Sunday, October 18, 2015

In the Absence of Fathers: A Story of Elephants and Men

Are committed fathers an endangered species in our culture? Fr. Gordon MacRae draws a troubling corollary between absent fathers and burgeoning prisons.
Wade Horn, Ph.D., President of the National Fatherhood Initiative, had an intriguing article entitled “Of Elephants and Men” in a recent issue of  Fatherhood Today magazine. I found Dr. Horn’s story about young elephants to be simply fascinating, and you will too. It was sent to me by a TSW reader who wanted to know if there is any connection between the absence of fathers and the shocking growth of the American prison population.
Some years ago, officials at the Kruger National Park and game reserve in South Africa were faced with a growing elephant problem. The population of African elephants, once  endangered, had grown larger than the park could sustain. So measures had to be taken to thin the ranks. A plan was devised to relocate some of the elephants to other African game reserves. Being enormous creatures, elephants are not easily transported.  So a special harness was created to air-lift the elephants and fly them out of the park using helicopters.
The helicopters were up to the task, but, as it turned out, the harness wasn’t. It could handle the juvenile and adult female elephants, but not the huge African bull elephants. A quick solution had to be found, so a decision was made to leave the much larger bulls at Kruger and relocate only some of the female elephants and juvenile males.
The problem was solved. The herd was thinned out, and all was well at Kruger National Park. Sometime later, however, a strange problem surfaced at South Africa’s other game reserve, Pilanesburg National Park, the younger elephants’ new home.
Rangers at Pilanesburg began finding the dead bodies of endangered white rhinoceros. At  first, poachers were suspected, but the huge rhinos had not died of gunshot wounds, and their precious horns were left intact. The rhinos appeared to be killed violently, with deep puncture wounds. Not much in the wild can kill a rhino, so rangers set up hidden cameras throughout the park.
The result was shocking. The culprits turned out to be marauding bands of aggressive juvenile male elephants, the very elephants relocated from Kruger National Park a few years earlier. The young males were caught on camera chasing down the rhinos, knocking them over, and stomping and goring them to death with their tusks. The juvenile elephants were terrorizing other animals in the park as well. Such behavior was very rare among elephants. Something had gone terribly wrong.
Marauding Elephants
Some of the park rangers settled on a theory. What had been missing from the relocated herd was the presence of the large dominant bulls that remained at Kruger. In natural circumstances, the adult bulls provide modeling behaviors for younger elephants, keeping them in line.
Juvenile male elephants, Dr. Horn pointed out, experience “musth,” a state of frenzy triggered by mating season and increases in testosterone. Normally, dominant bulls manage and contain the testosterone-induced frenzy in the younger males. Left without elephant modeling, the rangers theorized, the younger elephants were missing the civilizing influence of their elders as nature and pachyderm protocol intended.
To test the theory, the rangers constructed a bigger and stronger harness, then flew in some of the older bulls left behind at Kruger. Within weeks, the bizarre and violent behavior of the juvenile elephants stopped completely. The older bulls let them know that their behaviors were not elephant-like at all. In a short time, the younger elephants were following the older and more dominant bulls around while learning how to be elephants.
In his terrific article, “Of Elephants and Men,” Dr. Wade Horn went on to write of a story very similar to that of the elephants, though it happened not in Africa, but in New York’s Central Park. The story involved young men, not young elephants, but the details were eerily close. Groups of young men were caught on camera sexually harassing and robbing women and victimizing others in the park. Their herd mentality created a sort of frenzy that was both brazen and contagious. In broad daylight, they seemed to compete with each other, even laughing and mugging for the cameras as they assaulted and robbed passersby. It was not, in any sense of the term, the behavior of civilized men.
Appalled by these assaults, citizens demanded a stronger and more aggressive police presence. Dr. Horn asked a more probing question. “Where have all the fathers gone?” Simply increasing the presence of police everywhere a crime is possible might assuage some political pressure, but it does little to identify and solve the real social problem behind the brazen Central Park assaults. It was the very same problem that victimized rhinos in that park in Africa. The majority of the young men hanging around committing those crimes in Central Park grew up in homes without fathers present.
That is not an excuse. It is a social problem that has a direct correlation with their criminal behavior. They were not acting like men because their only experience of modeling the behaviors of men had been taught by their peers and not by their fathers. Those who did have fathers had absent fathers, clearly preoccupied with something other than being role models for their sons. Wherever those fathers were, they were not in Central Park.
Dr. Horn pointed out that simply replacing fathers with more police isn’t a solution. No matter how many police are hired and trained, they will quickly be outnumbered if they assume the task of both investigating crime and preventing crime. They will quickly be outnumbered because  presently in our culture, two out of every five young men are raised in fatherless homes, and that disparity is growing faster as traditional family systems break down throughout the Western world.
