Seems strange to write a post about a priest imprisoned for sexual abuse of a minor a few days after posting about Diane and my horror of crimes of this nature but after pondering it for a while I came to the conclusion that the timing is actually perfect. Truth trumps emotions every time. Regarding the bizzarre case of Father MacRae, I had to throw out my leanings toward those suffering from the effects of abuse and try to look at his case through the eyes of truth... wherever this might lead. And it led me to some strange places indeed.
You cannot live in N.H. and not be aware of the sexual abuse scandal in the Church. This state was hit hard by it. When I first heard about Father MacRae many years ago I automatically assumed that this man was guilty of the charges against him. After all, he was tried by a jury of his own peers, wasn't he? Surely no one would convict an innocent man, would they? I really didn't give his particular case much more thought after this, other than to be relieved that a pedophile was off of our streets and in prison where he belonged.
Until last year. I started coming across articles about Father MacRae proclaiming his innocence of the charges levied against him. I ignored them for the most part but a niggling little doubt about his guilt planted its seed in my brain and I couldn't quite shake it for some reason. I visited his blog These Stone Walls a few times but that was the extent of my interest at the time. Many guilty people claim innocence. As a matter of fact, it seemed to me that when it came to being accused of a crime, unless they were caught red-handed, MOST people claim innocence. So I kept pushing the "little niggling doubt" to the back of my mind.
It kept returning. I started praying for him and I started thinking more and more about this priest imprisoned 30 minutes away from my home and decided to do some research about his case. I didn't want to start by going through his blog because I didn't want to be biased one way or the other. I tried to clear my mind of any preconceived notions of his guilt so that I could look at the facts of his case honestly, as if this was information I was reading for the first time. I read a number of newspaper articles and posts by other bloggers but, as convincing as some of these sounded, they still didn't tell me enough about his case. Life works in a funny way though. One day I decided to read his police files and, oddly enough, these very files that damned him so much in the eyes of others had the opposite effect on me...I started to become convinced of his innocence. There was something wrong with the report and right from the start I picked up on it. It became apparent before I was even midway through the report that the officer in charge had no interest in the truth. In his mind he had already condemned this man and was zealously searching for any little bit of dirt he could find on Fr. MacRae regardless of whether that "dirt" had substance or not. It almost seemed as if this officer was pushing the boys interviewed into making comments on the "queerness" of Father MacRae and often putting two and two together and coming up with five. (I'll write a bit more about this in a future post.) I found his manner of investigating very disturbing to say the least. There was little to no regard to the possibility that this man could be innocent. This really bugged me because truth is important to me and a man's honor, good name, and freedom were at stake here. Impartiality is a must when it comes to something so serious. I regretted my own assumption of his guilt when I first heard about him... though in my case I assumed the police department, the state, his defense, and the jury had all done their jobs with the integrity necessary when a man's freedom is at stake. My mistake. The more I read about Fr. MacRae's case the more I see what a travesty of justice the investigation and the trial were. That the Church basically "washed their hands clean" of him distressed me even more. "What is truth?" It began to remind me of Pontius Pilate washing his hands of the matter of Jesus' guilt or innocence and "handing Him over to the crowds". We all know what happened after that. An innocent man was crucified.
What is truth? I know the "Who" of truth but have not completely learned the what of it. I do, however, know what truth is not:
Truth does not twist information until it fits your own "take" on the matter.
Truth does not abandon a man to his own fate during his time of deepest need.
Please join me and my fellow bloggers in a Novena for Father MacRae starting this Monday, August 22nd and let us also ask Jesus to send the light of HIS truth and mercy upon Father MacRae and all involved in his case.