At the time when Our Lord was hanging on the Cross, no one realized that His human suffering began to reach every corner of human history just like sunlight has reached all men in every age. The Cross taught us that suffering and death are nothing before the love of God that conquers all things and makes them subjects to divine power. God loved us first and He made it so that through His wounds we could be healed.
Years later a Christian writer would teach his flock to remain in that love, the love that connects all the members of the Church through space and time: “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” (Hebrews 13:3)
From the beginning of the Church, the Lord has permitted his followers to suffer just like He suffered. In some cases he gives the choicest splinters of the Cross to some of His favorite children. I understand that is the case with Fr. Gordon MacRae, a good and innocent man who has been carrying a cross for many years. This is a grave injustice. It is also very difficult to understand how it could have happened.
Falsely accused of a crime he did not commit, Fr. MacRae is one of those just that had to pay in his body the faults of other sinners, just as Christ did. No different from any other Catholic priest, Fr. MacRae dedicated his life to be alter Christus, another Christ in the service of the Church. Jesus prepared for him a special sacrifice that led him to be falsely accused and condemned without mercy just like His Master.
Just a few weeks ago I discovered an article in The Wall Street Journal presented by Dorothy Rabinowitz, a prestigious columnist, winner of the Pulitzer Prize. There she says: “Those aware of the facts of this case find it hard to imagine that any court today would ignore the perversion of justice it represents.”
Three months before the article was published a State Court in New Hampshire rejected an appeal to review the case without even hearing any witness, without considering the merits of the appeal, and without looking at the evidence of grave violations of Fr. MacRae’s rights. In time there was an appeal to the State Supreme Court whose judges rejected the appeal as well, refusing to hear the case.
Many of us in the so-called “Third World” look up to the United States of America as a model of what the administration of justice should be. While it is true that the United States has managed better than other countries to balance the interplay of state powers, we also must admit that those virtues have been shadowed by grievous errors like the justification of slavery, segregation, and lately of murder by abortion. Today I present the case of an innocent man, Fr. Gordon MacRae, who has spent the last twenty years in prison unjustly condemned in circumstances that would cause any Stalinist magistrate of the former Soviet Union to blush. Someone with a well-known criminal record accused Fr. MacRae, an American citizen with full rights. The justice of New Hampshire found the priest guilty through a process no less infamous than those seen in the tribunals of any banana republic.
Many reading this far may imagine that I am moved to defend Fr. MacRae because I am emotionally moved to help a fallen priest. There is no such thing. My position is well known regarding monsters like Marcial Maciel Degollado and other similar perverts. My contempt for them and for those who knowingly defend them is no secret. What moves me to act today is not unexamined sympathy but the evident injustice that is plain to see when the facts of this case are honestly considered with common sense.
Robert Rosenthal appealed to the Supreme Court of New Hampshire with these words:
“In what the petitioner asserts has been revealed as a scam to obtain a cash settlement from the Catholic church, Tom Grover, a drug addict, alcoholic and criminal, accused Father Gordon MacRae of molesting him years before. Grover’s civil suit – featuring MacRae’s conviction – earned him nearly $200,000. No witnesses to the alleged acts could be found, despite that they were to have occurred in busy places. Grover’s claims were contradicted by objective facts (e.g., inoperable locks that he claimed worked, acts in an office to which MacRae did not have access, claims about a chess set that had not [yet] been purchased).”
Thomas Grover, the accuser of Fr. MacRae, declared that the priest abused him on at least four different occasions. He adds that he returned four times to the place where the alleged abuse happened having forgotten completely about those violations as soon as he was out the door. The access door to the parish office where Fr. MacRae worked is in full view of a throughway, perfectly visible to other offices nearby. In a recently published article, journalist Ryan A. MacDonald affirms: “This doorway was the busiest place in or around Saint Bernard Parish in the 1980s.” Yet no one saw Thomas Grover go in or out of that place. No one saw him near the window under which the alleged abuse happened. That window can be clearly seen from other buildings besides being in full view of the public walking the town’s main street. Thomas Grover, by then 27 years old and a well known criminal, suddenly remembered in 1994 to have been violated four times during the summer of 1983. Grover explains his returning to the place where he was allegedly abused saying that post-traumatic stress syndrome made him completely block the painful memories of the abuse until he remembered them many years later. Perhaps the juicy settlements the Church was paying helped him refresh his memory. A significant part of Grover’s witness does not coincide with the circumstance and the places where Fr. MacRae was working in 1983.
In the midst of this extraordinary process, his brother priests that could have testified in his favor deserted Fr. MacRae. Then his pastor, the Bishop of the Diocese of Manchester, turned away from him. No one wanted these false accusations to smear them, the parish or the diocese. Fr. MacRae was abandoned to his fate.
Catholics cannot in good conscience allow this injustice to stand. This is an appeal for us to fulfill the apostolic counsel in Hebrews 13:3. That includes the present Bishop of Manchester, New Hampshire and the state authorities whose responsibility includes the review of cases like this. Donations are also needed to fund Fr. MacRae’s defense so that he can continue to afford good legal representation.
The community of New Hampshire also has the obligation to fairly revisit this case. A long time has passed since the time of the Witch Trials in that part of the world. Fr. MacRae’s case does not make New Hampshire look good before the world and other member states of the Union. It is very important that the USCCB and our Holy Father in Rome remember that the policy of “open wallets” is a temptation for many criminals to cause more damage to the Church by raising false witness against innocent priests. I believe that we are trying to fix error with more error. The trust and the alms of the faithful are not being well administered by our bishops.
Barabbas is gone, Judas has received his thirty silver coins: Behold the man, Gordon MacRae! Bishops of the Church: What do we do with him?
Visit Fr. MacRae’s blog HERE.
Published 26 October 2013.