Real men protect the vulnerable, not assault them. Growing up having learned that most basic tenet of manhood is the job of fathers, not the police. Dr. Horn cited a quote from a young Daniel Patrick Moynihan written some forty years ago:
“From the wild Irish slums of the 19th Century Eastern Seaboard to the riot-torn suburbs of Los Angeles, there is one unmistakable lesson in American history:  A community that allows a large number of young men to grow up in broken homes, dominated by women, never acquiring any stable relationship to male authority, never acquiring any rational expectations for the future – that community asks for and gets chaos.”
It’s easy in the politically correct standards of today to dismiss such a quote as chauvinistic. But while we’re arguing that point, our society’s young men are being tossed away by the thousands into prison systems that swallow them up. Once in prison, this system is very hard to leave behind. The New Hampshire prison system just released a dismal report two weeks ago. Of 1,095 prisoners released in 2007, over 500 were back in prison by 2010.  Clearly, the loss of freedom does not compensate for the loss of fathers in managing the behavior of young men.
There is very little that happens in the punishment model of prison life that teaches a better way to a young man who has broken the law. The proof of that is all around us, but – especially in an election year – getting anyone to take a good hard look inside a prison seems impossible. We live in a disposable culture, and when our youth are a problem, we simply do what we do best. We dispose of them, sometimes forever. Anyone who believes that punishment, and nothing but punishment, is an effective deterrent of criminal behavior in the young is left to explain why our grotesquely expensive prisons have a 50 percent recidivism rate.
As I have written before, the United States has less than five percent of the world’s population, but twenty-five percent of the world’s prisoners. The U.S. has more young men in prison today than all of the leading 35 European countries combined. The ratio of prisoners to citizens in the U.S. is four times what it is in Israel, six times what it is in Canada and China, and thirteen times what it is in Japan. The only governments with higher per capita rates of prisoners are in Third World countries, and even they are only slightly higher.
For a nation struggling with its racial inequities, the prison system is a racial disaster. Currently, young men of African-American and Latino descent comprise 30 percent of our population, but 60 percent of our prison population. But prison isn’t itself an issue that falls conveniently along racial divides.
New Hampshire, where I have spent the last eighteen years in prison, is one of the whitest states in the United States, and yet it is first in the nation not only in its Presidential Primary election, but in prison growth. Between 1980 and 2005, New Hampshire’s state population grew by 34 percent. In that same period, its prison population grew by a staggering 600 percent with no commensurate increase in crime rate.
In an election year, politicizing prisons is just counter-productive and nothing will ever really change. Albert R. Hunt of Bloomberg News had a recent op-ed piece in  The New York Times (“A Country of Inmates,” November 20, 2011) in which he decried the election year politics of prisons.
“This issue [of prison growth] almost never comes up with Republican presidential candidates; one of the few exceptions was a debate in September when audiences cheered the notion of executions in Texas.”
This may be so, but it’s the very sort of political blaming that undermines real serious and objective study of our national prison problem. I am not a Republican or a Democrat, but in fairness I should point out that the current Democratic governor of New Hampshire has but one plan for this State’s overcrowded and ever growing prison system: build a bigger prison somewhere. And as far as executions are concerned, the overwhelmingly Republican state Legislature in New Hampshire voted overwhelmingly to overturn the state’s death penalty ten years ago. Governor Jeanne Shaheen (now U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen), a Democrat, vetoed the repeal saying that this State “needs a death penalty.”
But for me, the most mindless politics of all are those of groups like Voice of the Faithful, obsessed with the “survivors” of priestly misconduct – both real and feigned – from 30, 40, or 50 years ago. But they have absolutely nothing to say about the thousands of young men dumped annually into prison systems from which they emerge with little hope of ever recovering from what they encounter there. How can anyone claim to protect young people while ignoring that? Perhaps the VOTF people concerned for youth at the hands of priests would do well to read Jeremy’s comment posted awhile back on These Stone Walls.Gordon-MacRae-Falsely-Accused-Priest-Land-of-Nod-East-of-Eden
Eighty percent of the young men I have met in prison grew up in homes without fathers. The problem seems clear. When prisons and police replace fathers, chaos reigns, and promising young lives are sacrificed.
Before we close the door on Father’s Day this year, let’s revisit whether we’re prepared for the chaos of a fatherless America. “Fathers” and “Fatherhood” are concepts with 1,932 direct references in the Old and New Testaments. Without a doubt, fatherhood has long been on the mind of God.

