|IN MEMORY OF MONSIGNOR FRANK MURPHY|
After the funeral of a fallen priest in New Mexico, we were invited to visit Msgr. Frank's ranch. He took me into the farm area where there was a herd of llamas who allowed me to touch their faces and to feel their soft soft fur. One of his dogs had not yet met the newest baby llama and was anxious to. The baby stood beside its mother who lay on the grass as the baby jumped over her and back again to escape the nose of the doggie who wanted only to welcome him.
We had lunch with Msgr. Frank and afterwards Dolores scrubbed his bachelor-lived-in kitchen. Later we had Mass in a tiny chapel on the grounds. The chapel was not yet finished, and Fr. Frank shared that sometimes mice peeked out from the ceiling. I thought it interesting that the mice sometimes attended Mass and I kept looking up to see them. I never did.
Fr. Frank showed us various unfinished projects around the ranch. People came and went, as did Father's ideas for the farm. When an idea came, he then dropped the previous project and began a new one. He had not finished the chapel. There was an unfinished two-person outhouse, and even the beginnings of a new retreat center.
Dolores gifted Fr. Frank with a truck that she and her late husband used in Alaska. Fr. Frank was delighted! His old truck was just that - old and failing, but it was all he had. Dolores was happy to help Fr. Frank in his mission to help others. He drove us into Albuquerque in his new truck where we saw him off for the last time.
And then his health began to fail.
He sold the llamas to a doctor nearby, but the doctor asked Fr. Frank to let the llamas remain on his property because coyotes were attacking and killing them. So the llamas were back with Fr. Frank even though the doctor owned them.
It began with a blood clot in his leg due to a slight injury. His doctor was in Albuquerque, about two hours from Cuba as the crow flies. At least now he had a reliable truck to drive to and from Albuquerque. Over the months he kept in touch with Dolores in California and with me in Indiana. If he didn't reach one of us, he would call the other one - on his good days, when he felt up to talking.
As we heard less and less from him, Dolores contacted someone in Cuba who looked after Fr. Frank and we learned that his time with us was short. He called Dolores one month before he died and she said he sounded good and was cheerful and she thought he was doing a lot better. She said his voice was strong and he seemed his old self.
I loved hearing from him. He usually had to leave a message for me since I invariably missed his calls. He would begin, "Excellency, this is Frank in Cuba. I understand you've been in Rome straightening out things at The Vatican!" He was a riot!
And then he died.
He suffered a lot before he died. Some good people in Cuba loved him, and looked after him. During his last days friends came from afar to say farewell and to just be with him. Yes, Alaska weeps, as do many who knew this good man. He always had a smile, a joke on his lips, and loved playing the piano. He will be remembered for the priestly good he did in helping others and challenging them to challenge themselves.
Rest in peace, good priest, Monsignor Frank Murphy. One of God's own.
Sunday, February 21, 2016
Sunday, December 27, 2015
by Charlene C. Duline
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!
Thursday, December 3, 2015
Prelude to the Year of Mercy: Confronting the Truth
Silencing the truth is never in service of the Church. Speaking with parrhesia, that is, boldly for the common good even at great personal risk, bears witness to Jesus.
Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Father George David Byers, a friend of TSW and a Missionary of Mercy for the Year of Mercy, who blogs at Arise! Let us be Going! This is a long post, but we hope that it doesn’t read long!
MERCY: THE BLOOD OF SOLIDARITY
Such is the priestly fraternity between myself and Father MacRae that I hold him to be a brother, a blood brother, as in fact all priests are, for we all say of Jesus’ own blood: “This is the chalice of my blood.” Father MacRae is, for me, a priest’s priest, besides being my best friend in the world. Though he is in prison, Father MacRae has never been “laicized”, nor “chartered”, nor censured in any way. He is in good standing. It is my privilege to be in solidarity with him. More than that, it is a great joy, one of the most magnificent of my own priesthood.
Because of there being many editors behind These Stone Walls, writing of posts can begin weeks in advance. When I told Father MacRae a month or two ago of my fear that what I was writing for this guest post might well be the occasion which sets in motion the process for him to be dismissed from the clerical state, “A Fate Worse Than Dying in Prison” (as Ryan MacDonald so eloquently put it), Father MacRae countered that, in fact, it might well be the post which will have me definitively silenced, as much of what I say here does indeed seem to be that for which I had originally been silenced in the early Summer of 2013. After many phone conversations, we agreed, painfully, that when the truth is silenced, it is never done in service of the Church. The Church deserves better. In honor of the Word of God Incarnate being silenced on Calvary, here we go again.
Many of my old parishioners and friends, from Australia to Israel, periodically relate to me stories of interest. For instance, in one parish it was the practice for the parishioners to offer an intercessory prayer publicly at Holy Mass right from their pews. For years, someone kept saying, “Lets pray for Father Gordon MacRae!” There was never a problem until one day, after everyone said, “Lord, hear our prayer,” someone from The Boston Globe, who was passing through, immediately, vehemently attacked the priest: “You are never ever to allow any prayer for Gordon MacRae. It’s a travesty of justice to pray for him! I’ll have you know…” she continued, giving the pastor the lecture of his life. Since then, that pastor, bowing low in obeisance to the failing Boston Globe, then forbade any prayer for Father Gordon, just in time for the Year of Mercy. That is, until recently, when, all danger passed, he permitted the prayer to be made once again. And that’s a sign of hope for renewed blood-solidarity among us priests. That return to reason could not have been imagined just a few years ago.
