Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s Grand Jury report on Catholic priests and sex abuse dates to the 1940s but hangs justice on the gallows of Salem, 1692.
As hard as this may be to read or hear, it must be understood. Common sense is now officially suspended when it comes to Catholic priests and sexual abuse. A moral panic has taken its place. It is especially painful – even catastrophic – when the Catholic media and the highest levels of Church governance suspend a search for truth and settle only for the fastest means to smother the fires of scandal. We have lost our way.
If that Pennsylvania Grand Jury report had been written in New Hampshire, I would be found in its pages with the most horrifying and lurid stories presented as credible and substantiated truth. The case against me began with a wild and irresponsible letter from a state social worker, Sylvia Gale, with information from an unnamed source within my diocese that I was a priest in Florida where I molested two brothers, one of whom was murdered and his body mutilated.
Another accuser – also John Doe – said that I held a gun to his head while forcing him to commit a lurid act. Continuing with this theme, the accuser at my trial, Thomas Grover, said in a police report that I pulled a gun on him and chased him through a Catholic cemetery as he ducked behind headstones dodging bullets. In another police report he seemed to forget telling that story and said that I chased him down the highway in my car while brandishing a gun out the window.
Thomas Grover’s brother, David Grover, said that I raped him repeatedly during overnight stays in my rectory when he was 12 years old (I arrived at that parish two weeks before his 18th birthday). Later, in another report, he said that at age 16, I took him to another parish where he was raped by the two unnamed parish priests. He said he went with me “because we had a positive relationship and he had no reason to suspect anything was wrong.” He apparently forgot age 12.
None of these events ever took place, but all of them were part of the prosecutorial fodder presented to a grand jury. Today, all of these claims have been fully debunked. No one but the most bigoted observer intent on indicting both the Church and priesthood still believes any of this.
In recent weeks since the emergence of that one-sided and agenda-driven PA Grand Jury report, some of my supporters have multiple times had to post information in my defense. Among the results of that effort has been this statement from an FBI investigator who was not part of my prosecution:
“In the course of my three-year investigation of this case, I have found no evidence to support that Father MacRae committed these crimes, or any crimes. Indeed, the only ‘evidence’ is the statements of the accusers themselves which has been convincingly discredited by their own family members and others.” FBI Special Agent Supervisor (Ret.) James A. Abbott.
Now consider what Catholic author David F. Pierre, Jr wrote in these pages in “Catholic Media Joins the Sex Abuse Pile-On.” The Catholic press has been echoing the sentiments of some our Church leaders who are less interested in the real and the unreal than they are in putting out the fires of suspicion.
In this, David Pierre has been nothing short of courageous. I know firsthand the tenacity necessary to stand before a tidal wave with an opposing point of view only to see it washed away in hysteria. Dave Pierre has written a two-part challenge to the PA Report that is stunning in its facts. Part one is “Pushing Aside Media Hysteria: We Uncover Pennsylvania’s Dishonest Grand Jury Report” (TheMediaReport.com Aug. 18, 2018).
I only saw a printed copy after we posted Dave’s guest post, but it left me with a haunting and disturbing sense of déjà vu. David exposed stories that in any other time would have raised questions about the report’s credibility and motives. Just think rationally for a moment about these claims:
- A priest washed out the mouth of a 9-year-old boy with holy water after forcing him into a sexual assault?
- Another priest sodomized a boy with a crucifix?
- Another priest sexually assaulted a boy multiple times on an airplane?
- Some 300 priests assaulted over 1,000 people and the Church knew it but did nothing?
Does any of this seem even remotely implausible? If these accounts are accepted without evidence, it is only because we have over time heard so many such sensational stories that the unbelievable has become the norm by which we believe. Most of you have grown up in the Catholic Church. Do we now settle for justice without reason, without evidence, built upon rumor and innuendo? As Mr. Pierre reveals, these stories never took place.
WHAT FATHER AMONG YOU?
Let me be clear that there have been real accounts of real victimization by priests who have set aside fatherhood to commit incest, one of the most destructive crimes known to manhood. We do nothing to learn and assess the nature of such an offense or to address recompense for the harm it leaves in its wake when moral panic becomes our loudest and only response.
It seemed the strangest timing, and it appeared in an equally strange place. A week before Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro released his scathing 884-page report about Catholic priests going all the way back to World War II, New York Times columnist Emily Yoffe published “The Price of ‘Zero Tolerance,’” a term that she characterized as follows:
“For several decades, political leaders have embraced zero tolerance as a response to all social ills – crime, drugs, sexual violations… In every case, the indiscriminate rigidity of this deeply misguided approach has backfired. 70 million Americans now have a criminal record… sex offender registries created to stop monstrous serial predators now include 900,000 people…”
What made this so strange was that just a week later, the newspaper that carried it also heavily hyped a sex offender registry declaring a class of individuals to be “monstrous serial predators.” Few, if any of these individuals have ever had a trial, have ever been convicted, or have ever served a sentence. Most are dead. Those who are not dead were silenced.