Monday, April 27, 2015


                                                     By Charlene C. Duline

Father Gordon J. MacRae

“Why say it twice?”  That is one of Father Gordon’s favorite expressions. He was ready to respond to his attorneys after being notified of Judge Joseph LaPlante’s decision on Father’s Habeas Corpus petition. I was anxious to know what the judge said and when I asked, his response was, “Why say it twice?” He began dictating.  With the first few words I knew the decision.  Still, it came as a blow.  As he dictated, I felt my tears welling up, and then they were flowing down my face and I couldn’t see what I was typing, but my fingers knew the keys.  I could not believe what I was hearing. Suddenly I blurted out, “The court is going to make you stay in prison until you die?!” I could not help it.  He said I had to stay strong in order to help him.  And now he had to make a decision about whether to continue to appeal or not.  One attorney, an old friend of his, cautioned that his funds were too short to continue.  Another attorney felt that they had to soldier on, and he was already preparing.  When Fr Gordon asked my opinion, I said “You can’t give up now! We’ll get the money somehow.” 

 These attorneys, mind you, had kept Fr Gordon silenced for years when the media wanted to interview him.  PBS wanted to interview him a few years ago and the Department of Corrections said “No,” and his attorneys agreed. Several media outlets wanted interviews and while Fr Gordon was always agreeable, the attorneys refused. They didn’t want his appeal to be heard in the court of public opinion.  Finally, a priest, Father James Valladares, was allowed into the prison for an hours long interview with Fr Gordon in preparation for a documentary film he was producing.  As he searched for funding, Father Valladares wrote a book about priests, “Hope Springs Eternal in the Priestly Breast.”

Philip Seymour Hoffman, the actor who had agreed to be the voice in the film, caused some excitement in the MacRae camp, and then we learned of his sudden death. He would have been superb. It seems that every day Fr Gordon and those who work with him relearn the Murphy’s Law that says if anything can go wrong, it damn sure will!

When Father MacRae was accused, his diocese was as helpful as a can of grease in a kitchen fire . . . as it continues to be.  Shortly before his trial, the diocese issued a press release stating he was guilty, and all potential jurors read that and believed it.  We have the dishonorable Monsignor Edward Arsenault to thank for that since at that time he was in charge of the diocese while Bishop McCormack simply followed his lead.  Recently Msgr. Arsenault was arrested and convicted of stealing from the estate of a dead priest, and for embezzling funds from his former diocese to wine, dine, and travel with his male lover.  Bishop Libasci said everything would be out in the open; he promised to laicize Arsenault immediately.  Well, guess what? Arsenault is lounging in a country jail (not prison) and will be released very soon to "home arrest."  He will also be welcomed back to a diocese in the area to continue his mockery of the Catholic Church and his vows. 

Judge Arthur Brennan who sentenced Fr Gordon to this life sentence still believes that he did the right thing.  Still, I wonder if he ever asks himself if he could have been wrong in ignoring the psychotherapist who would motion from the back of the courtroom when Thomas Grover was to pretend to sob and be unable to answer a question.  Does he ask himself if he erred is not letting Fr Gordon speak in his own behalf? Does he ever wonder about the motive of the hulking man who accused Fr Gordon, a man who battered his wife, who was a drug and alcohol addict, who had no job and would have done anything for a monetary windfall? 

Msgr. Edward Arsenault being led to prison - Fr MacRae  - Judge Arthur Brennan being arrested in D.C. 

And now comes the learned Judge Joseph LaPlante.  Judge LaPlante is a Catholic so stellar that the Catholic Lawyers Guild in 2012 presented him its St. Thomas More Award.  “The award is given to a judge or lawyer who is a practicing Catholic and embodies St. Thomas More's spirit of courage, dedication, integrity, civility and compassion toward others.”  It is my opinion that Judge LaPlante showed none of those characteristics during Fr Gordon’s appeal. I didn’t expect him to be a bleeding heart, but I did expect him to clearly see the problem of this man being sentenced to 108 years in prison for a crime that never happened.  Instead, the judge declined to hear the merits of the case and refused to hear the witnesses. The courts of New Hampshire seem determined to wear down the sources of money for Fr Gordon to continue to appeal.  It takes thousands of dollars for each appeal.  The State can refuse to hear his case over and over; it’s no cost to them.  Remember early on Fr Gordon was told by a New Hampshire lawyer:  “New Hampshire courts have never overturned a conviction based on actual innocence and they are not about to start now.”  Such is justice in the “Live Free or Die State”!