But we would be fools to think that there isn’t a very long way to go. For instance, a priest who actually was guilty, but who maxed out his sentence, and is now very old and terribly sick, with no money and no where to go except doing the cycle of homeless shelters and soup kitchens, had what amounts to a “hit” put out on him by the Archdiocese of Boston. In taking on the role of Joseph Druce, murderer of Father John Geoghan, they said that they in the Archdiocese, in supporting victims [and who doesn’t?] were troubled to see that this priest is being released from prison despite his serving his whole sentence. This statement begs for someone to take up where the state left off. The Archdiocese had to know that The Boston Globe would trumpet this until someone, coincidentally of course, would threaten this old priest who is already at the end of his life. The priest in question was moved twice between homeless shelters due to concerns for his safety after the statement of the Archdiocese was reported in The Boston Globe. He is presently living in a shelter due to the wonderful and merciful work of those selfless people who operate Boston’s homeless shelter. At the same time, perhaps Cardinal O’Malley should just be honest with Pope Francis and say that in the Archdiocese of Boston, there are sins which are not available to mercy, not ever. Pope Francis would then instruct him about going to the dark peripheries.
Now, that’s for someone who is guilty. But what about the falsely accused for money? What about Father Gordon? That’s just plain embarrassing to confront for Manchester diocese’s chancery officials who let it happen, who orchestrated the outcome. I’ll just say this: those who have been abused report that there is only one thing that is as obnoxious to them as having been raped, and that is to see their own sufferings capitalized upon by false accusers looking for money and for clericalists to make themselves into heroes by paying out settlements with no due process for the accused. RICO anyone?
REVEALING THE TRUTH
When fearlessly digging into truths some say they want to be hidden from the light of day and not shouted from the rooftops, other truths are necessarily also unearthed which make one wonder if these other things are not the motive for the whole lot to be sealed under omertà, that onerous code of mafioso silence. Delving into the case of Father Gordon, that which also happens to point to the exoneration of Cardinal Bernard Law is excavated and registered, complementary to what Father Gordon wrote recently in “Cardinal Bernard Law on the Frontier of Civil Rights.” Is not mercy also the application of a justice which embraces exonerating truth? And if responsibility for policies terribly hurtful to the Church lies elsewhere, shouldn’t this be known? It is not the blood of solidarity that we will find, but the blood shed by Cain, the blood shed by Judas. Let’s take a look at a couple of affidavits and then add some helpful context.
EILEEN A. NEVINS CONFRONTS THE TRUTH
The emphases are mine, as are the added [comments]:
Affidavit of Eileen A. Nevins
1. My name is Eileen A. Nevins and I am an attorney licensed to practice in the State of New Hampshire and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
2. I met Reverend Gordon MacRae in the early 1980s when he was an associate priest assigned to Our Lady of Miraculous Medal Parish in Hampton, New Hampshire.
3. On or about 1994, while still a law student, I became aware of charges of sexual misconduct filed against Gordon MacRae. I contacted his New Mexico attorney, Ron Koch [who died in December of 2000], to offer my assistance in doing any legal research that may assist Father MacRae in New Hampshire.
4. Upon acting in a clerk capacity for Attorney Koch I became firmly convinced that the charges against Father MacRae were false and brought for financial gain.
5. I believe now as I believed during his trial that the charges against him are false and have assisted him however possible in obtaining further legal assistance to address the wrong against him. My belief is based on personal knowledge of the case against Father MacRae acquired during the investigation prior to his trial and my ongoing pursuit and review of the investigation into his situation subsequent to his trial and incarceration.
6. In June of 2000, I met with New Hampshire Bishop McCormack at the Diocesan office in Manchester, New Hampshire to discuss the possibility of the Diocese offering some financial assistance to obtain an appellate relief.
7. During this meeting with Bishop McCormack and Bishop Francis Christian, they both expressed to me their belief that Father MacRae was not guilty of the crimes for which he was incarcerated and that the Bishop McCormack would consider offering some financial aid to assist with a legal defense. [“Not guilty” — As an attorney, she would know the significance of reporting an unnuanced statement.]
8. In follow-up correspondence with the Bishop, I stated that it was my understanding that the Diocese would consider giving financial aid to retain an attorney to assist in Gordon’s appeal. [She would have gladly done this herself, but knew that this was not her field of expertise. She was asking that another attorney be brought in.]
9. I had been working with Dorothy Rabinowitz of The Wall Street Journal and she recommended Robert Rosenthal to assist Gordon with an Appeal.
10. Due to the unforeseen events of clergy abuse scandals in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, the Bishop subsequently failed to act on his offer of assistance. It is my understanding that Bishop McCormack has transmitted Father MacRae’s case to the Vatican for disposition. [This is a statement discerning a nefarious motivation of keeping up appearances on the part of Bishop McCormack. With the explosion of publicity in 2002, how could the Bishop defend a priest against whom his now auxiliary bishop, Francis Christian, had stacked the jury? This is a strong statement for any attorney to make about anyone.]
