Father Gordon J. MacRae
So this is Christmas 2015. For some it may have been the best of years; for many of us It's been the worst of years. We had such high hopes for the release of Father Gordon MacRae. Even his attorneys were cautiously optimistic - which is certainly different from what attorneys usually feel and say. They go into the court before Judge Joseph LaPlante:
|Father Gordon MacRae, Alice and Viktor Weyand at Christmas Party|
NH State Prison, December 2015.
Judge Joseph N. Laplante, was presented with the St. Thomas More Award in 2012 by the Most Reverend Peter A. Libasci, D.D., Bishop of Manchester. Bishop Libasci is Father MacRae’s Ordinary. This award is given to a “practicing Catholic who embodies the spirit of St. Thomas More in his or her courage, dedication, integrity, civility, and compassion toward others.” One wonders if that compassion includes innocent priests in prison for crimes they did not commit. Apparently it does not.
Judge LaPlante was not interested in the merits of the case or on hearing the testimony of witnesses who were not heard during the original trial. The hearing was over almost before it began. We learn that it is necessary to appeal the Judge's ruling denying a Certificate of Appealability. Father Gordon has no more money to fight his case. He feels that he can no longer ask for help from his readers; his diocese is of no help. As of now, his legal bills top $13,000. He has accepted the fact that he will die in prison. His release is due when he is 108 years of age. This is heartbreaking! Witnesses who are willing to testify have not been heard and probably will never be heard. Murderers serve 2 - 3 years and are released. Does no one in the American justice system care what an injustice has been done to this priest? Who will champion his cause? Who has the sensibility, the wisdom, and the ability to demand justice for Father Gordon MacRae? Where are Catholic attorneys with the courage to strike a blow for this condemned priest? Is there nobody in the kingdom who has the guts to stand up and say, "This is wrong! Father Gordon is innocent?!"
Yet Father Gordon does not think of himself. More than anything, he wants his cellmate, Pornchai Moontri, free to return to his home country of Thailand.
|Pornchai Maximilian Moontri|
This young man is my Godson. He has spent half of his life in prison. Years ago in Thailand his mother married an American man who brought her two sons to the U.S. They were badly mistreated and Pornchai ran away from his home constantly. He was always found by police and returned home. One night, when he was drunk, confused, and out of his mind, he killed a grocery store manager. He had a public defender who probably resented being assigned to a "foreigner." His defense was half-hearted at best. He was sentenced to 45 years. And then his mother was murdered in Guam. Pornchai's anger knew no limits. He was always in solitary confinement and even there he managed to create more havoc until the DOC Maine sent him to NH. By God's design he met Father Gordon and the rest is history. He watched and listened to Fr. Gordon interact with other inmates and saw how much they trusted him. He then became one of the group, and surprised Fr. Gordon by becoming a Catholic on Divine Mercy Sunday. Pronto has been an exemplary prisoner. He organized exercise classes and there was always a waiting list of those who wanted to be in his rigorous class. He tutored classes in higher math. He stepped up and took control when there was a dispute between two prisoner-friends of his. He got the two together and they solved their problem with each other. He took classes from two universities and was always an "A" student. He has taken several religious retreats in prison and is the subject of a chapter in Felix Carroll's book, "Loved, Lost, Found."
A few months ago a wonderful attorney took on his case to apply to the Governor of Maine to commute Pornchai's prison sentence. He has many opportunities waiting for him in Thailand, his home country. The committee that reviewed the commutation application rejected it and did not send it to the Governor. They apparently did not feel that the marvelous strides Pornchai has made in his few years in the NH prison made much of a difference. Pornchai expected nothing more. I expected a lot more. When will I learn that justice is totally blind and once someone is condemned, it takes one helluva lot to get someone to ever take them seriously again! Justice is blind and apparently deaf also. Justice says no one is ever rehabilitated, that a priest in prison cannot help to change lives, that once a criminal always a criminal.
