’s a lot of house broken puppies! In the scandal-driven news media of today – especially print news – the whole truth is simply not as marketable as a sex scandal. If news isn’t marketable, then it isn’t news. I for one am offended by that, but I am especially offended when the Catholic press follows that lead.

We cannot let this be the fate of Catholic news media. It’s time for the Catholic press to get over its “Father Maciel Syndrome.” Catholics deserve both sides of this story.

National Catholic Reporter

 

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. joann says:

    Dear Father,
    For whatever reason, God has chosen you to be the one priest in prison who can “bark” to the rest of us. We are here and we are listening. Don’t give up.
    ” And you can never tell how close you are
    It may be near, when it seems so far.
    So stick to the fight when your hardest hit.
    It is when things seem worst that you must not quit”.
    Author unknown

    Today’s Gospel Matthew 14: 22-36. Don’t be afraid of the wind or the waves. Don’t lose heart. Don’t lose faith.

    Remember, with Christ, nothing is fubar.

    You are in my prayers every day.

  2. Liz says:

    It does just boggle the mind that they ignore your appeal. It must feel discouraging at times, well more than discouraging, but I always feel like the evil one is the one that wants me discouraged. Please don’t be discouraged. God has some sort of plan.

    I do love that story about you and the dog. You were fighting for just causes even at age 12! That is a great story, Father.

    Hang in there, Father. I often think of that other prisoner that whispered to you to stay strong when you were traveling to the prison in the very beginning. He’s right.

    God bless you!

  3. MARTY G says:

    Dearest Fr. Gordon,

    I pray that by the time you read this comment, the heat has abated. I cannot imagine being locked up for 24 hours a day, and having to endure the heat wave you described in your last post. That you have managed to survive for 18 long years, and still have a sense of humor is a miracle in it’s self.

    Thank you for your continued instruction, and your courageous witness. I pray that the Holy Spirit may continue to guide you, in exposing and confronting the issues, few are willing or brave enough to confront.
    When someone does, we can almost always expect that vital facts will be omitted, the truth distorted, or just plainly ignored. It is as shocking, and disappointing to me, as it must be for you, to see the response of the Catholic media and their refusal to give truth, a platform.

    Their unwillingness to present the truth, in my opinion, makes them complicit, to the great evil that has been done to you.

    One day, we will all, be called to render our account, before God. Our Lord has made it very clear, that we will receive His mercy, in the same amount, that we are willing to extend it, to others.
    Despite their lack of charity towards you, do not allow them to hamper your search for justice. Your witness one day may be the weight that tips the scales of justice, in our favor.
    Continue to entrust yourself to Him, Who judges justly.

    You are not alone Father. You have an army of Saints in Heaven, and a host of us, here, who love you and pray, fervently for your complete vindication.

    It seems to me, that today, regardless of guilt or innocence, an accused priest cannot win. He is first, and foremost tried, and convicted, by an unreasonable public opinion. A public, that I am sad to say, has been tainted, for years now, by the half-truths, and down right lies of the secular media.

    Unfortunately for our priests, the Church’s hierarchy has not helped matters much. If anything the bishops, trying to placate both media and secular authorities, adopted policies that are void of all common sense. The adoption of these senseless policies is precisely what has left our Church open, to constant attacks, from thieves, calling themselves “lawyers”, and liars, calling themselves “victims”.

    Do not misunderstand me, I am the first to condemn, the actions of the few priests, who have left such a stain, on the fabric of our Church, that it continues to resurface, again and again. And I pray for the real victims. I know from personal experience the irreparable harm that is done to the soul, and the innocence of a child, when victimized in this way.

    Until the Church, is willing to take a hard look at the policies, as they stand today, we will continue to go in circles. A 6 year old can see that throwing more money on the problem is not the solution.

    The Church needs to gather some courage, and start acting like what She is, the Church Militant! We need to adopt policies that protect our priests from false accusations, and legal and severe measures must be implemented to go after, and prosecute false accusers, to the fullest extent of the law!

    Enough already, of this nonsense! How do we expect for things to change, if we continue in the same pattern…

    A. An accusation is brought forth, (credible or not)
    B. The Church does not investigate
    C. The media plasters the scandal on the front page
    D. The priest involved, is left with his life in shambles. His good name and reputation marred, beyond repair
    E. The priest is dismissed from his priesthood, in most cases, (guilty or not)
    F. The Church chooses to settle
    G. Satan wins

    Where is the logic in this?

    We achieve great things, by doing the small things well. Had the bishops had the courage to confront the rampant homosexuality that infiltrated our seminaries, and eventually the Priesthood, in the early 60’s we would not be having this conversation today.

    We must learn to build our lives, around the wisdom of God, and that means we can never compromise with evil. Period!

    The Church’s approach to an allegation made against one of Her priests, is intended, and must be pastoral, in contrast to the ill judgment, and harshness of the outside world.

    I pray that all priests, but especially those who have endured a false accusation, may remain steadfast in their Faith, so they may continue to inculcate in us, (the faithful) humble obedience.

    May they accept their trials and tribulations, according to Our Father’s will. This way, they will be modeling Jesus for us, He, Who in obedience to the Father, suffered so patiently, for sins He did not commit. And remains eternally submissive to the Father.

    May the Lord, continue to give you strength Father. You are in my prayers. I pray for all of your intentions, and those of Fr. George Bryers, with the same love and dedication, each day. Fr. Michael, and Fr James, continues to be in my daily prayers, as well.