LEO P. DEMERS, JR. CONFRONTS THE TRUTH
Ms Nevins is not the only one with an affidavit. Enter Mr. Demers. His affidavit agrees with that of Eileen Nevins, though his refers to a different meeting, this time with Bishop McCormack alone. Eileen and Leo did not know of each other’s meetings. At the time, Leo was Director of Engineering for WGBH, which produced programs for PBS such as the award winning series of investigative journalism, Frontline. He had been asked about Father MacRae’s case from an investigative journalistic angle. The emphases are mine, as are the added [comments]:
Affidavit of Leo Demers
My name is Leo P. Demers, Jr. and I hereby make the following statements under penalty of perjury, believing the following statements are true to the best of my knowledge and belief.
The purpose of this affidavit, at this time is to convey the context and substance of a meeting by me with Bishop John McCormack during which he expressed his belief in the innocence of the charges against Fr. Gordon MacRae that led to his conviction and subsequent imprisonment for the past twelve years.
1. My name is Leo P. Demers, Jr. and I have been a Broadcast Engineer in New England since 1962. I am a practising Catholic.
2. I first met Reverend Gordon MacRae in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s when he was a Franciscan Friar in Novitiate training at the former St. Anthony’s Capuchin Friary in Hudson, New Hampshire.
3. During 1994 I visited Father MacRae in New Mexico, where he was working in ministry. At that time Father MacRae informed me that criminal charges of sexual misconduct with a minor had been filed against him in New Hampshire.
4. I believe now, as I testified under oath during the sentencing phase of his trial in Keene, New Hampshire, that the charges against him are false.
5. During October 2000, I met with Bishop John McCormack at the Diocesan office in Manchester, New Hampshire. At the time, my employer, the WGBH Educational Foundation, wanted to produce a segment of Frontline. This production would have resulted in a national story about Father MacRae. Auxiliary Bishop Francis Christian arranged the meeting with Bishop McCormack.
6. I had contacted assistant Bishop Francis Christian from my office at WGBH to inquire about the story because he was the only person remaining in the Manchester Chancery Office who was present during the time of the accusations against Father MacRae. Bishop Christian wanted nothing to do with my inquiry regarding Father MacRae but did offer to arrange a meeting for me with Bishop McCormack.
7. The meeting with Bishop McCormack began with him saying, “Understand, none of this is to leave this office. I believe Father MacRae is not guilty and his accusers likely lied.” “There’s nothing I can do to change the verdict.” [Years earlier, Leo wrote a fuller version of the first statement of Bishop McCormack: “I do not want this to leave this office because I have struggles with some people within the Chancery office that are not consistent with my thoughts, but, I firmly believe that Father MacRae is innocent and should not be in prison.” Note the motivation for not telling the truth: “I have struggles with some people within the Chancery office.” Leo may have rightly thought that auxiliary Bishop Christian to be one of those people. He may not at all have known that Father Edward Arsenault may well have been another source of struggles. There is, by the way, something that Bishop McCormack can do to change the verdict, and that is to tell the truth for the sake of mercy, come what may.]
8. I have recently learned that Bishop John McCormack submitted an expert report to Rome. This report purportedly concludes that Father MacRae’s trial was fair and his sentence just. Further, this report allegedly avers that no avenue of appeal is available to Father MacRae. Since I have been in contact with various professionals representing Father MacRae, who are actively involved in investigating his case and prosecuting an appeal, I believe any expert opinion submitted by the Diocese of Manchester to be subject to challenge and serious defect.
9. I am motivated to submit this affidavit, obviously in disregard of any confidentiality requested by Bishop McCormack, because I cannot accept the inconsistency between Bishop McCormack’s statements to me regarding Father MacRae’s innocence and his submission of an expert report to the contrary that is in clear opposition to his stated belief.
* * *
Leo wrote a much more lengthy memo some four years earlier about a phone conversation with auxiliary Bishop Francis Christian, and then an actual meeting with Bishop John McCormack. Let’s pick up that memo in media res, on page two, with my emphases and [comments]:
LEO DEMERS: I am calling from WGBH in Boston. I am concerned that my personal friend Fr. Gordon MacRae was being considered as a feature story for Frontline [Frontline is a multiple award winning syndicated television program broadcasting the results of investigative journalism] here on PBS [the famed Public Broadcasting Service]. Since you are the only person left in the Chancery Office who was there at the time of the accusations and trial, and is familiar with what really happened between the Grovers [who provided money-seeking accusations], the Diocese and Father MacRae, I would like to meet with you to discuss the matter. By the way, although I work in Boston, I live in New Hampshire and have been a part of the Diocese most of my life. So, there would be no inconvenience for me to travel to Manchester.
BISHOP CHRISTIAN: This is not my responsibility. I have nothing to do with that. [Given his stacking of the jury some years before, and the ongoing wrongful imprisonment of Father MacRae, this is an amazing statement.] You’ll have to speak with Bishop McCormack.
LEO DEMERS: But, you were part of what happened at that time and would have first hand knowledge of all that occurred. Bishop McCormack was in Boston when all this happened.
BISHOP CHRISTIAN: You will have to speak with Bishop McCormack, he is the one who is responsible. I can arrange for you to have a meeting with him.
LEO DEMERS: I would rather meet with you.
BISHOP CHRISTIAN: Bishop McCormack handles all such inquiries, you’ll have to call him yourself, or I can arrange a meeting with him for you.