If it wasn’t for bad luck, Fr Gordon would have had no luck from the day he was ordained.  The night before his Ordination, the other deacon who was to be ordained, decided to quit.  Fr Gordon had a lot of bad luck when he was sent to parishes that had problems as well as problem priests. In 1985 Father Stephen Scruton was assigned as pastor to the St. Bernard Parish in Keene, NH where Fr Gordon was an associate pastor.  Fr Gordon discovered that Scruton – I have dubbed him the Teflon Priest – was into pornography and young boys.  Father Scruton had been arrested in New Hampshire and Massachusetts and charged with indecent exposure and lewd conduct. The parish was abuzz about Scruton’s previous arrests, and he managed to alienate some by his arrogance.  Shortly after his arrival, Fr Gordon began getting complaints from parishioners about Scruton’s sexual innuendoes and improper language.  Young males began complaining about him.  Fr. Gordon called Msgr. Christian who told him to address these matters with Fr Scruton.  He did, and Scruton denied the accusationsFr Gordon was fresh out of the seminary,  had confronted the Teflon pastor, and now he is told by his superiors to handle the situation.  The cowards who headed the diocese simply washed their hands of both priests and didn't want to hear any bad news.   

  “By the summer of 1986 the rectory situation had become unbearable.  Father Scruton was incommunicative and would leave the rectory almost every evening, stay out all night, and then sleep for most of the day.”  (  Fr Gordon had several confrontations with the Teflon Priest – one involved fisticuffs -  who finally and reluctantly, got rid of his pornography, and transferred from the parish.  The Teflon Priest figured prominently a few years later when he headed another parish.  Scruton was away on vacation in Ireland when a disturbed young man and his girlfriend invaded the rectory and demanded to see the pastor.  A priest from another parish was called and he, the parish secretary and her son were held hostage for most of the day.  The priest saved the secretary and her son by helping them escape out of a window.  Eventually the young man killed the priest, his girlfriend and himself. Whatever beef he had with Fr  Scruton was kept from the public by the governor, a friend of Scruton, who ordered the case sealed. The Teflon Priest lived to cause more contention.   

Scruton promised to testify for Fr Gordon, and insisted that he did not need to be subpoenaed.  Instead he fled the state for several years.  Perhaps his testimony might have helped Fr Gordon had Scruton simply told the truth, but he chose to flee instead.  A few years later when Scruton returned to NH, Fr. Gordon's FBI investigator contacted him and arranged to to interview him.  The Teflon Priest  agreed to meet with him, but when the investigator got to his house, Scruton had changed his mind and refused to see him.  Another man in the house was heard urging Scruton to talk to the investigate, but he adamantly refused.  Later Scruton fell down some stairs and died after a few days in the  hospital. The Diocese of Manchester protected this priest who was, and who remains, the cause of much of Fr Gordon's troubles.

From the lying and conniving Keene Detective James McLaughlin, to the hulking Thomas Grover, now hiding out on an Indian reservation in the West, and his brothers who also tried to milk the Diocese of Manchester for money after seeing their brother receive nearly $200,000, to the original Judge Arthur Brennan, who kept much testimony out of court that would have helped Fr. Gordon, to the prosecutors who twice offered Fr Gordon plea deals ranging from two - three years, to the Teflon Priest who left this Earth after molesting hundreds of young boys, and no one in the Diocese of Manchester was prepared to deal with him except for Fr Gordon, to those who believe in Fr Gordon and who contribute to his defense fund, to the who love him, and yes, even to those who are doing their best to see that he spends the rest of his life in prison (SNAP, VOTF to name a few), to all the many who have ever interacted with Fr Gordon - let us hold Fr Gordon in our hears and in our prayers.  We are blessed for having known this man who is destined to become a saint.  

We are all so weak, and we shed tears not only because this good man is being held prisoner while innocent, but because our Church, his Church, the Roman Catholic Church (Bishop John McCormack) cowers and would rather try secretly to have him laicized after telling at least two people that he believed Father Gordon to be innocent.  How can he live with himself and celebrate Masses with this huge black blot on his soul? It makes one wonder what kind of bishops do we have? Bishop McCormack is certainly not reflecting the spiritual values that Pope Francis demands of his priests.

