Saturday, August 20, 2011

Father Gordon MacRae - Scaling the Walls of Injustice

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.


  1. Mary, thank you for writing this. Since this happened in your hometown so to speak, I got a different perspective from the other articles I had previously read. Thanks to you I am re-reading many of the articles I read a while back. I cannot even begin to imagine how Father Gordon was able to endure so many years of this miscarriage of justice unless he abandoned his self to God's will which is evidently the case. Thanks for letting others know about the Novena. God bless.

  2. As you can probably guess I have a lot more to say on this matter but I am limited in the amount of time I can post lately. That a man is imprisoned basically for life on such flimsy evidence boggles my mind. I have great difficulty believing that a teenager would keep going back (of his own volition) to see Father MacRae if he was experiencing the abuse he claimed was happening. And there are a lot bigger inconsistencies than that which trouble me. The police report is very deceiving - it's filled with a lot of muck that sounds good if you are trying to convict somebody but talk and conjecture is not true evidence. N.H. is a tough state when it comes to trials anyway. A man is supposed to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. I don't see that often here. I have read a number of articles from the newspapers in NH and Mass. about Fr. MacRae and they seemed to be heavily biased and exaggerated - the point being to sell papers and not so much concern about a man's possible innocence.

  3. Mary,
    I have been following Fr. Gordon's story and blog since he started TSW. I came across the case through another blogger. At first I had the same sort of knee jerk reactions you did, but then upon further reading, like you, realized there were too many inconsistencies to be ignored. Also the fact that he had the backing of the late Cardinal Dulles and Fr. Richard Neuhaus, both prominent and well respected during their lives, also lent some credibility to his claims of innocence. His story is what led me to become a spiritual mother to priests.
    While what is happening to him is unjust, he is allowing God to work through him in prison. He has had tremendous positive influence on several men there and his blog affects the many who read it.
    I will join you in this novena beginning on Monday. You should mail him this blog post. (Just my humble opinion and suggestion)
    Thanks for having the courage to write this.

  4. Karin,
    It wasn't easy tossing aside my biased views at first. Even our local paper carried a number of articles about the crisis in the Church and at least once devoted a whole section of the paper on this issue. It was hard to not have a slanted perspective on the crisis because of how hard our state was hit by this, my city included. Still, once I started digging into Fr. MacRae's story I realized something fishy was going on here. I read through the PD files, pored through tons of AG Documents, read newspaper archives and various articles online about his case. It was the police report that first made me really begin to consider his innocence as well as some of the letters I came across in the documents online. I also read his affidavit and have been visiting his site which I recently added to my sidebar.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts here. I wasn't going to post about Fr. MacRae until after school started and my time was freed up a bit more but I when I saw that a Novena for him was starting on Monday I decided to put this up in hopes that more people would join in.

    Someone is already sending this post to him :) God bless you, Karin.


  5. A link to this post was sent to me, and I'm very glad to see this. I have long researched this case, and like many others I have come to the conclusion that Fr. MacRae was treated unjustly by both civil and Church authorities. There is a reason why the state of NH tried to make this case go away by attempting to force a deal with a one year sentence. There is something truly ugly under the surface, and you have just scratched the tip of its iceberg. I recently wrote a post of my own that juxtaposes nicely with yours. Here is the link:

  6. Mary,
    Thanks for this post! I have been drawn to pray for Fr. MacRae and am so glad to join you in a novena for him. This is the best part of blogging, praying together.

  7. Yes, I've read your post and was glad to see it. There's something "rotten" about this entire case and I can smell it too. Hopefully others will read your post and consider the possibility that an innocent man may be in prison. I'll place a link to your site in my sidebar and maybe some of my fellow bloggers and local readers will see it.

    No doubt I've barely scratched the surface so if you have any other links that you feel may shed more light on Father's case please let me know. Thank you for commenting.

  8. Thanks, Kathryn! I'm glad you'll be joining in! Prayer can move mountains and even stone walls if need be.

  9. I think his refusal to plead guilty and get a "deal" speaks volumes, too.

  10. Maria,
    I was on your blog while you were on mine :) I just left you a comment too.

    Thanks for commenting on this post. Many people don't like to touch this subject with a ten foot pole but if there's an innocent man in prison we should do what we can. Nothing is impossible for God. Nothing.

    You are in my prayers, Maria.