[Leo then provides the following three paragraphs of context, before continuing with his later meeting with Bishop McCormack:]
Sensing I had pushed the envelope and was about to lose ground, I accepted his offer to arrange a meeting with Bishop McCormack. A few days later I received a phone call from the Chancery Office secretary regarding a meeting schedule. I explained that I would be in the Middle East and Italy for the next two weeks. The meeting was scheduled for the Friday after our return, Friday the 13th, October 2000. I received a follow-up e-mail “meeting confirmation” along with directions to the Chancery Office.
While in Israel I prayed for strength and courage to have the meeting produce favorable results for Fr. MacRae. He did not know that I was meeting with Bishop McCormack and I was afraid that I might cause Gordon more harm than good.
On October 13, 2000, I arrived at the Chancery Office and was escorted into the Bishop’s office at 10A. Bishop McCormack’s greeting was both warm and disarming. The first words out of his mouth were:
BISHOP McCORMACK: I do not want this to leave this office because I have struggles with some people within the Chancery office that are not consistent with my thoughts, but, I firmly believe that Father MacRae is innocent and should not be in prison. [Again, those he’s having struggles with may be auxiliary Bishop Francis Christian and, most likely, Father, later Monsignor Edward Arsenault, now himself in prison.]
[Leo then adds this explanatory note, italicized:]
Well, that knocked the wind out of my sails, to say the least. Where would I go from here? In looking back, Bishop McCormack knew exactly what he was doing.
LEO DEMERS: You know why I am here. I assume Bishop Christian has informed you of our phone conversation and my desire to speak with him. You are a busy man. Bishop Christian has first hand knowledge of the events surrounding Fr MacRae’s incarceration.
BISHOP McCORMACK: He was tried and found guilty. [The point of Bishop McCormack is not to contradict himself, but to express his exasperation that neither he nor auxiliary Bishop Christian can do anything about the verdict, false as it is believed to be.]
LEO DEMERS: With all due respect, your Excellency, I was there and you were not. For that matter, there was nobody present representing the Manchester Diocese. [Leo misses the point, though due to no fault of his own. He’s not used to such cryptic brow-beating with sound bites. The Bishop does not disagree with him and informs Leo of this:]
BISHOP McCORMACK: I do not believe the Grovers were truthful. [Could Bishop McCormack put together a string of sound bites such as “He was tried and found guilty,” but not such as “I do not believe the Grovers were truthful,” and compose a letter of sound bites to the CDF, to the Holy Father, asking that Father MacRae be dismissed from the clerical state? That’s quite possible.]
LEO DEMERS: The Grover brothers view this Chancery Office as an ATM machine; and why shouldn’t they? They’ll likely be back to make another withdrawal. [Now seeing what the Bishop is up to, Leo tries to force the Bishop to be publicly consistent with his beliefs by reviewing the financial insanity of the policy of the Diocese (that is, the kind of thing that we now see with The National Catholic Risk Retention Group).]
BISHOP McCORMACK: You know that I cannot discuss any settlement agreements. [The Bishop, realizing he’s been leapfrogged in a direction he must not go if he is not to offend the still untouchable yet now imprisoned Father Edward Arsenault, diverts the conversation back to irrelevant minutiae. Clever. However, Leo thinks himself to be right on top of this for the reason that he can’t fathom, yet, anyway, just how bad things are. He will now dismiss this tactic of the Bishop and go in for the kill, he thinks:]
LEO DEMERS: The specifics of settlements are of no concern to me. What does concern me is the ease with which such settlements are reached. There seems to be a rush to what the Diocese views as justice, often at the expense of innocent Diocesan Priests. This is why I am here. [Leo is going for conscience. What a good man Mr Demers is. He perfectly describes the very frank policies of The National Catholic Risk Retention Group, which demand that the priest be held guilty merely because someone makes an accusation, so that a settlement that may save on a litigated claim is instantly made, even without asking about dates or allegations, as they don’t matter; only the shoving of money down the throats of accusers matters. Whether they are lying doesn’t matter. Whether innocent priests are crucified doesn’t matter. Chapeau to you, Mr Demers, sir.]
BISHOP McCORMACK: You know that Gordon pled guilty to an accusation? [But the Bishop is having none of it. Having touched the Evil Grail of what I call “The Judas Crisis,” Leo puts Bishop McCormack into such defensiveness that he now reverses himself by implication, mentioning the plea bargain that Father made under enormous pressure and with lawyers and friends and all priests and his bishops having abandoned him. This moment of weakness, however, was simply a moment. Father then regrouped and reversed that plea deal so as to face, instead, as a young man, a life sentence. That the Bishop does not bring this to bear smacks of evil. More on this below.]
LEO DEMERS: I know that he was advised to participate in a plea bargain. I am not familiar with the reason for, or the terms of that agreement. [The reason was to reduce the life-sentence to, say, a mere 18 to 36 months. When you have your whole life in front of you, and everyone has abandoned you, this is what countless innocent people have done. The statistics are staggering. Priests are human too. But, heroically, for the truth of his innocence, Father MacRae repealed the plea deal and embraced the cross of life in prison as a young man. He knew that Jesus is the Living Truth among us. If Jesus can be wrongly imprisoned and then wrongfully suffer capital punishment for us, the least we can do is carry the cross He permits us to have. Leo’s matter-of-factness is tactfully even more elusive and non-committal than the Bishop’s baiting, forcing the Bishop to reiterate his original statement:]
BISHOP McCORMACK: I mentioned to you that I believe he is innocent. I plan on meeting with Gordon when I visit the prison during the coming Christmas season and discuss this. [What the Bishop means is that he wants Father MacRae to get rid of this meddlesome friend of his. The demand to get rid of people would also be made in regard to Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Dorothy Rabinowitz, who would have published shortly after September 11, 2001, but The Wall Street Journal building was destroyed along with the World Trade Center. She was later able to publish a series of articles in 2005 and then again an article in 2013 (see: A Priest’s Story). I don’t think the Diocese was ever brave enough to demand that Father MacRae never again speak to close friends Cardinal Avery Dulles or Father Richard John Neuhaus.]