I am losing faith in our justice system. Every day there is a police shooting of some innocent person or a questionable shooting by the police. I'm beginning to look at the police with different eyes. Are they all aching for a reason to draw their guns? If I am told to move and I don't move fast enough, will I be shot? Or will I be shot for moving at all?
So I'm now the New Year Grinch! Mankind has let me down. I would never have believed that I would ever see such injustices in my lifetime! I am so disappointed in mankind. And rather angry I should add. I am more than disappointed in our Roman Catholic Church because of the way it has treated Father Gordon and other priests who have been accused of sexual assaults. Somebody claims they were touched by a priest; the bishop calls in the priest and gives him hours to clear out of the rectory. He usually does not know the accuser and he is yanked from his parish and left in limbo, while the Church and its attorneys rush to pay out thousands and thousands of dollars to the accuser. That is so wrong. The Church does not ask for proof and accepts the word of people who accuse priests long dead. Am I the only person who feels that the majority of the accusers see the Catholic Church as an ATM machine? I've wanted to be, and have been, a Catholic for so many years that I perhaps should consider leaving the Church, and yet with Pope Francis as our Holy Father, deep in my heart I still believe in our faith.
I remember the night that Pope Francis was selected. I was talking to a friend in California. I had told her that I would have to leave the Church if Cardinal O'Malley were chosen. As our new pope made his way to the balcony my friend screamed, "It's O'Malley!" I closed my eyes and burst into tears! Over the pounding of my heart and my sobs I heard her say, "No! No! It's not O'Malley." I opened my eyes and saw The Holy Father stepping onto the balcony at the Vatican and with one look I knew this was truly a Holy Man who walked in the footsteps of our Lord. I love this pope. He can say the darnedest things - as do I - so I love him!
The reason I was so upset at the thought of O'Malley becoming pope is that some priests in prison in Massachusettes have been incensed that O'Malley visited the prison and walked right past their cells without saying a word to them. Another priest, elderly and sick, has written to O'Malley many times asking for a meeting with him OR with one of his advisers. O'Malley has not deigned to respond to this man. I wrote to one of his priests, Auxiliary Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, when he was assigned to Indiana, asking him to intervene with O'Malley on behalf of the priests in prison in MA. I never had a reply from him. More recently a priest was released from a prison in MA. This man is elderly, sick, and has no money and just a few friends trying to help him. He served his sentence of many years. Shortly before he was released the Archdiocese convinced the District Attorney to seek to civilly commit this priest to a hospital for life. Three doctors examined the priest and determined that he is not a threat to society. The Archdiocese then issued a press release announcing that this priest was out of prison and almost urged people to find him and harm him! He was asked to leave the first shelter due to concerns for his safety. Dolores and I have been trying to contact the Archdiocese, but no one there is interested in helping this man. In fact, one priest she spoke to shouted at her, "He's no longer a priest! He's been laicized!" He then hung up on her. She called back and left a message on his answering machine reminding him that the mark of priestly ordination can never be erased. The man remains a priest as long as he lives. The battle continues. O'Malley shames the Franciscans!
Many of our bishops think they are grander than grand. They ignore what the Holy Father preaches about forgiveness, mercy, compassion, and charity. They need to get from behind their desks and out into the pastures to smell like their sheep. Will that ever happen? What? Give up those wonderful banquets, the dipping and bowing of the common man, the grandiose mansions in which many live (it's not their money!), the cars, the invitations, the idolatry? Give up those things you say? Well, that's easy for you to say since you don't have any of those things! And when the Lord comes again, neither will they!
Yep, the New Year Grinch is alive and well and ready to make mischief! If I were queen, heads would roll, but since I'm not, I must be content to be a busy little bee and bite the butts of those who mistreat any of my priests in prison or out! I'm on the warpath and the New Year isn't even here yet! But it will be soon! So, World, look out! I'm taking no prisoners!