Father Gordon has been deserted by his bishop, but not by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ..He will be welcomed into Paradise whenever he leaves this Earth. It is important that we help this priest, truly one of God's own.

God is good.  All the time.  All the time God is good. Amen.
Why not say it twice?

Father Gordon has been deserted by his/our  Church, but we know that he will be welcomed into  Paradise by our Lord

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Welcome to Drinking From the Saucer...Cause My Cup Has Overflowed...

Drinking From the Saucer

Welcome to Drinking from the Saucer

About the Book
Book Reviews
Sample Chapter
Welcome to Drinking from the Saucer
“As I go along my journey I’ve reaped more than I’ve sowed. I’m drinking from the saucer ‘cause my cup has overflowed.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Charlene C. Duline

Peace Corps Volunteer, Peru
United Nations International Secretary, New York City and East Pakistan
Verbatim Reporter, Organization for Economic Development & Cooperation (OECD), Paris, France
Public Affairs Trainee, Haiti
Cultural Affairs Officer, Tanzania

Chief, Africa Branch, Office of International Visitors, Washington, DC
Administered a $4.2 million budget for 47 Sub-Saharan countries and six North African countries. Managed staff of eight and supervised six private sector institutions in designing, developing, and implementing individual programs for 600 visitors yearly.

Cultural Affairs Officer, Panama
Directed all educational and cultural exchanges, including the Fulbright and Humphrey Scholar Exchange Programs, American speakers program, and library facilities; managed staff of seven, working in a country whose government the U.S. did not recognize.

Public Affairs Officer, Swaziland
Director of all USIA programs, including managing cultural center, library, educational and cultural exchanges, media activities, principal speech writer and public affairs advisor to the ambassador; U.S. Embassy spokesperson; managed staff of ten.

Information Officer, Liberia
Designed and directed all media programs supporting U.S. interests in Liberia during period following a violent coup in the country, wrote speeches for ambassador and visiting U.S. dignitaries, press releases, and toasts for official banquets, and coordinated all U.S. and Liberian media activities during the official visit of Liberian Head of State Samuel K. Doe to the U.S. at the invitation of President Ronald Reagan; managed staff of six.

M.S., International Public Policy, Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced
International Studies, Washington, DC
B.A. Journalism/Political Science, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN

Volunteer Activities

Prison Ministry
Animal Handler, Indianapolis Zoo
Mentor, OASIS
Eucharistic Minister at St. Monica Parish, Indiana Women’s Prison, St. Vincent Hospital
Investigator, Child Advocates Mentor, U.S. Information Agency
Content copyright 2010-2015. Drinking from the Saucer. All rights reserved.

About the Book

This book is the first from a black woman who had the privilege to serve humanity in two different worlds. First, black women are few in number in the Foreign Service, and few, if any, have been Peace Corps volunteers. While the settings in each country are different, the people are the same. They want clean water, food, education for their children, and the freedom to vote for those who govern them. These people deserve better than what they have gotten. My experience of 33 years has been invaluable in allowing me the opportunity of working closely with those whose needs are the greatest. It has been a revelation, one that I am thrilled to share with readers. 

About the Book

This book is the first from a black woman who had the privilege to serve humanity in two different 
worlds. First, black women are few in number in the Foreign Service, and few, if any, have been Peace Corps volunteers. While the settings in each country are different, the people are the same. They want clean water, food, education for their children, and the freedom to vote for those who govern them. These people deserve better than what they have gotten. My experience of 33 years has been invaluable in allowing me the opportunity of working closely with those whose needs are the greatest. It has been a revelation, one that I am thrilled to share with readers.

Someone said it better than I can: This book is “…a tour of the human spirit and its potential to rise above any past, to embrace a future of hope and hope's power to endure. It is a roller coaster ride with sheer triumph at its end as this brilliant spirit takes her spark of life to the mountains of Peru, then on to life as a diplomat in Haiti, the United Nations, Africa, Central America, and the corridors of power in Washington, D.C.”

Finalist in Indie Excellence Book Awards, 2009

Book Reviews

Reviewed by Ryan Anthony MacDonald
In September, 1986 Sargent Shriver told a Washington crowd gathered to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Peace Corps that returning Peace Corps volunteers "represent the promise, not the power of America." For no one was this more true than Charlene C. Duline who stood beaming, then, on the crowded Washington Mall, and whose memoir of a life representing the United States in Foreign Service stands out as profoundly genuine and personally moving amidst a crowded field in the genre.