LEO DEMERS: You said that your hands were tied because of your belief in his innocence; how can you help him? [Leo rightly points out the inconsistencies and forces a statement of good will that will relativize any difficulties that the Bishop thinks he might face among personalities in the chancery. After all, it’s the Bishop who is the Bishop, right? Actually, Bishop McCormack seems to be admitting that the Diocese is out of control. Indeed, there are indications of fraud related to the CDF which I have written about elsewhere, which officials, if they are thinking of doing anything nefarious with Father Gordon, should contact me so as to obtain such indications of fraud.]
BISHOP McCORMACK: I want to do what I can to make his life more bearable, under the circumstances of prison life. I cannot reverse the decision of the court system. What can I do?” [Leo doesn’t seem to think that he can ask Bishop McCormack about Bishop (then Monsignor) Francis Christian’s stacking of the jury, perhaps since this happened before Bishop McCormack’s time. If he wanted to do so, I think that the Most Rev. Peter Anthony Libasci, the present bishop of Manchester, could investigate the issue. It’s obvious that Bishop McCormack could also speak still today to his belief that Father MacRae is innocent, which would have real effect if conjoined with an admission to stacking the jury by then Msgr Francis Christian, a stacking of the jury which was decisive in the conviction of Father MacRae. The testimony of any accuser didn’t convict Father MacRae, but the stackinhg of the jury by Msgr. Christian. Should the CDF take civil judgments to be just and fair in the face of blatantly fraudulent and self-serving statements by chancery officials, would that not also be self-serving and fraudulent?]
LEO DEMERS: It is not a flawless judicial system; many innocent people fall through its cracks; correcting an injustice is a formidable task; Gordon simply does not have the resources to even begin the process, never mind hope of succeeding. In the short-term, there are plans in the works to move some of the Concord prison population to the new prison in Berlin, NH. That would severely impact any visitation schedule he currently has and make his life even more of a hell than it is. [In other words, the Diocese should get Father MacRae an attorney. At least that. Don’t forget, however, that for The National Catholic Risk Retention Group, which the Diocese of Manchester has everything to do with, the defendant is not the priest, but the Diocese, that is, in an effort to save money, so that settlements are made regardless of guilt or innocence, betting that this would be better than risking any potentially more expensive litigated claims. Perhaps thinking that this may go nowhere fast, Leo is looking for a small gesture of good will — a concern for Father MacRae’s visiting schedule — which the Bishop should be eager to provide in an effort to appease Leo, to get him to back off. The Bishop couldn’t possibly be more delighted with such a conclusion to the conversation.]
BISHOP McCORMACK: (writing notes as I’m speaking). There may be something I can do in that regard, but I cannot promise anything. [Of course he can’t tell the State what to do, but in making this look like he’s really trying, like a martyr, it will make him look like someone who deeply cares. The grand effort for such a small effort makes anything more, like speaking the truth, seem impossibly difficult.]
LEO DEMERS: Fr MacRae, nor I want the Church hurt by the media. I have this memento for you that I brought back from Israel: hopefully, as a friendly gesture. [ At this point, Leo contextualizes what is happening for us in the next two paragraphs in italics:]
While in Bethlehem the week before, there were the early stages of full-scale Middle East war that historically begins with rock throwing in the streets between Palestinians and Israelis.
I picked up some of the rocks from the evening’s conflict and brought it back to the U.S. with me. My wife sewed a small pouch with a tie top for the stone. I explained to Bishop McCormack where the stone came from and what the stone symbolizes to me.
LEO DEMERS: This stone is a gift, a gesture. It represents the first step in a disagreement that can easily escalate into a far more sophisticated and potentially damaging conflict. It’s a stone thrown during a conflict in Bethlehem that I’m not going to throw, and I hope you will not either.
BISHOP McCORMACK: Thank you. Before we part we should pray together. [Leo then adds a couple of paragraphs, to explain how the meeting ended, with more comments:]
Bishop McCormack placed his hands on my head and prayed. I do not recall the prayer, however I believe that it was for truth and justice. The meeting lasted about an hour.
This account is a synopsis of the important points of our meeting. It would be impossible for me to provide a verbatim version of the entire meeting.
July 20, 2004 — Leo Demers
FORGOTTEN CONTEXT A PRETEXT
Father John Geoghan, a priest of the Archdiocese of Boston, the all-time worst offender (murdered in prison), was continuing to abuse and, in 1993, he was sent to be re-evaluated. Dr Frank Valcour, M.D., staff psychiatrist and Clinical Director of Saint Luke Institute up in the beltway of Washington, D.C., called the Director of Admissions for the Servants of the Paraclete down in New Mexico, Father Gordon MacRae. Both institutions were treating abusive priests at that time. Both men were convinced that Father Geoghan needed long term care, and recommended that he be assigned indefinitely into the care of the Servants in Albuquerque.
