According to his website, on September 23, 2009, Father Gordon MacRae marked fifteen years in a cell in the New Hampshire State Prison. Father MacRae is 56 years old. The crimes for which he was accused and convicted are claimed to have occurred when he was between 25 and 30 years old. Brought with no evidence or corroboration whatsoever, the claims were accompanied by lawsuits settled by his Diocese for hundreds of thousands of dollars despite evidence of fraud.
In 2005, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for The Wall Street Journal published an account of the travesty of justice by which Father Gordon MacRae was convicted (“A Priest’s Story.”)
Father MacRae maintains his innocence of these crimes, and could have left prison over 12 years ago had he accepted any of the “plea deals” presented to him before trial. In the years since the panic-driven and selective release of files and other accumulated claims and demands for money – but no evidence – some began to take a closer look under the surface of the case against Father Gordon MacRae. What is found there is troubling to anyone concerned for the state of due process, justice, and liberty in America.
The late Cardinal Avery Dulles and The Rev. Richard John Neuhaus encouraged Father MacRae to write. Cardinal Dulles wrote in 2005:
“Someday your story and that of your fellow sufferers will come to light and will be instrumental in a reform. Your writing, which is clear, eloquent, and spiritually sound will be a monument to your trials.”Fr. MacRae has just written a posting entitled: “Roman Polanski, Father Marcial Maciel, and the Eye of the Beholder.” If you haven’t time to read his comments in their entireity here are some paragraphs which I find thought provoking.
"Consider this picture: the international film industry along with media and political figures throughout Europe have rallied around Roman Polanski declaring that he has suffered exponentially for his ancient offenses. and insisting that “justice” would be served only by his freedom from the tyranny of the American justice system and its focus on revenge. Meanwhile, Cardinal Sodano and a host of others are on the verge of being blacklisted in the Catholic Church for their past associations with Father Maciel, known, postmortem, for a pattern of moral failures.
What would be the media response if it was the Vatican, and not the government of Switzerland, refusing to extradite the accused in a thirty year old claim? Do you think that would merit a two-inch editorial buried in The Boston Globe?
Jason Berry “exposed” in 1988 the very same sex abuse claims, secret archives, and cover-ups by bishops that he and others claimed to expose again in 1994 and again in 2002. Mr. Berry appeared on “Geraldo” with Attorney Jeffrey Anderson who, as I pointed out in “Catholic Scandal and the News Media,” has vowed to “sue the sh–” out of the Catholic Church “everywhere.” But for Jason Berry, of course, guilt by association applies in only one direction.
Ryan MacDonald posted a thoughtful comment on the First Things website in response to Joseph Bottum’s “The Cost of Father Maciel.” Ryan raised another important point. Father Marcial Maciel was the subject of investigation after investigation that went on for years – even decades. He never had any shortage of detractors ready to stand up and allege any number of moral failures attributed to him. Father Maciel survived all these investigations until the bitter end when he was “invited to lead a reserved life of prayer and penitence.”
How is it, then, that only after Father Maciel’s death – when he is no longer here to answer for any of it – does “solid” evidence surface to defame him, his work, his order, and now even his known associates like Cardinal Sodano?
I cannot help but wonder what the true agenda is in the one-sided, postmortem, and shocking revelations in the story of Father Marcial Maciel. There was a hint of this agenda in a long, well-researched article by Alma Guillermoprieto who writes on Latin America for the New York Review of Books (”The Mission of Father Maciel,” June 24, 2010). Guillermoprieto cited Jason Berry’s long investigations of Maciel as one of her primary sources, but nowhere in the long article did she even mention Cardinal Sodano.
In the article, Father Maciel is accused of any number of moral failures from plagiarism to fathering children only to sexually abuse them. The writer, however, at least pointed out in a footnote that some of the most serious testimony about Maciel has been “tarnished somewhat by the revelation that [the accusers] had earlier demanded millions of dollars from the Legionaries of Christ in exchange for their silence.”
In the world in which I now live, that’s called “extortion” and it’s a crime.
But Ms. Guillermoprieto raised a target beyond money. She went to great lengths to point out repeatedly that Father Maciel founded “the most morally conservative” order in the modern Church. not to mention “the distressing question of the Church’s last pope, the popular John Paul II and his relations with the demonic priest.”
Perhaps the true target isn’t Father Maciel at all, or even the Legionaries of Christ.
Consider this picture: the international film industry along with media and political figures throughout Europe have rallied around Roman Polanski declaring that he has suffered exponentially for his ancient offenses. and insisting that “justice” would be served only by his freedom from the tyranny of the American justice system and its focus on revenge. Meanwhile, Cardinal Sodano and a host of others are on the verge of being blacklisted in the Catholic Church for their past associations with Father Maciel, known, postmortem, for a pattern of moral failures.
There is something wrong with this picture. And there is one ominous figure who is taking it all in from his place in the shadows, having the laugh of his long, dark life. As I wrote in ‘The Eighth Commandment,” the climb upward for those falsely accused is very steep. I know all too well “The Cost of Father Maciel” for he has made my climb all the more treacherous.
Joseph Bottum mentioned in passing Father Richard John Neuhaus’ misinformed (but in my opinion, courageous) giving of the benefit of doubt to Father Maciel when they both lived. Without real evidence – and there was none then – it’s what Christians are supposed to do. Father Neuhaus gave that same benefit of doubt to me. I miss his courage, and the sense of justice that came with it."
Some few people on an RC related blog have construed this posting to mean any one of several things:
That I wholeheartedly agree with all of Fr. MacRae's comments, or
That I am seeking to defend Fr. Maciel, or
That I do not condemn Fr. Maciel for his heinous behavior, or
That I do not feel outrage for what Fr. Maciel did to his victims and that - somehow - I do not support the victims.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Let me re-state my feeling on the Maciel scandal:
Because of what I now know about Fr. Maciel, I despise him and the awful fraud he perpetrated. The notion of the abuse is repugnant, and I repudiate him. I fully accept the Vatican statement of May 1, 2010 which (for the first time) clearly enunciated the sentiments and findings of the Vatican following the Visitation of the the Legionaries of Christ.
I think Fr. MacRae's case is a compelling one. I do not know whether he is guilty of the crimes he is in jail for or not. However, precisely because of his current circumstances I think he offers a different and unique perspective which deserves to be heard. The fact that he may not have all the details straight is not the point - he is in jail. It is the mark of an open mind to be able to entertain a conflicting thought without accepting it. Minds, as someone once said, are like parachutes. They only work when they are open.