This memoir is the crowning achievement of a life and career best summed up as "United States Ambassador of America's Promise." The central character of Drinking from the Saucer is not Charlene Duline herself, but her irrepressible and inestimable esprit de corps. If there is a paradigm of human spirit and potential that could have best portrayed America abroad during times of turbulent political, social and moral upheaval at home, it was Charlene C, Duline, whose very life is a monument not so much to America's promise, but to its progress.

It was not always thus. Ms. Duline was also the first African American woman from Indiana to join the Peace Corps in its infancy in 1962 - a pivotal moment not only in her own life, but in the life of the nation as the gathering storm of the Civil Rights movement loomed on the horizon. Ms. Duline did not spring from the usual Peace Corps crop of candidates.

Hers was not the life of privileged idealism with which so many young Americans sought to find themselves in service to the less privileged abroad. This writer brought to the Peace Corps, and to a subsequent and unprecedented career as a diplomat in U.S. foreign service, the determination of a young woman who had overcome obstacles that would have defined and defeated a lesser soul: a childhood spent - literally spent - in the despair of poverty, the oppression of urban racism, and the crushing injustice of a manifestly cruel and brutal rape - an event which ended her already fragile childhood at the age of eleven. Charlene Duline's was a life that had to first emerge from the rubble of urban poverty, the national shame of racism and segregation, the personal taint of abuse, to find an America worthy of its own potential.

Drinking from the Saucer takes its readers - and they should be many -on a tour of the human spirit and its potential to rise above any past. To embrace a future of hope and hope's power to endure. It is a roller coaster ride with sheer triumph at its end as this brilliant spirit takes her spark of life to the mountains of Peru, then on to life as a diplomat in Haiti, the United Nations, Africa, Central America, and the corridors of power in Washington, D.C. In the end, we celebrate the life not of a victim, but of a brilliant scholar and ambassador, the life of a woman of depth, of faith - Good Lord, such faith! - and personal triumph whose very life paved the road less traveled.

“Drinking from the Saucer” left me with a haunting question: Is America worthy of Charlene C. Duline? We can only hope. In 2008 this nation placed its hope for change in its first African-American President-elect. If there is a single figure to thank and honor for beating away the brush toward this monumental and historical achievement, that person could be Charlene Duline as much as any other. Bravo, gentle, indomitable soul! The nation hears you, and must hear more. 

Reviewed by Santiago Cruz 
Was it St. Francis of Assisi who said, “Preach the Gospel, and, if necessary, use words”? It could have been Charlene Duline whose memoir stands out poignantly, vividly and memorably among a recent onslaught of books in that genre. Ms. Duline’s is a life – at the same time simple and complex – lived against many backdrops. She embraced Catholicism as a young adolescent against the religious tidal forces of her own family, and at a time when Catholicism entered its crisis of identity. She is an African-American whose coming of age sprang from the lie that was the American racial policy of “Separate but Equal,” to become swept up in the first currents of the American Civil Rights movement. A feminist in her own right, Ms. Duline became a career diplomat in the Foreign Service when both women and African-Americans knew nothing resembling equal opportunities and acceptance in American politics and government.

Charlene Duline’s story emerges out of the crucible of Black urban poverty to pave a road not traveled – then or since – by anyone else in the same way. Launched into the world of American foreign policy first as one of the original Peace Corps volunteers, Ms. Duline’s memoir is that of a woman carrying a mirror to record how the world sees America through the face of a determined woman who loves her country, and lives her faith; a woman whose African-American identity proclaims America as a nation struggling with justice in its roots while trying to put its best foot forward on the global stage in the infancy of modern American foreign policy. She is a woman whose Catholic faith is like a beacon of hope in a world darkened by tumult, poverty, and oppression abroad and social upheaval at home in 1960s America.

The memoir begins through the innocent and exuberant eyes of a nine-year-old girl in urban America, living in a rented room with a wise and loving grandmother, and entirely unaware of her poverty, her vulnerability, and of the loss, suffering, and personal trauma that is to come, and that will forever influence this life on the verge of self-discovery. This is a memoir that both defines and is defined by modern America and its struggle to come to terms with the injustices of racism, sexism, poverty, and inequality. The story moves seamlessly from the streets of Indianapolis and Harlem seen through the eyes of a child, to the mountains of Peru as the Quechua see America in the first Black woman they have ever encountered. Ms. Duline takes the reader to United Nations headquarters, then on to the U.S. embassies of Pakistan, Haiti, Tanzania, Liberia, South Africa, Panama, and full circle to Washington, DC.