Meanwhile, Father John McCormack (later to be appointed Bishop of Manchester in 1998) was on his way to his tenth year as Secretary for Ministerial Personnel in the Archdiocese of Boston, and so was in charge of handling complaints about sexual abuse by priests at this time. He was on the phone with Dr. Valcour, asking him about recommendations concerning Geoghan. When told of the conclusion of both Dr. Valcour and Father MacRae, Father McCormack reportedly said to the clinical director of Saint Luke:
“These facilities are always trying to keep their beds filled. This is overkill!”There did not appear to be any consultation with Cardinal Law before deciding not to place Father Geoghan in a facility that could supervise him closely. Just to say, at the time, the Servants of the Paraclete were doing a great service to the Church, at least inasmuch as they were offering a place to feed and house and care for Father Geoghan. They were not getting rich with the offer to take him for $12,000 a year. Some private facilities were charging more than that per month, were they not? But Father McCormack was intransigent, and reassigning Geoghan to Regina Cleri, a retirement center for the Archdiocese of Boston, a dorm, really, on or near the campus of Boston College, with only the most minimal supervision. How imprudent is that? Geoghan went on to re-offend multiple times along with getting moved around again and again. After more incidents, Father Geoghan was sent for a stint at Saint Luke Institute, only to fail. Instead of $12,000 a year with the Paracletes, the Archdiocese paid out something like $55,000,000 all-told for Father Geoghan’s continuous abuse. Here’s a video record of what happened in the wake of the facilitation of Father Geoghan’s abusing:
Did the great refusal of McCormack to the offer of Father Gordon MacRae create an animus against Father Gordon on the part of McCormack right through the years? You decide. But one does have to wonder what kind of clericalist machine was humming along in the chancery offices of Boston that recommendations would be forthcoming regarding Father John McCormack, promoting him to auxiliary bishop of Boston and then as the local ordinary of Manchester, so that the year Geoghan was “laicized” was the same year that McCormack became bishop.
When McCormack was announced to be the next bishop of Manchester diocese in New Hampshire, Leo Demer’s wrote him a letter expressing his concern that Father Gordon MacRae would be the subject of an administrative dismissal from the priesthood in the same way that Father Geoghan had been dismissed before his trial. The response from McCormack stated that the process of administrative dismissal is reserved only for the most egregious cases which he didn’t believe he faced in the diocese of Manchester at that time. This was two years before Leo’s meeting with McCormack, who then stated his belief in the innocence of Father MacRae multiple times.
In 1994, when Father MacRae was accused by T.G. for money (as the accuser himself brags about), accusations which refer to many years when Father MacRae was no where near Grover’s parish, was not a priest, was not even a seminarian for the Diocese of Manchester. It was just then that up-and-coming Monsignor Francis Christian, soon to become auxiliary bishop for future Bishop McCormack in Manchester Diocese, stacked the jury against Father MacRae, going against Canon 1717 to do this, sending out a prejudicial statement to the media.
Diocesan attorney Bradford Cook later went to meet with Father Gordon MacRae in prison. Bradford admitted that he himself had written the statement and had then faxed it to Monsignor Francis Christian. He said that he had written the statement with the word “alleged”, and was horrified to see in the newspapers that the word alleged had not been included in the final draft that Monsignor Francis Christian had sent out to the news media.
Father Gordon MacRae’s Canon lawyer, Father David Deibel, called up and protested to Monsignor Francis Christian that such a pre-trial press release was abusive of the rights of the accused to due process. Monsignor Christian responded to say that the press release was merely published in New Hampshire newspapers, and so he didn’t think Gordon would see it. So, Monsignor Christian thinks if an accused party is unaware of jury stacking and all around prejudicing of a local population, that that makes it all O.K. Monsignor Christian went on to say that “This is a carefully crafted response to the concerns raised by the news media.” Carefully crafted is right:
“The Church, too, has been a victim of the actions of Gordon MacRae just as these individuals have been. It is clear that he will never again function as a priest. We support his victims in their courage in bringing these charges forth at this time […].”Editing out any mention of mere allegations ensures lack of due process and a conviction. Indeed, this was the sole piece of “evidence” convicting Father MacRae. Journalist Bruce Daniels couldn’t understand the brazenness of the stacking of the jury by Monsignor Christian that he had read about on the AP story, and asked to speak with Father MacRae about it. This is how Father MacRae came to know of the nefarious actions of the Diocese of Manchester and how he came face to face with The Judas Crisis, receiving the kiss of death from Monsignor Francis Christian.
If the Monsignor does whatever it takes to give the mere appearance that he is “tough”, then he can think of himself to be a hero, instead of being the Monsignor he is, so super-lenient that he would later have to plead the 5th countless times and then make a plea deal on behalf of the diocese so that the diocese could escape prosecution. This plea deal was far reaching in its destruction to the rights of priests, to the rights of the Church, to the constitutional right to free exercise of religion. You can read what John S. Baker, Jr., wrote about this in his article on “Prosecuting Dioceses and Bishops.” I guess sending Father Gordon to his death in prison made the Monsignor feel better, like he’s accomplished something.
This was an ideal situation for McCormack, the new bishop of the Diocese of Manchester, to step into. He had been the ultra-lenient head of clergy personnel in Boston, had made Cardinal Law his scapegoat, and now had an insatiable need to dissociate himself with his past and to look tough, like a hero. Monsignor Christian set the precedent for him. Father Gordon was his new Cardinal Law.
