A Report on the Vatican by the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child echoes one by Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda of the Third Reich.
In a recent TSW guest post – “The Prison of Father MacRae: A Conspiracy of Silence” – Ryan MacDonald quoted from a riveting article by Wall Street Journal columnist Dorothy Rabinowitz entitled, “On Woody Allen and Echoes of the Past” (WSJ Feb. 10, 2014). As Ryan pointed out, the article was about the tyranny of false claims of sexual abuse, and the immensely instructive impact of such claims when the accused is innocent. When there is evidence of guilt, that evidence is carefully made out by prosecutors before judges and juries. But when there is no evidence of guilt, that poses no real challenge to prosecutors in an arena in which the accusation itself is seen as evidence enough to convict and condemn, and to keep the wrongfully convicted in prison.
Many people simply do not understand that such laws exist. I am in my twentieth year in prison because New Hampshire law has a clause (RSA 632a-6) under the category of sexual assault that requires no evidence or corroboration beyond the accusation itself for a conviction. Dorothy Rabinowitz describes the uphill climb faced by defendants when wrongful convictions leave behind zero evidence to reexamine:
“Resorting to the comfortable ‘we will never know’ remains the evasion of choice for authorities in terror of acknowledging the innocence of anyone accused of the charge.”
The political ambitions of those who thwart any honest reexamination of such cases is clear. Democrat Martha Coakley was one of the District Attorneys who prosecuted – or more accurately persecuted – the Amirault family of Massachusetts in a notorious case now widely held to be based on false claims and wrongful conviction. Martha Coakley went on from that high profile case to become Attorney General, then ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate seat vacated by the late Senator Ted Kennedy. She lost that election to Scott Brown, but Martha Coakley is now running of Governor of Massachusetts.
Scott Brown, who served the remainder of Senator Kennedy’s term, has since relocated to New Hampshire where last week he launched his candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Senator Jeanne Shaheen. As New Hampshire Governor in the late 1990s, Jeanne Shaheen blocked attempts by Fox News to interview me in prison after a Fox News representative expressed an opinion that I may have been wrongfully convicted. In a 1999 letter to Fox News, Governor Shaheen wrote:
“I understand your company’s interest in an interview with Gordon MacRae, an inmate in our State Prison, however I will not intervene in the decision not to allow media access to Mr MacRae.”
“The decision not to allow media access” to someone an American news agency believed to be falsely accused and wrongfully convicted should send a chill through the spine of anyone concerned for the state of justice in America, not to mention the state of the First Amendment, and of politics.
“HUBRIS… AND UNMITTIGATED ARROGANCE”
The disturbing problem of political ambitions boosted by high profile prosecutions is not limited to American justice. The perversions of justice described by Dorothy Rabinowitz in the above article expanded it to something far more alarming that shared the same page of that day’s Wall Street Journal. “The U.N. Assault on the Catholic Church,” by Claudia Rosett (WSJ, Feb. 10, 2014) described a travesty of justice on a global scale. In a sixteen page Report issued early last month, a United Nations panel indicted and convicted the Catholic Church without investigation, without evidence, without a formal defense, and without any trial of the facts.
Claudia Rosett, is journalist-in-residence with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and heads its investigative reporting project. Clearly, she is not someone with a defensive pro-Catholic axe to grind. Her article began by exposing the charge levelled against the Holy See in a Report published Feb. 5, 2014, by the United Nations on the Rights of the Child:
“A Report on the Holy See – released by a U.N. Committee last week to much media fanfare – alleged that tens of thousands of children have been abused by Catholic Clerics and that the Vatican has helped cover it up.”
This charge by the U.N. Committee blindsided the Vatican which was given no real opportunity to offer a defense. It all sounds terribly familiar. The U.N. Report was published with no evidence whatsoever, and without a single reference, footnote, or attribution. It was described by Catholic League Bill Donohue as “one of the most ambitious power-grab efforts ever undertaken by a U.N. Committee.”
Under the guise of protecting children – a mantra historically rife with opportunities for triggering witch hunts of this magnitude – the U.N. panel called upon the Catholic Church to change Church law, to alter its moral teachings, “and to ensure the [U.N.] Convention’s precedents over [the Catholic Church’s] internal laws and regulations.” As Doctor Donohue explained in a Feb. 5, 2014, Catholic League press release, “Hubris is too mild a word to describe this unmitigated arrogance.”
While reading the U.N. Report, and the superb analysis of it by Claudia Rosett in the Wall Street Journal, I began to have such a powerful sense of déjà vu that I had to pause in my reading. I knew that I had seen all of this before, including some of the very same language of moral panic employed by the U.N. Committee. I knew I had once written about a very similar charge leveled against the Church, and so I began to scour my memory of past TSW titles.
And then I found it. In 2010 I wrote “Catholic Scandal and the Third Reich: The Rise and Fall of a Moral Panic.” Like me, you might now see in the U.N.’s Report of the Holy See a reverberating echo of this May 28, 1937, attempt to inflame the mob written and performed by Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda for the Third Reich:
“There are cases of sexual abuse that come to light every day against the Catholic clergy. Unfortunately it’s not a matter of individual cases, but a collective moral crisis that perhaps the cultural history of humanity has never before known with such a frightening and disconcerting dimension. Numerous priests and religious have confessed. There’s no doubt that the thousands of cases which have come to the attention of the justice system represent only a small fraction of the true total, given that many molesters have been covered and hidden by the hierarchy.”