This is a story of a childhood violently and traumatically ended by rape, an event with shadows that are carried along the waves of this life with a drama and meaning that echo the literary voice of Maya Angelou. It is a story of a determined American and Catholic who guides the reader through the last four decades of world history as it unfolds in the narrative of a delightful and insightful writer. Drinking From the Saucer is a Catholic story, an American story, and a must read for anyone who cares about the role of modern America on the world stage.

Reviewed by Father Gordon J. MacRae
You may not know it, but if you are reading These Stone Walls, you owe a debt of thanks, in part — or blame, as the case may be — to Charlene C. Duline.

Seven years into a comfortable retirement after an unprecedented career as a diplomat in foreign service for the U.S. State Department, Charlene waded into the midst of the U.S. Catholic sex abuse scandal.

When the loudest “reform” groups were assuming the rhetoric of lynch mobs against priests who were accused, Charlene called for another kind of reform: a courageous and faithful application of the Gospel of mercy and truth to the wound that had been laid bare in our Church.

In 2008, Charlene Duline, a convert to Catholicism, published her memoir, Drinking from the Saucer. Her’s has been a life of many courageous stands. Before the Civil Rights movement became part of our national consciousness in 1962, Charlene became the first African-American woman from Indiana to be accepted in the nascent Peace Corps.

After a two-year posting in Peru, Charlene took on successively senior diplomatic posts representing the United States in Haiti, Liberia, Tanzania, Swaziland, Panama, and the United Nations Headquarters in New York, and finally Washington, DC.

A graduate of the University of Indiana, Charlene holds a Masters degree in International Studies from Johns Hopkins University.

One would think she had done enough. Toward the end of Drinking from the Saucer, Charlene described her concern for imprisoned and discarded priests:
    After one priest had been killed in prison, I wondered how others were faring. I searched the internet to find out where some were incarcerated . . . I demanded to know why our Church officials have never asked for prayers and forgiveness for them. 
As I juxtapose, today, Charlene’s decision to reach out to convicted and incarcerated priests, with the more vindictive voices of the self-described “faithful,” I can’t help but consider the well known Gospel Parable of the Good Samaritan. [Luke: 25-37]

A man is left beaten by robbers [yes, from my perspective, the analogy holds.] A priest and Levite pass by in fear that helping the wounded man will leave them ritually impure under the law. The Samaritan becomes the only person free to obey the higher law, to be a neighbor to the discarded and stranded.

In his profound book, Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI wrote of this same parable:
    The Samaritan . . . shows me that I have to learn to be a neighbor deep within, and that I already have the answer in myself. I have to become someone in love, someone whose heart is open to being shaken up by another’s need. Then I find my neighbor, or better that I am found by him. (Jesus of Nazareth, p. 197) 
Charlene has learned something about the Gospel of Mercy. The lesson did not come cheap, as her memoir describes. Only such a wounded healer could call upon the Church’s shepherds with the force of having lived the Gospel of mercy, to refine the voices they are listening to in all this. “What kind of shepherds,” she wrote “abandon their sheep when they make a misstep.”

Charlene’s birthday is August 13th, the day before Saint Maximilian Kolbe’s feast day — the date of his execution in prison. Her memoir concludes, not about herself, but about us, the discarded:
    May they feel His Presence today, and every day. 

Read additional reviews from RawSistaz, author Beryl Singleton Bissell, author Christopher Beakey, The Indianapolis Recorder and more at:

A fascinating interview conducted by Dr. Jessie Voigts of Wandering Educators can be found at:

Sample Chapter


Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.
- Ambrose Redmoon 

As our caravan of three embassy cars rolled through the dark, empty streets of downtown Monrovia, Liberia, I wondered if this would be the last night of my life. Liberia was under martial law and a curfew had been declared by Head of State Doe. Doe had declared that no one was allowed on the city streets from midnight to 6:00 a.m., and here was our small caravan of cars moving through downtown Monrovia shortly before five o’clock in the morning.

Two weeks earlier the Chargé d’Affairs had announced the arrival of our new ambassador, William Lacy Swing, and said all senior officers would greet him at Liberia’s Robertsfield International Airport. As the Acting Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Information Agency I was to be in the welcoming party. Against my will and better judgment, I now found myself in the second car of the small caravan praying that I would not only meet the ambassador but that I would live.