In the midst of such mayhem, Father Gordon made a most startling move, which drew the ire of all his friends. In his own words written for SperoNews in 2011:
“Rather than risk taking public and vocal positions against the decisions of Church officials, I wrote my bishop a private letter in 2002. In that letter, I told him that I am innocent of the claims for which I am in prison, but I would withdraw my defense and remain silently in prison for the remainder of my life if he asked me to do this for the good of the Church. Short of that, I wrote, I will continue to fight this unjust case by every means available to me.It should be known that the now imprisoned Monsignor Edward Arsenault, in a confidential memo to Bishop McCormack, suggested that the bishop should consider taking up Father Gordon’s offer, as this would end the involvement of a member of the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal, Pulitzer Prize winner Dorothy Rabinowitz, who has written multiple times of Father Gordon’s case. This, in fact, was always their aim, afraid of her as they are. To be blunt about it: McCormack’s advisors wanted the offer of financial help for attorneys to be conditioned on severing ties with Dorothy. For some articles and video, see the top links on the articles and commentary page of TSW, and especially on The Wall Street Journal: “The Trials of Father MacRae.” The video is a must see. Father MacRae adds:
“Bishop John McCormack later told me that he considered my overture. To his credit, he said that he could not ask me to surrender my civil and canonical rights. I respect my bishop for this. It was the Catholic League’s Bill Donohue who convinced me that staying the course of truth and justice is not only in my best interest, but that of the Church as well.
“When he heard of my overture to my Bishop, Dr. Donohue wrote: ‘Remember that what will always be of service to the Church is the truth. Pursue the whole truth, and you are pursuing what is best for the Church.’ I will always be appreciative to Bill Donohue for that basic and essential piece of guidance.”
“I was accused falsely, and in the context of being a Roman Catholic priest. If I was not a priest, I would not have been accused. To pretend that somehow the claims against me are not related to the context of my priesthood is false. This is something that most Church officials long recognized, but many have put aside the rights of priests in open disregard of Church law.”As the years flew by, Father MacRae says he has learned a hard lesson that such open disregard of Church law by local (arch)dioceses has become the policy of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and other entities recently created in the Holy See. The Holy Office washes its hands of responsibility by beginning with the premise that the priest is presumed to be guilty unless he can prove his innocence, that is, since the case arrived in Rome at the bidding of local Church officials who are presumed to be innocent unless proven guilty. This is bad enough, but it’s actually worse: the priest has the immense burden, impossible really, of trying to prove his innocence in a secular court of law whose jury is stacked by such as Monsignor Christian. The secular court’s extreme political correctness will not permit a priest to defend himself. Father Gordon has never once been allowed to say a word in his own defense, never. Court rules are written by prosecutors who build into the system delays that judges use to bankrupt and wear out defendants. We have seen this used against Father Gordon most recently by Judge Laplante.
But this is what happens when the priest is lucky. Rome also knows that a local church will almost never let things go so far, but will be quick to point a finger of guilt at the priest, inescapably implying guilt by paying out-of-court settlements in which, again, the priest is never allowed to defend himself, and because of which he will likely be laicized by those in Rome. The proof of the guilt is the settlement, they say. The lawyers become the surrogate Judas who are paid well by their (arch)dioceses and their overseas lackeys with thirty pieces of silver. Jesus was also judged by a state that was pressured by the religious authorities of the time in favor of their own paid lackey.
The Most Rev. Peter Libasci, the present local ordinary of Manchester Diocese, has, to this day, not once allowed Father MacRae to speak of his case. While Bishop Libasci insists that criminal Edward Arsenault does get to have due process in every way, he does not breathe a word about the stacking of the jury against Father MacRae. Ryan MacDonald wrote of the unconscionable statements of the diocesan spokesman in this regard in “The Post-Trial extortion of Father Gordon MacRae,” citing “Priests in Limbo” by Joan Frawley Desmond in the National Catholic Register (February 15, 2015).
Let me paraphrase: In 2011, diocesan spokesman Kevin Donovan said that Father Gordon pled guilty to some charges, and ignored that Father Gordon was pressed into this plea deal precisely because of the jury stacking wrought by Monsignor Christian. The diocese is saying that the plea deal makes him guilty, effectively saying that he is guilty because they said he is guilty. Again, the stats on innocent people who take plea deals to get out of impossible sentences and are later proven to be innocent by DNA, etc., are staggering. Priests are human. But I ask you this: how many people making plea deals would then immediately renege on the same, throwing away an 18-36 month sentence so as to take on a life sentence? This is what Father MacRae did as a young man. Let me repeat that: as a young man. He had been betrayed by friends, his fellow priests, his lawyer, and all ecclesiastical authority. Think of it. To this day, Father MacRae could get out of prison at any moment by pleading guilty. He just spent his 22nd Thanksgiving in prison. Would you do that, Kevin Donovan? Bishop McCormack? Bishop Libasci? Bishop Christian (who pled the 5th and made a plea deal for the diocese)? How about you, Monsignor Arsenault (who made a plea deal hiding many counts and charges and is still in prison)? Tell me about it. Father Gordon is exhibiting heroic virtue in defending his innocence against all of your conniving. It is because I witness such heroic virtue in the likes of a Father Gordon MacRae that I myself remain Catholic and am happy to be a priest. This is what it’s all about. This is what it means to be in blood-solidarity with Jesus in His own solidarity with us.
