Among recent TSW topics now in the news, Fr Gordon MacRae returns to what seems to be a policy statement at the United Nations: “Do as we say, not as we do.”
Before taking on the U.N. again, my title for this post was adapted from a work of fiction by the Colombian writer/novelist, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. In 1982, the year I became a priest, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for his Spanish language novels, El Amor en los Tiempos del Colera (Love in the Time of Cholera), and Cien Años de Soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude). They are among the most influential and revered Spanish language titles in modern literature.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez professed some leftist political ideals that conflicted with those of the Colombian government, so he spent the 1960s and 1970s in exile in Mexico and Spain. After being awarded the Nobel Prize in 1982, he accepted his country’s invitation to return.
Just hours after I decided to adapt one of his famous titles for this post on April 17, the news streamer reported that Gabriel Garcia Marquez died at the age of 82 that very day in Mexico City. I thank him for lending me a title from a far greater work than anything I could ever write. Please join me in prayer for the soul of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel Laureate, who accomplished something exceedingly rare among modern writers: Love in the Time of Cholera and One Hundred Years of Solitude will still be read 100 years from now.
THE U.N. IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA
Someone somewhere seemed determined to stop me from writing and posting my March 26 post, “The United Nations Assault on the Catholic Church.” On the day that I was typing it – or trying to – chaos and drama seemed to break out all around me. I finally finished it on March 16 and mailed it to Indianapolis to be scanned. It was postmarked March 17 in Manchester, NH, six days after mailing, it still had not arrived. The deadline for scanning it came and went, so we had nothing to send to TSW’s publisher in Australia. My only options at that point were to post a rerun or have no post at all.
I had one of my famous science reruns all picked out that day, but you were spared such a fate. I telephoned a friend, Father George David Byers, who convinced me to read the post to him via telephone while he typed it. It was an ordeal for us both, but especially for Father George. Between sporadic rural cell phone service at Holy Souls Hermitage and the prison’s unreliable phone system for prisoner calls, the connection was filled with static and we were disconnected multiple times. Somehow, thanks mostly to the dogged persistence of Father George, we posted “The United Nations Assault on the Catholic Church.”
When I received a printed copy several days later, I saw that it had a few minor typographical errors, but far fewer than I might have expected under those conditions. Father George put some valiant effort into defeating the powers of darkness that did all they could to stop that post in its tracks. In fact, we came close to repeating that grueling process for the post you’re reading now. Just as I finished typing the first paragraph, the power went out in the prison for most of the day leaving me with another looming deadline, and very little daylight left to get this typed.
The gist of “United Nations Assault on the Catholic Church” was clear despite the process it underwent to get posted. That February U.N. Report on the Holy See by the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child that so publicly trampled upon the Catholic Church was an unprecedented display of hubris and hypocrisy – even by U.N. standards. My post responded to that widely refuted and politically motivated report with an itemized list of some of the U.N.’s own gross violations of justice, human dignity and the rights of children and vulnerable people. There is a reason why the Gospel invites only those without sin to cast the first stone.
I included in that post a brief paragraph about a story I found in The Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog. It referred to a series of lawsuits filed in U.S. federal courts against the United Nations by the families of victims of a cholera outbreak in Haiti. The lawsuits allege that after Haiti’s devastating earthquake on January 12, 2010, unscreened peacekeeper forces sent by the U.N. to Haiti from Nepal negligently created a cholera epidemic that killed 8,000 Haitians – many of them children – and sickened over 800,000 others in a nation already devastated by an earthquake that directly claimed 310,000 lives.
THE U.N. CLAIMS IMMUNITY
Since I raised this case in my March 26 post, Stanley N. Alpert, one of the attorneys representing Haitian plaintiffs in the lawsuits against the United Nations, published an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal entitled “The U.N., Cholera and Responsibility” (April 16, 2014).
Mr. Alpert laid out the U.N.’s liability in clear terms, citing reports – including one by the United Nations’ own Independent Panel of Experts in 2011 – concluding that “the U.N. alone brought this scourge upon the Haitian people.” The article points out that no cases of cholera had been seen in Haiti for 150 years until the U.N. sent a contingent of forces from Nepal where a cholera outbreak had occurred.
The U.N. failed to screen the peacekeeper forces for cholera. The base established for them abutted a major water source for millions of Haitians. A proper waste treatment facility planned for the base was never built. A standing commission that the U.N. was supposed to establish to hear and respond to claims for damages was never acted upon. A Status of Forces Agreement between the U.N. and Haiti that expressly states that the U.N. must compensate innocent victims that it harms in Haiti has been ignored.
Most infuriating of all for anyone who read “The United Nations Assault on the Catholic Church” has been the U.N.’s defense against the people of Haiti. The basis of the U.N.’s defense is simply that the U.N. enjoys general immunity and cannot be sued. According to Stanley Alpert:
“The U.N.’s final line of defense is the claim that the organization can never be sued for anything it does, and unfortunately the U.S. State Department supports this claim. They are both wrong.”
Repeatedly over the last decade or more, Catholic dioceses, institutions and organizations have been bludgeoned in the media simply for retaining counsel to defend themselves against legions of tort lawyers and lawsuits. Any effort to seek evidence or corroboration of wrongdoing in these decades-old claims has been attacked by the media, by victim groups, and even by government prosecutors as an attempt to evade responsibility. The Church in the United States became so overwhelmed by the force of such media attacks that any effort to ensure legal fairness was buried under the sheer weight of a media-fueled witch hunt. The U.S. Bishops’ Dallas Charter, which placed a target on the back of every priest was the result.
