Monday, December 10, 2012


W E L C O M E!

For two days last week I was among a select few invited to participate in the pageantry of the Installation of a beloved Redemptorist, Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, who is now the Archbishop of Indianapolis.  This holy man is cloaked in spirituality – a palpable spirituality that he would surely deny.  He exudes a spirit of caring, sincerity, and love, and reaches out to others.  My heart soars when Archbishop Tobin speaks of his beloved parents and siblings. His mother and most of his twelve siblings attended both ceremonies.  His mother is fragile, but she was here and oh so proud of her oldest son.  It was touching to see him give Holy Communion to her and his other family members. 

At the end of the two days, I felt as if I had attended a two-day spiritual retreat.  A month ago we learned that we had a new archbishop coming to us after 12 years in Rome. Some said it was a demotion for him, but most of us knew -  without knowing how we knew -  that we were blessed with the appointment of Archbishop Joseph Tobin. We have been praying for over a year that the Lord would send us a good shepherd and He has.  Archbishop Tobin immediately flew to Indianapolis for a whirlwind few days to meet his flock.  During the few days that Archbishop Tobin was in Indianapolis, he celebrated Mass for the seminarians at Marian University; a Mass a The Little Sisters of the Poor and the elderly residing there; he was everywhere, but quietly. At his press conference he was prayerful and humble, humorous, and he paid homage to his predecessor, Archbishop Buechlein, who retired due to illness.  He thanked our Apostolic Administrator Bishop Coyne for guiding us almost immediately after he was named Auxiliary Bishop to assist Archbishop Buechlein.

And then came the ceremonies that began on Sunday, December 2, at a Solemn Evening Prayer for the First Sunday of Advent and Profession of Faith in anticipation of his Installation. At first, the Sunday evening service was to be open to the public, but then it became “by invitation only” due to the large number of religious, family members and friends of Archbishop Tobin. I had looked forward to attending because I knew I would never get an invitation to the Installation Mass – or so I thought.  A nun friend invited me and my house guest to that service. The service was joyful, lots of wonderful music along with the blessing of the Archbishop’s miter, his staff and his pectoral cross.   I walked out of the Cathedral feeling very blessed. And why not – I had just been in the presence of greatness – our new archbishop.

After the Mass we were invited to the Catholic Center (across the street) for refreshments.  What a spread that was! The company sponsoring the reception spared no expense. They apparently served everything they would serve for their own receptions, including hot hors oeuvres, miniature sandwiches, fruits, veggies, many desserts, and an outstanding bar. I chuckled and thought: only Catholics!

Two weeks before the Installation I learned that each of our 147 parishes was given two tickets to give away. I immediately told my parish priest that I would like an invitation to the Installation and he said he would look into it.  That sounded like “no way.”   It was not going to happen. I steamed and stewed! And I wanted one or two if possible. And then came the day that my pastor said I had a ticket! I almost shouted with joy! I then told my house guest that she could have it.  She adamantly refused and insisted that I go. However, she is blessed with the gift of gab, and managed to wheedle her own invitation to the Installation Mass.

The pageantry continued on Monday, December 2 at the SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral.  The Archdiocesan Choir, composed of singers from various choirs in the archdiocese, entertained as we waited for Mass to begin. The voices were angelic and the musical instruments from flutes to trumpets to kettledrums demanded to be heard and appreciated, and they were.  The procession began.  Altar servers were followed by the Knights and Ladies of St. Peter Claver; the Knights and Ladies of Malta, the Knights of Columbus, Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulcher, and an Irish group of women from the Orange Order.  Our hundreds of priests and seminarians processed in along with Indiana’s bishops, the few visiting bishops, the Papal Nuncio and finally our Archbishop Tobin.  He must have been nearly blinded by the flashes going off as he was welcomed into the Hoosier state. This saintly and holy man opened his Installation homily with a joke about his girth, and he saluted the largest Catholic group in Indiana – the Notre Dame football fans. He spoke lovingly about the Church reaching out to the “marginalized the forgotten, and those hurt by the Church.”  I have waited for years to hear such words from a bishop.  I was in love!

Some say Archbishop Tobin was removed from the Vatican because he was sympathetic to the U.S. nuns in the cross hairs of some at the Vatican.  His group was responsible for the nuns and their supposed “disobedience.”  I doubt that this holy man would ever have approved the insults and accusations hurled at the very nuns who taught many of us about our faith.  I was not a Catholic when I attended a Catholic school, but I never forgot it. During a very rough period in my young life – which lasted for 9 years – it was the Catholic prayers I was taught, and my mother’s promise that when I reached age 16, I could be baptized in the Catholic faith, that kept me sane. Despite the nightmarish and terrifying events thrust upon me, I knew that our Lord and His Mother were with me.  They have never failed me.

How I wish that each of my priests in prison had had a bishop such as Archbishop Tobin. I can’t wait to tell him all about our priests in prison and what I try to do for them and what they do for me.  I am so blessed to have them in my life. I will always feel that way despite their protestations that they do nothing for me while I do so much for them.  It is a blessing to me to serve these fallen angels who made mistakes in their lives.  Our Lord will judge them and He will judge me.  