Having been asked by many readers to weigh in on this, I have been posting a statement about that now infamous Grand Jury Report on Catholic Priests. My statement appeared at The Wall Street Journal online and various other publications, but some of the Catholic sites that have been bludgeoning priests over this report have declined to publish it.
Last week, a reader in Canada asked me to publish the statement on These Stone Walls because, she said, it is the clearest thing I have read” on this topic. What follows is a somewhat more nuanced version of that statement.
What the PA Attorney General has done is an unconstitutional abuse of the Grand Jury system. A Grand Jury is convened for the purpose of weighing evidence and formulating charges for criminal prosecution. It is a strictly prosecutorial affair, and only the prosecutor’s side of the affair is considered. It is for good reason that legal observers often say, “A prosecutor can indict a ham sandwich” through a Grand Jury.
We have to read the small print in the media coverage of this report to learn that it is unlikely that any of the accused will face charges or a trial because the statute of limitations for charging them has expired. Pundits and victim advocates are blustering on cable news that this is a reason to change or eliminate statutes of limitations.
They are attempting to dupe you into taking their side in this. These victim advocates know that the U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that revised criminal laws, like statutes of limitations, cannot be changed and then applied retroactively. A defendant has a Constitutional right to “fair notice” of the penalties of a crime before committing the crime.
The only statutes of limitations that can change and then apply retroactively to old cases are civil statutes that will allow for lawsuits in decades-old cases. That is the real target because this is now all about money. Thus far in the United States alone, $3.5 billion has been paid to those who claim to have been abused 20, 30, up to 50 years ago.
Remember the innocent and helpless 16-year-old who today says he was groped by Cardinal McCarrick. He is 63. In Pennsylvania, few, if any, of the accused Catholic priests, will face a trial to determine justice – guilty or not guilty – which in the normal course would follow a Grand Jury indictment.
Now, one of the most abused victims in this story is justice itself. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro has convicted an entire class of people – Catholic priests – by taking a giant leap across all the ordinary vestiges of justice to let the one-sided account fed to a Grand Jury by prosecutors stand as the unabridged truth and final justice.
JUSTICE AT THE GALLOWS OF SALEM 1692
What Attorney General Shapiro has done (at taxpayer expense) is to try the prosecution’s case in the press because it cannot be legitimately tried in a court of law. There is to be no defense, no cross-examination of witnesses, and no witnesses at all except those that support the prosecution’s case.
It is the result of a trial that is supposed to be the final arbiter of justice in America, not the result of a Grand Jury. This is not a reflection of justice as it exists in 21st Century America. It is justice standing at the gallows of Salem, circa 1692. This report is shameful, one-sided, and unethical, and has all the makings of a rare, but classic American witch hunt.
For certain, there are real victims in this story, and my heart goes out to them. It always has. I know many, many victims of unspeakable childhood abuse. In this prison, I have lived among them for 24 years. Trust me on this – no one in the Attorney General’s office cares one iota about their plight.
And, as if this mockery of justice that once stood as a proud American ideal is not enough, at least one Pennsylvania Catholic bishop is taking the gallows of Salem 1692 a step further. The PA Report has redacted the names of accused priests to whom no defense has been afforded. Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik has announced, however, that he will voluntarily publish a list of their names. The Archbishop of Boston did the same in 2002. So did the Bishop of Manchester.
By taking this step, these bishops have created their own private “Megan’s Law” list. In the normal course, a sexual offender has to register with civil authorities and be shamed on such a published list only after being convicted of a crime in a court of law – either through a jury’s review of the evidence or a plea of guilty from the accused. Not many of the priests on the list will have experienced that version of justice.
In a published Letter to the Editor in The Wall Street Journal (August 22, 2018) Father James Connell from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee had this to say about what happened in PA:
“Is Pennsylvania the only place where the Catholic Church has behaved so horrifically? Hardly. Convincing documentation does not exist elsewhere as clearly as it does in Pennsylvania. Many more grand juries need to be impaneled and empowered to find and declare the truth.”
I think David F. Pierre, Jr. will agree with me that this is an especially scary thought. History has many examples of those who seek immunity from injustice by collaborating with it. If you read nothing else in this story, read a post of mine that will now seem hauntingly familiar. It’s a story forged from the same motives and carried out with similar result. It’s a story about history repeating itself: “Catholic Scandal and the Third Reich: The Rise & Fall of a Moral Panic.”
Editor’s Note: Please share this post. You may also wish to read these other accounts from the Pennsylvania justice story:
- The Lying, Scheming Altar Boy on the Cover of Newsweek
- Will Fr Charles Engelhardt’s Prosecutor Take a Plea Deal?
- Trophy Justice: The Philadelphia Msgr William Lynn Case
- The Path of Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s Rolling Stone