Please excuse my insistence. All of this is a kind of execution, which is held to be acceptable because it is polite, that is, because it is paid, and promotes hypocritical double-standards for legal concepts unknown to most laymen such as “prescription.” It would behoove those not up-to-date on the maneuvers of the bishops and the Holy See regarding “prescription” to catch up by reading Opus Bono Sacerdotii’s reprint of the article entitled “Prescription” originally published in the Boston College Law Review. With great courage, it was written by canonist Ladilas Orsy, S.J. In “Our Catholic Tabloid Frenzy About Fallen Priests,” Father MacRae writes: “In ‘Anti-Catholicism and Sex Abuse’ in Homiletic & Pastoral Review, Ryan MacDonald referred to forced laicization subsequent to the manipulation of prescription as ‘a sort of ecclesiastical equivalent of lethal injection.’”
In a recent phone call, Father MacRae told me about what it is like to face this “process” that is so unjust both in secular and ecclesiastical courts. His words remind me of his patron saint, Maximilian Kolbe, who was injected with carbolic acid:
“The struggle to tell the truth in a court of law on the one side [almost never permitted], but being silent on the church side because of being warned that making waves with the truth will bring about one’s laicization[which looks to the state court side], is like waiting on a kind of ecclesiastical death row, waiting for the needle to be plunged in. Dispensing of prescription has been a terrible affront to due process and justice.”COUNTERING THE JUDAS CRISIS
The purpose of this article is to help bring the crisis full circle. If you think that has already happened just because the number of credible cases is down to near zero, think again. The same abuse of power which can abuse a youngster is the same abuse of power which can move guilty priests from parish to parish with omertà, that evil code of silence, which is the same abuse of power which can, when caught out, nevertheless still feign heroism by throwing merely accused priests into prison or out of the priesthood regardless of actual innocence, with no due process, no confronting of the truth, which is all the same abuse of power which will cover up abuse after many years of a good track record of no cases, a coverup just for the sake of self-referential self-congratulations, a cycle continuing ad infinitum, unless we bring it to the light of day.
Until the attitude of abuse of power changes, until justice and due process is provided, the cycle is even worse, a swirling vortex sucking the Church downward. It is this self-referential, self-absorbed, Promethian neo-Pelagian self-congratulatory attitude which marginalizes souls into the darkest of existential peripheries. It must be stopped. It’s the self-referential Church which Pope Francis wants to bring to its knees in repentance and conversion to the Lord Jesus. This is one of the “Things that I Absolutely Love About Pope Francis.” He, that is, Cardinal Bergoglio, put it best in his pre-Conclave intervention to the Cardinal-electors. This is my translation from my previous guest post on TSW, “Pope Francis and The Judas Crisis.”
“The Church, when she is self-referential, without being aware of this, believes to have her own light; she ceases to be the “mysterium lunae” [the mystery of the moon (which reflects the light of the sun, that is, the Son)] and gives way to that ever so serious evil which is spiritual worldliness (according to De Lubac, the worst evil into which the Church can run amuck): that living so as to give glory to one another. Put simply, there are two images of the Church:  the evangelizing Church which surges forth from herself, “Dei Verbum religiose audiens et fidente proclamans” [religiously listening to God’s Word and faithfully proclaiming], or  the worldly Church, living within herself, by herself, for herself. This must shed light on the possible changes and reforms to be accomplished for the salvation of souls.”When Judas left the Last Supper into the dark night possessed by Satan, precisely when he had become a blood brother of Jesus in partaking of the Chalice, that is when he set about betraying Jesus. One cannot be betrayed by an enemy, for it is expected, but only by a friend, precisely what Jesus called Judas at the very moment of the kiss of death in Gethsemane. To this day, Bishops McCormack and Christian have not been forthcoming about the truth, and have no solidarity of mercy with Father MacRae.
There simply is no place in the Year of Mercy for a lack of solidarity, a lack of mercy, a lack of justice, especially among priests. In fact, the mercy for the falsely accused and wrongly imprisoned priests is that they have the opportunity of due process and justice from their fellow priests and bishops.
Success for the Year of Mercy will be predicated on whether The Judas Crisis is allowed to continue unabated. At the moment, Cain is still murdering his brother Abel. Judas is still betraying Jesus.
The terribly sad part is that when the shepherd is struck, the sheep scatter. The same Diocese of Manchester has also made a recent settlement for a case regarding confession, which if followed up by other lawyers, would spell the end of the Sacrament of Mercy in America and around the world. This has always been the prize. The bishop of Manchester has walked right into the trap. After all, what’s the difference for diocesan attorneys? Just as priests have not had due process or been able to defend themselves in abuse cases, just so, because of the seal of confession, they cannot participate in any due process or defend themselves.
As a Missionary of Mercy I do not think that confronting the truth and calling out the hypocrisy against mercy is unmerciful as a prelude to the Year of Mercy. Let’s pray for our bishops. Mercy is also for them if they desire it. As a Missionary of Mercy I’m also available to them. Let’s pray for those such as Father Gordon MacRae, who give us all hope to go to Jesus for mercy, for blood-brotherhood.
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.
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.
MARAUDING IN CENTRAL PARK
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.”
WHEN PRISONS REPLACE PARENTS
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.
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.