    It is the one thing; we can all do, and are called to do. Pray for all of our priests, who need those prayers so desperately.

    Give my love to all of the men, who are part of your day-to-day life, in prison, especially, your TSW Title Conference group. Thank you Fr Gordon, for all that you have become, for so many of us. Please stay strong.

    In Christ, Our Savior, and Redeemer,
    Your sister,

    Marty

  4. Begekel says:

    In a recent article on her website Ann Barnhardt quoted some words by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn which are relevant here-

    To stand up for truth is nothing. For truth, you must sit in jail.

    You can resolve to live your life with integrity. Let your credo be this: Let the lie come into the world, let it even triumph. But not through me.

    The simple step of a courageous individual is not to take part in the lie. One word of truth outweighs the world.

    In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousand fold in the future. When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age, we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations.

    If I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible what was the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: ‘Men had forgotten God; that is why all this has happened.’

    A decline in courage may be the most striking feature that an outside observer notices in the West today. The Western world has lost its civic courage . . . . Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling and intellectual elite, causing an impression of a loss of courage by the entire society.

    And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?… The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin’s thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt! If…if…We didn’t love freedom enough. And even more – we had no awareness of the real situation…. We purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward.

    By your words and actions Father you are encouraging others to stand up for the truth.

    God bless

  5. Sarah says:

    I just read Karin’s comment and echo her appreciation for the voices of Ryan MacDonald and David Pierre. God bless your work.

  6. Sarah says:

    Hi Fr. G.,

    Your justifiable lament reminds me of something I was just reading (less dramatic, to be sure, but similar heartache). You are in good company: Moses (Numbers 11: 9-15), Elijah (1 Kings 19: 1-14) and other notables with a specific mission also faced such discouragement. You must walk by faith, not by sight. Your success is not determined by which powers-that-be listen and what changes you personally see in your lifetime on this earth. It will be judged only by God on whether you continue to choose faithfulness to your mission. Just my opinion as one of your “virtual flock”. So, be faithful and let God handle the rest. Besides, you don’t want Pornchai to have no choice but to rearrange your face in the name of “motivation”.

    Blessings and prayers as always.

  7. Edward.Fullerton says:

    All, You have too realise you & the rest of the Universal church is grappling with the Roman truely pagan empire of our day, they will eventually crumble. And when they stand before the “Just Judge” they as it says in scripture, new testament will be “speechless”,IHS. PS,for the record I have consistantly posted Fr Gordons posts .PPS, you his fellow Americans congratulations & prayers (T)oo, IHS.

    Kindly tell Fr Gordon. I will be at mass tonight At ” Our Lady of Lourdes”, will pray the intention when the Celebrant elevates the chalice. And to Pornchai Moontri, his mate for many years,God bless all who assist this good priest. IHS. ,Edward.

  8. Angie Lopez says:

    Fr. Gordon, Thank you for your great wisom and courage in the midst of turmoil. Your courageous writings have inspired my husband and I to constantly pray for our own accusors and that has kept us going for 21 years. We pray for you constantly and will continue to do so every day. It is in trials that we become strong and you Fr. Gordon are the epitome of strength. Don’t give up. You have come a long way and we send you our prayers . Thank you for being you.

  9. Cheralyn says:

    Father Gordom,

    Please don’t give up! Hang in there, I can not imagine how hard it is for you. I’m so very sorry. I’ve read everything I can find on your case, and read “Catholic Priests Falsely Accused”. I’m now reading ” Hope Springs Eternal from the Priestly Breast”. Our Apostolate prays for you daily, and I’m trying to get our Apostolate to write all of our Bishops, to fix what’s happening to you and other Holy Priests. Please know you remain in daily prayers of many. “You are a Priest forever, dont forget that”
    God bless you,

    Cheralyn

  10. Doug Sparkes says:

    Blessings Father,
    I know it’s not much, but I just sent an e-mail to Catholic Answers requesting they read this post and ideally cover your story in a future Catholic Answers magazine.

    Pax Christi,

    Doug

  11. Michael S. says:

    Dear Fr. Gordon I pray for you every night…….the media, no matter what type, works on sensationalism, NOT truth !!!!!!!!! Stay strong……..The Blessed Mother & St. Michael have God’s ear !!!!!!!!!!

    Yours in Christ,
    Michael S.

  12. Great article, as usual, Father! I also use newspaper to clean windows, to use in gardening, and they are really good for cleaning the chimney of lanterns… and ocasionally for packing when I ship things. You are in my prayers! But I get a couple of freebies–I don’t subscribe to any. And I have a confession: My friends and I took all the America Magazines, as well as Sojourner, out of our church magazine racks and tossed them in the trash. Whoever was ordering them finally got the message.

  13. Karin says:

    Dear Fr. Gordon,
    Someone needs to remind the Catholic Press that their job, if properly done, is not one for cowards. (Your picture of the cowardly lion sums it up perfectly.) By refusing to present both sides of this story in its truth and entirety, they are failing in their duties as journalists; they are also lowering their standards to that of most secular media. Shame on them!
    I can only imagine how frustrating the constant “barking” and stretching of the tether must be, but please continue (I’ll leave the rough stuff to Pornchai :) ). Thank God for writers like Ryan MacDonald and David Pierre.
    Continued prayers for you and all the men there.

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