I wrote of this story again, and mentioned the same speech by Joseph Goebbels, “The International Criminal Court Has Dismissed SNAP’s Last Gasp,” a July 2013 post on These Stone Walls. Don’t just read above words by Joseph Goebbels, but rather attempt to hear them in your mind. Hear the moral panic shouted out by a man bedecked in the uniform of the Third Reich, an accomplished orator, exploding such words before a fired-up mob, an enormous Swastika flowing in the breeze behind him conveying oppressive authority and power. Hear then in this way, and you will come close to what the United Nations just attempted to do to the Catholic Church – without evidence, without any gathering of truth, without context, and without justice.
After the Goebbel’s charge in 1937 Nazi Germany, hundreds of priests were rounded up and thrown in prison, in the end, after the fall of Hitler, only a tiny few were found to be actually guilty, and the moral panic orchestrated by Joseph Goebbels was widely condemned. As Adolf Hitler himself once wrote of the power of such rhetoric, “The great mass of people… will more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one” (Mein Kampf, Vol. I, ch. 10, 1925).
THE BIG LIE
Claudia Rosett brought much clarity and light to this in “The U.N. Assault on the Catholic Church.” There is no refuting that the Church has seen cases abuse by clerics, but there is also no disputing that the Holy See has spent years addressing the scandal of past handling of such cases. The big lie is not the grain of truth in the avalanche set forth by the United Nations. The big lie is that this is, or has ever been, a problem unique to the Catholic priesthood.
But Claudia Rosett exposed another big lie, one the United Nations itself continues to hide. Between 2007 and 2013, U.N. personnel – mostly among its peace-keeping forces – were accused in more than six hundred cases of sexual abuse, many of them involving minors. “But hypocrisy” Ms Rosett wrote, “is just one of the problems with this sixteen page Report on the Holy See.” The following are excerpts of just a few of the examples she presented:
“[The Report] further assails the Vatican for not subordinating itself wholesale to a much broader U.N. agenda.”
“The Report calls for the Vatican to drop its opposition to adolescent abortion and contraception, condone underage homosexuality and use its ‘authority and influence’ to disseminate world-wide a roster of U.N. views.”
“A stark example of selective reporting can be found in the committee’s most recent observations on Saudi Arabia… That Report mentioned the case of a 2002 fire at a girl’s school in Mecca in which fifteen girls died and dozens more were injured… What the [Report] did not mention was that when the school girls tried to escape the fire, Saudi Islamic morality police drove the students back into the burning building because they were not covered head-to-toe in the scarves and abbayas required in public.”
Claudia Rosett’s examples go on and on, but she missed one that I found in the WSJ Law Blog (March 17, 2009). Haitians already devastated by a massive 2010 earthquake have filed two federal law suits against the United Nations alleging that it failed to screen and train peacekeeper forces who allowed their contaminated human waste to invade Haiti’s already threatened water supply. The resulting cholera outbreak they allegedly created killed eight thousand Haitians who survived the earthquake. Many were children. In defense against the law suits, the United Nations has claimed “diplomatic immunity.” More recently, the Obama administration has spoken in support of that defense.
In an excellent article entitled “Vatican Decries U.N. Report on Clergy Abuse,” (Our Sunday Visitor, Feb. 23, 2014), Austen Ivereigh described at length that the Holy See was caught unprepared for such a one-sided and inaccurate report. In the WSJ, Claudia Rosett concluded with some well-founded advice for the Church:
“Pope Francis might want to consider that it is precisely to avoid gross intrusion by U.N. ‘experts’ that the United States signed, but never ratified, the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. This treaty has less to do with children than with political power plays, and a fitting reform at the Vatican would be to walk away from it.”
In O.S.V., however, Austen Ivereigh reported the opposite conclusion by Vatican officials who “made it clear the Holy See would remain committed to fulfilling the requirements of the treaty.” What might be the cost of that? A prominent priest and canonist – who asked not to be named – sent me his take on that cost just as the U.N. Report was published:
“Close to four hundred have been laicized in the last two years, and one blogger reminds us that… close to three thousand have been laicized since 2002. Is this what we have come to? If so, it has little to do with assisting victims, with rule of law, with morality, or even with Christian charity. How many of those priests were forced into a dispensation from their priestly obligations? How many were dismissed ex officio without concrete proof or even evidence? How many elderly priests have been thrown into a nightmare of idleness without support, without friends, and without due process? And we brag about this? We brag because we want a hostile world and an impertinent U.N. Committee to like us?”
“The Catholic clergy is collaborating with the enemies of our country in a truly treasonable manner. I could burst with rage when I think that we cannot possibly call the guilty ones to account now. We shall save our vengeance until later. . . A number of Catholic and Protestant ministers have been sentenced to death. They had offended the German armed forces in a most cowardly manner. I proposed to the Führer that the verdicts, together with the opinion of the court, be published.” ~ Joseph Goebbels, Reich Minister of Propaganda
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!