One of the most incisive TV news commentaries is the “Journal Editorial Report” which airs on FOX News Saturday nights and early Sunday mornings. Its panel from The Wall Street Journal reviews the week’s news, ending each broadcast with the “Hits and Misses of the Week.” Viewers are invited to submit their own “Hits and Misses” at the Journal Editorial Report website.
I adopted the “Hits and Misses” format at year’s end last year. TSW’s “Hits and Misses” are just a few of my own highlights of the year worthy of a second look. I’ll try to keep them brief, and I hope you’ll comment with your own hits and misses of 2012. Here are mine, in no particular order. I have more “Hits” than “Misses,” and that’s a good sign.
HIT: DOWNTON ABBEY
Who would have ever thought you could read a review of a PBS Masterpiece Classic like Downton Abbey on These Stone Walls? I wrote of it, and of a few other shows I followed this year, in “Downton Abbey Blue Bloods Touch Falling Skies Upon Criminal Minds.” Why am I so riveted to this Edwardian era soap opera? It might have something to do with Dame Maggie Smith’s unforgettable portrayal of the elder Lady Grantham, the Dowager Countess of Downton Abbey. Every snide remark, every snippet of wit, every raised eyebrow in seasons one and two sent me into fits of snorting laughter and made me forget for a moment where I am. That alone made it a “Hit.”
Last month, PBS began a replay of season two of Downton Abbey, and I liked it even more the second time around. PBS also began enticing us with a few scenes from season three as Shirley MacLaine takes up the role of Lord Grantham’s American mother-in-law, and a worthy foil of the Dowager Countess. It commences in January. I actually watch very little on television, but if you’ve been missing Downton Abbey, catch up! Maybe then you can tell me why I love this show so much.
MISS: FATHER BENEDICT GROESCHEL LEAVES EWTN
In September, I wrote “Father Benedict Groeschel at EWTN: Time for a Moment of Truth.” It described my forty years of acquaintance with Fr. Benedict Groeschel, and what I know of his positions about priestly scandal which have consistently been the polar opposite of what SNAP and other detractors said of him in 2012. I support EWTN, the National Catholic Register (which is owned by EWTN), and other faithful Catholic media, but the cloud under which Fr. Groeschel just drifted out of view was and remains highly unjust. A few weeks ago, I received this in a letter from Catholic League President, Bill Donohue:
“Recently, I also defended Fr. Benedict Groeschel. He made some inartful comments that could easily be misconstrued. I know him well, and know he has not been himself since he was hit by a car several years ago. I also know him as an eminently decent man who deserves better.”
Indeed he does, and the very least that he deserves is to restore the great legacy of his work and writings to EWTN. Several TSW readers have told me this year that they are reading anew some of Father Groeschel’s many books, and they are great treasures. The sun must not go down on 2012 without a mention that Father Benedict Groeschel is loved, respected, and missed by many.
HIT: MEMBERSHIP IN THE CATHOLIC LEAGUE
And speaking of Bill Donohue, his new book, Why Catholicism Matters (Image Books, 2012) is also a “Hit.” New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan wrote that it “reveals that the Church, and Dr. Donohue himself, give an emphatic YES! to all that is good, noble and uplifting in the human person.”
That also sums up the Catholic League for Religious & Civil Rights, and here’s your chance to start 2013 on solid ground. Whether it’s the suppression of Christ at Christmas, the stoning of Bishop Finn, the posthumous lies attacking Pope Pius XII, or the ongoing denial of due process rights for Catholic priests, The Catholic League is ever on the forefront of religious liberty in America.
I have much gratitude for the Catholic League’s courage as a forum for truth and justice. The September 2011 issue of the Catholic League journal, Catalyst, published a brief editorial entitled “TheseStoneWalls.com.” The March 2012 issue ran a feature article by Rev. Michael P. Orsi, Ed.D. entitled “Bogus Charges Against Priests Abound” which included a synopsis of my trial. The April 2012 issue contained an editorial by Catalyst editors entitled “Father MacRae’s Appeal.”
Far more importantly, the Catholic League is often all that stands between U.S. Catholics and the annihilation of religious liberty. If you’re not yet a member, please join.
MISS: THE ELECTIONS OF 2012
It was a big “Miss,” too,” but what can I write of this that hasn’t already been written? If you haven’t read “Electile Dysfunction,” please do. It’s a road map to how we got to 2012 while we were really on the way to 1984!
HIT: A LANDMARK BOOK BY DAVID F. PIERRE
As 2012 began, a small but potent new book opened a long overdue dialogue in the American Catholic church that I feared might never commence. Catholic Priests Falsely Accused: The Facts. The Fraud. The Stories by David F. Pierre was published late last year. It was technically a 2011 “Hit,” but I include it here because this small book brought much-needed awareness of this under-reported issue throughout 2012. I wrote an extended review of it before Christmas last year in “A Book Every Priest Needs to Read.”
In 182 riveting pages, Mr. Pierre laid out a compelling account that was far afield of the story much of the secular press – and far too much of the Catholic press – continues to trumpet. In “Kicking the Dead and Collecting Cash,” a May guest post on These Stone Walls, David Pierre wrote a powerful addendum to that truth. He is also host of the media watchdog site, The Media Report, where he has continued the themes of this book. The truth is always a “Hit.”