And so I rejoice in he who we have awaited – Archbishop Tobin.  He is humble and comes ready to serve.  He has a forever home - here in Indianapolis.  We welcome our Shepherd, and I wish him our Lord's peace and blessings.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012



if . . . in the greenwood. . . 

I'm in prison
I'm a "hardened con" after 8 years.
I'm a priest.
I want to stay here.
I don't want parole.
And I'm innocent.

My savings went to legal costs.
The Cardinal took away my pension.
The social security ended at conviction.
My car went to defray the cost of an expert witness.
The Church took away my livelihood.

My landlord took my apartment.
The Cardinal took away my medical benefits.
I'm anathema at the old priests' home.
The Cardinal won't tell me if I am excommunicated or not, so
I'm unwelcome at the prison Mass.
To dig, I am unable at 82 yrs. of age
As "the most hated man in Mass., one of the ten more notorious
criminals in Mass. history?" The "worst of the worst."
My life is in danger from the vigilantes.

I cannot stay with friends without making them targets.
The sex offender registry all but insures retribution from neighbors.

Is it not curious that the DA, now  the Attorney General, found
me harmless enough to go home with no prison time if I would
take a plea bargain and confess to 1456 rapes, or even to two?
Now ten years later I am surely less harmful.

Broken physically, socially, spiritually, religiously, vocationally,
my reputation destroyed, my integrity impugned, my golden years
squandered, parole would require yet another pound of flesh.

In prison I am so hated that I am kept out of sight even of
the general population -- protective custody.  Prison within a prison.

In any case it is useless to ask for parole since one is required
to admit his crime, show remorse and take the sex treatment
courses.  I have not even a smidgen of remorse for heinous acts
that never were.

Nearly deaf, hands shaking with familial tremors, a heart condition,
rosaea, limping from nerve damage from sciatica, allergies, skin cancer, 
high blood pressure, and cholesterol, I could not sleep under bridges
as do my compadres. My thyroid and my eyes have conditions which
require regular observation.

Let me die in prison, in solidarity with the countless other
innocents whose lives have been blighted or taken; the lynched,
the witches ...  while society consoles itself with two
great fallacies: "I can tell a guilty person" ... "Seldom do innocents go to 

 Modern science will disprove both.

S.P. in the Fields

Friday, August 10, 2012

Confessions From a Priest in Prison _ Part I

Dear Charlene,

You have been tireless in your championing the priests, innocent or guilty, and in that you are almost a voice crying in the wilderness. As the grateful recipient of your singular understanding of Christianity, I thank you.  How is it possible that nearly the whole bevy of bishops could fail in so basic a way?

You are the first to notice in print that even brother priests have generally abandoned the incarcerated. Is the veneer of Catholic morality so thin, so tenuous, that it dissolves by unspoken agreement? It may be that the bishops made some sort of pact, but surely the priests have done this on their own.

And you alone remembered that Charity is the queen of virtues. Or that Jesus Himself was at pains to require the visiting of the prisoner. Or do we have here the Unforgivable Sin which, like the Holy Grail, has had an elusive history?

You mentioned in your excellent essay: Forgiveness.  Have you seen or heard this word, this concept, applied somewhere in Catholic literature? I suggest it was stricken by the lawyers from clerical vocabulary in order to satisfy the hysteria of the mob.

You may want to think about a new problem: convicted priests who are about to reach parole dates.  They have no place to go unless their bishop intercedes.

I have a heart condition for which they want to send me to the hospital and to a specialist. I am refusing not the treatment which I want, but the ordeal. I can no longer sit on a stone bench in a cell with no magazines or books, chained around the waist, hands manacled, ankles manacled, for up to 8 hours.  I tend to fall asleep and I fear falling since I could not break my fall.  

Then too they stuff me in a metal box, sitting sideways, my long legs cramped, my back problems exacerbated, and drive off for the 45 minute horror.The wagon is similar to the ones you have seen in which they place animals who have been picked up by the dog (catcher). This ... chains and called "elderly abuse" in society.  It is called "security" in here.

Your ministry is unique. Isn't that outrageous?


                                                                       S. P. in the Fields

Thursday, July 12, 2012


     by Charlene C. Duline

A few years ago I wrote an article about priests accused of sexual abuse. I did not argue as to their guilt or innocence.  I simply pointed out the obvious, that as Christians and as Catholics, we are to preach what our Lord prescribed – compassion, love and above all, forgiveness.  Some people thought I must be mad.  

No, I’m afraid that my opinion was not welcomed, not even in my own parish. However I did have the support of my pastor and that meant a lot to me. I felt so strongly about what our Church teaches us, that I wondered how our priests were treated in prison. I wrote to a number of them, and most responded.  As a result my prison ministry was born, and I am the better for it.