Two months ago, the United Nations took advantage of that moral panic to attempt to dismantle the Church’s moral voice in the public square and bring it into conformity with U.N. policies. Now, in a case in which the clear rights of displaced families, their children, and other vulnerable people have been violated through negligence on a massive scale, the United Nations is doing exactly what it accused the Church of doing, and this hypocritical duplicity has been met with silence in the news media.
Could you imaging the response of the media, the victim groups, and their lawyers if it had been the Vatican, and not the United Nations, now claiming immunity from responsibility for causing the deaths of 8,000 vulnerable people? The outcry would be deafening, and the Church’s credibility would be seriously damaged on a global scale. For the U.S. State Department to now back the U.N.’s claim of immunity in this case is a global outrage. That the U.N. could take such positions while pointing fingers at the Vatican for 30, 40, 50-year old uncorroborated claims of abuse is also an outrage, and should be treated as such.
This hypocrisy and gross duplicity exhibited by the United Nations may be one of the reasons why the United States signed, but has never ratified, the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. Before caving into any further demands from the United Nations, the Holy See would do well to consider that fact. This is the truth, and it needs to be told.
AND IN OTHER NEWS… FATHER GEORGE DAVID BYERS
Speaking of Father George David Byers, he still resides at Holy Souls Hermitage and is helping out at a parish. You might have noted that I obtained an image from Lourdes and a brief quote from one of his past posts for “Behold the Man, as Pilate Washes His Hands,” my Holy Week post for TSW. After that was published, I learned from Father Byers that he offered the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday for me. I am so very grateful. I thank him for that and for some recent help behind the scenes at These Stone Walls.
“BEHOLD THE MAN” AGAIN!
Lots of readers commented that my Holy Week post, “Behold the Man, as Pilate Washes His Hands” was painful to read. The events of Holy Week – the arrest, the trial, the scourging, the Cross – must be read in the light of Easter. I truly hope you will give “Behold the Man” another visit to read it in that light. Things were sometimes painful for us behind prison walls, and yes, some of us suffered, but in the end the triumph of faith dealt with suffering by making us stronger in faith. That is not only true of me, but also of some other prisoners with recent guest posts on TSW, Pornchai Maximilian Moontri and Michael Ciresi. It is also true of those I have recently written about, Michael Martinez and Jesse Pickard. All have come to see the suffering of the past in the light of Easter.
So when I described what it was like to stand before Pilate, it’s okay to feel sad, but not for me. I today look upon that scene of Christ before Pilate described in my Holy Week post and no longer see in it the wounds of the past. I see the light of Divine Mercy, and imagine that if Jesus could turn just a bit more toward the observer of that scene, the rays of Divine Mercy would overwhelm the view. It’s okay to read “Behold the Man” and feel sadness, but not for long. Read it again with the eyes of Easter, and feel the Light of Christ. Feel triumphant!
TSW READERS FULFILL HEBREWS 13: 3
To save you from having to look it up, Hebrews 13:3 states, “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them…” Knowing that I faced my 20tn Holy Week in prison deprived of the Easter Triduum, many readers wrote to me with cards, gifts, and inspired letters at Easter. TSW readers, Helen and Dino Casarotto wrote from the Netherlands:
“To my surprise last Friday, a talk on Radio Maria spoke about you and gave the website of TSW, so now more people in the Netherlands are praying for you…I notice how famous you are becoming around the world. Your posts on TSW are brilliant.”
I showed that card to Pornchai Maximilian, and he said, “Oh great! Don’t they know I have to live with this guy?!” It was very funny!! Anyway, I was deeply moved by their note. I don’t feel very brilliant, and don’t want to be famous, but the issues we face and write about on TSW are aided greatly when you share our stories with others. Please do so by sending links, posting to the social media icons above and below each post, and mentioning These Stone Walls to others.
I want to thank the many readers who have written to me. Please remember that when you do so, you must include your name and address in the body of a letter or card because prisoners here now receive only the contents of mail, but not the envelopes. Please consult the TSW “Contact” page for the rules for prison mail, and if you have written to me without yet receiving a reply, please forgive me. I sometimes must find a way to respond in a TSW post due to limits on the amount of postage I can purchase.
MY HABEAS CORPUS APPEAL
The following Order was issued on Wednesday of Holy Week by U.S. District Court Judge Joseph N. Laplante:.
“Gordon MacRae, serving a sentence in the New Hampshire State Prison, has filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. §2254, alleging that he is in custody in violation of the United States Constitution…MacRae also claims that he is actually innocent of his crimes of conviction…Having conducted a preliminary review of MacRae’s petition under Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Court, this court rules that the petition states a claim for relief that is valid on its face…”
This was the point at which previous appeals were rejected without a hearing in State courts. What the ruling means is that the petition may proceed to its next steps. It has survived its first test, but has a long way to go before we will have further news. Thank you for your support of this cause.
Editors’s Note: a continued thanks to TSW readers for their generosity in responding to Ryan MacDonald’s appeal to help with the legal costs, at the Federal level. We haven’t reached our goal yet, so please share this link to Ryan’s news alert post!