At a Country Team Meeting (composed of the heads of all U.S. agencies represented at the embassy) the é d’Affairs had announced, “Our new ambassador will be arriving in two weeks and all heads of agencies, and any family members who want to go, will meet him at the airport. We should be at the airport by 5: 30 a.m.”

We were stunned at this announcement since Liberia was under a curfew, and a curfew violation meant death. It was a one hour drive from Monrovia to the airport. The soldiers were ordered to shoot first. No questions would be asked or answered. No one was to be on the streets during curfew.

The Chargé continued, “I will get a special pass from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to permit embassy cars to be on the streets.”
    I quickly spoke up, “Most of the soldiers can’t read.”
People chuckled uncomfortably.

The Charge replied, “The soldiers will know what they mean.”

I seriously doubted it. Somebody else mentioned that once we were safely past the Presidential Mansion, we still had to pass the Military Barracks where the road would be blocked. Our military attaches who were practically running the country at that point, piped up and said that would be no problem because their “friend,” Captain Somebody, would be waiting there to let us pass immediately. Yeh, right, I thought.

After the meeting some officers expressed doubts as to the safety of a caravan of American embassy cars breaking curfew to go to the airport. There was no question but that we would go. An ambassador is the ruling force at every embassy. He represents the president of the United States. When he walks into a room, we all stand as a sign of respect. I used to chuckle when I was in Washington because when the USIA Director walked into a conference room all Foreign Service Officers sprang to our feet while the Civil Service staff looked at us oddly. There was no question that we would be at the airport to welcome our new ambassador. Some thought the ambassador would tell us not to travel to the airport until curfew was lifted, that he would just tool around the airport like an ordinary man until we felt it was safe enough to get on the road, i.e., when the curfew lifted at 6 a.m. Alas, that didn’t happen. The only question that I had, which I kept to myself, but which was probably glaringly obvious to the Chargé was: Will we make it to the airport? I sensed nervousness among those of us who were obliged to go to the airport, but only I had the audacity to say anything to the Chargé.

During the next two weeks I kept reminding him about the risks we were taking in breaking the curfew. He appeared to dismiss my concerns, yet something I said must have gotten through to him because a few days before the ambassador’s arrival he announced that female dependents would not go to the airport, but female officers would. I felt sick. Well, I thought, at least he recognized the danger. As the Acting Public Affairs Officer it was my job to have a photographer at the airport to photograph the arrival of the second most important persons in the country, the U.S. Ambassador. I got the best photographer in town, Sando Moore, son of the Minister of Culture, Bai T. Moore, who spent the night at my residence in order to leave with us at 4:30 a.m. He apparently felt that he would be safe with American diplomats because there was no hesitation on his part.

In the dark that morning he and I drove the two blocks to the embassy, and joined the other officers in official embassy cars. We were in the second car of the three-car caravan. In the lead car were the Chargé and the Embassy Counselor, and their driver. In my car were the Political Officer, the Special Assistant to Ambassador Swing, the photographer, me as Acting Head of USIA, and our driver.

In the third car were the Acting Director of USAID, the Acting Director of the Peace Corps, and other agency heads and their driver. I thought to myself, most of us are Acting Heads of our agencies, so if we are killed, they will still have the Heads of agencies. We’re like the pawns. Such thoughts are not good ones to have before attempting such a dangerous venture of breaking curfew. Why does one think of such things when one is scared? It’s like being on a plane for several hours and suddenly wondering what is keeping it up in the air. That is not the time to think about that. The military attaches were to join the caravan after we passed the Presidential Mansion since they lived on the outskirts of Monrovia. As we drove I thought of all the problems we could encounter. The lead car was a long, black American automobile with American flags flying from the front fenders, flags that could easily be mistaken for Liberian flags. The Liberian flag is modeled on the American flag. I was concerned that the soldiers at the Presidential Mansion would at first think it was a Liberian official’s car, and then realizing that it was not, might think we were pretending to be Doe officials, and they could open fire with their semi-automatic weapons. Plus, most of the soldiers could not read. I could only close my eyes and pray as we drove through the empty streets. When the caravan reached the Presidential Mansion, we stopped. Liberian soldiers quickly surrounded each car, weapons aimed at us. The soldier standing next to our driver’s door rapped sharply on the window for the driver to roll it down. The driver was petrified and didn’t move. Again the soldier rapped on the window with his gun.

(Continued in Drinking From the Saucer.