MISS: IDENTITY THEFT
Sometimes the evidence for a book’s impact is not just in its accolades, but in the vile and contemptible efforts of some to suppress it. I saw a vivid example in the relentless campaign of one Massachusetts man – a frequent collaborator with SNAP – who repeatedly attacked me, These Stone Walls, David Pierre, and his book in comments posted at many on-line media stories about accused priests. He cannot attack the message, for facts bear their own authority, so he attacked the messenger.
Sometimes this man used fake screen names – all from the same IP address – to give a false impression of solidarity in his toxic tirade. This one man was so determined to suppress the truth that at least twice this year he tried to post comments here on These Stone Walls while falsely posing as David Pierre. That attempt at identity theft tells me that David Pierre’s book exposed more than just facts and frauds. It exposed a morally bankrupt crusade to cover up those stories and keep them hidden. If this behavior is typical of SNAP, the group whose agenda this man represents, then SNAP itself has descended into contempt.
HIT: HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL IN FATHER JAMES VALLADARES
That heading is true, but it’s also part of the title of another landmark 2012 book by Australian priest, psychologist and author, Father James Valladares, Ph.D. At first glance, Hope Springs Eternal in the Priestly Breast seemed an odd title for a book about the state of civil liberties and due process for accused priests. I received a copy fearing that it might over-spiritualize the legal, canonical, and psychological predicament of so many falsely accused priests whose civil liberties are trampled upon in the wake of unprovable, decades-old accusations. I could not have been more wrong about a book.
Hope Springs Eternal is a unique book, unlike anything I have ever read on the topic of priests in crisis. I reviewed the book in “The Rest of the Story” last June, a post that appeared on TSW on the 30th anniversary of my Ordination and First Mass. As you can read in that review, I was stunned by Father James Valladares’ book. It was the holding up of a mirror for the Church and priesthood to see reflected therein the fact that victims of abuse, and the tragedy of sexual abuse itself, are not at all served when the rights of accused priests, and the priests themselves, are discarded in a rush to judgment.
About a third of this book will be quite familiar to the readers of These Stone Walls. Father Valladares had asked my permission to extract from within TSW the story of Joseph sold into captivity by his own brothers. I cannot recommend Hope Springs Eternal more highly, both for TSW readers and for the priests you know. It changed completely the way I see my own struggle for justice, truth, and freedom., but don’t take my word for it. Here’s an excerpt of a letter I received two months ago from a New York priest who read it:
“Some of us priests have been wearing blinders throughout the last decade, believing that the course our bishops have taken helped bring justice to victims when in reality it simply replaced one grave injustice with another. This book and These Stone Walls are now a part of my priestly education I had missed.”
I’ve received similar letters from priests and laity alike in the U.S., Canada, and other countries, many of whom discovered These Stone Walls by reading Hope Springs Eternal. In fact, I have heard from more Catholic priests – and even a bishop or two – during 2012 than in all the previous seventeen years I have spent in prison.
A HIT AND A MISS: THAT SLOW ELEPHANT IN THE SACRISTY
You all know that 2012 began with the announcement of a new appeal described in an “Exclusive Report” at The Media Report. I wish I could end 2012 with hopeful news of its progress, but justice at this juncture is slow and tedious. Ryan MacDonald published two articles this year addressing artfully the scope of justice in this matter. The first was “Bishop Takes Pawn: Plundering the Rights of a Prisoner Priest.” The second was “Judge Arthur Brennan Sentenced Father Gordon MacRae to Die in Prison.” Fortunately, 2012 is coming to a close without that latter prediction having happened yet – the Mayans notwithstanding.
Others are hopefully taking up this story with further news, and we will point you in their direction when that time comes. I beg your patience with this long slow process, and especially with the fact that I cannot openly comment on this elephant in the sacristy.
HIT: OUR TSW UPGRADE
The upgrade of These Stone Walls this year has been a great success. “Stunning,” “astonishing,” and “magnificent” are also sentiments that have been expressed to me. I owe a special thanks to Suzanne Sadler, our designer and editor, and to Vincenzo whose weekly front-page marquee image transforms my meager posts into masterpieces of graphic design. Vincenzo’s designs are a visual summary of each post, and each is the result of days of painstaking work on his part. If you ever want to express your thanks to him, an Amazon gift card might accomplish that nicely, and you could do that here:
AND LAST, BUT NOT LEAST. . .
My last “Hit” of 2012 is you. In Hope Springs Eternal, Father James Valladares described These Stone Walls as “the finest example of priestly witness the last decade of scandal has produced.” I have no way to know whether that is true, but if it is true, it’s your doing and not mine. I just sit on a concrete stump and type amid prison chaos. There is no witness of any kind without eyes to see and ears to hear, and those belong to you. Thank you for sending word of TSW to others.
I have but one gift to offer in return. I offer each day in prison as a share in the suffering of Christ for those who have read These Stone Walls that day. Thank you for being with me here at the end of the Year of Our Lord, 2012.
And I’m all ears. Tell us, please, of your own Hits and Misses for 2012.