As the scandal continues, I notice that some parishioners have had enough of their priests being accused without proof of anything, and then thrown to the streets.  And they have begun to speak up for their priests.  Heretofore it had been VOTF and the SNAP folk acting up, acting out, and in effect, crucifying any priest who was accused.  Thanks to those same folk, the accusations grew exponentially, as did the amounts of money the bishops handed over on demand.  Meanwhile, the accused priests struggled alone in their agony with only our prayers to comfort them.  At least, I like to think that our prayers are of some solace.  Their brother priests are afraid to comfort them, to visit, or even to write to priests in prison. Acutely aware of this, and knowing of the hatred exhibited toward any accused priests, some of our priests left on the edge of the abyss either committed suicide, went to prison and lost contact with family and friends, or simply disappeared to live under a bridge as many priests without any wherewithal do.  Their bishops, no doubt, grinned and glad-handed each other: another troublesome priest gone.  Another crook paid off.  Another liar rewarded.  Another insatiable, money-grubbing attorney picked up another million dollars. Ah, the good bishops, simply doing the attorneys’ will:  handing out money faster than the parishioners could place it into the collection plate.

And then one priest decided to respond to the rumors and innuendoes about him and a woman.  As the gossip swirled about him, his parents, his previous position, he took the bull by the horns and issued a letter.  He hoped the letter would clarify actions of which he was accused.  Did it? Indeed not! Rather, it brought out the crazies by the hundreds!  Those who had never heard of Father began clamoring to be heard! It was outrageous! They knew diddly-squat about this priest, yet their mouths were open and gums flapping.  Like dogs, once one began barking, others joined in the barking until that was all that could be heard.  It was no longer about Father, but about every priest who was ever accused.  Were they clamoring for justice and honesty? No, they yapped just to hear themselves yapping! I’m not even sure that they heard themselves! And yet these good Catholics will go to Mass on Sunday, sit angelically, reverently process to receive Holy Communion, and once Mass ends, it’s back to yapping and damning all accused priests.  
None of those yapping has lifted a finger in defense of their priests. I realize the incentive of most parishioners is less than that of SNAP’s. In order to keep the lawyers interested, the hate groups have to shake the rafters (read: money tree) of the bishops, or their paid mouthpieces won’t get any of the parishes’ money. They have to find some poor bastard with no morals and little conscience, to lie and say that a priest groped him or her 40 or 50 years ago.  So while parishioners have less incentive to defend their priests than SNAP, defend them they must.  Or, soon and very soon, you will be in a Church all by yourselves. Who will be left to consecrate the Eucharist?  The bishops?  Dream on.

One priest who is not depending on his parishioners to defend him is a fiery priest in Philadelphia. Father DiGregorio was one of several priests accused and removed from ministry while their cases were being reviewed by the archdiocese. A woman had accused Fr. DiGregorio of abusing her 43 years ago.  He vehemently denied the accusation, and went on a radio talk show to defend himself.  He said,  “I hope I’m not being made a fall guy. I hope the diocese would not do that.”  Well, of course that was just wishful thinking and a prayerful hope.  The dioceses have shown that they can, and will, turn on a dime against their priests at the first whiff of a scandal. Father DiGregorio was removed, reinstated, and then removed again when Philadelphia authorities and the hate groups made their unhappiness known. Innocent or guilty, accused priests have the right to speak out – and a duty - to confront their accusers. The Catholic Church has forgotten the law of the land.

 Our priests have been silent for far too long.  It is past time for them to fight back.  They should not allow their bishops to send them away while accusers come out of the woodwork, as lawyers place ads in newspapers begging, begging people to come forward.  An accused priest should not slink away and never be heard from again. That leaves only the hate groups and their repulsive lawyers’ voices being heard.   With few exceptions, our bishops are shameless.  Surely they are seeing the results of their warped policy created in Dallas.  They are not listening to the canon lawyers who are skilled in Church law, or to the few good, decent bishops.  Is it any wonder that the grubby, greedy attorneys continue getting down and dirty in looking for people without morals to accuse innocent priests?  Common sense should tell us that all of the priests accused are not guilty. 

It is also time for those in the pews to get off their duffs and help their priests! For centuries we have revered our priests.  They give up a lot to minister to us as God’s priests. How often do we thank them, pray for them, or give them a hug?  I love our priests, and they will always be very special people to me.  Yes, some priests are sick and should not be ministering, and they are being removed from parishes.  But we cannot throw up our hands and say nothing when a good priest is accused of something from 30, 40 or 50 years ago. That is an outrage! That is when our priests need us, especially if there is no proof.  We have priests in prison who have served longer than someone who has murdered several people. U.S. prosecutors now target priests, and they have the help of SNAP’s vociferous mobs outside the courtrooms poisoning the minds and hearts of jurors and playing to the cameras.

It’s a new day.  Priests are beginning to put everybody on notice that they might go down swinging, but that they will be heard.  And beside them will be those of us who do not believe that every accused priest is guilty. It is time for parishioners to support our priests.  If not, soon there will be very few priests and it will be our fault for letting the hateful few – you know who you are - continue to drown out voices of reason, justice and compassion. 

Let's support and love our priests and let the devil take the hindmost!




Wednesday, June 13, 2012



by Charlene C. Duline

Ten days ago I left for a visit to the South with my sidekick, Dolores.  I had never had a desire to visit the "South" as I thought of it.  I was born in Kentucky and I have visited several times, but for no more than 3 days at the longest, and I could not wait to leave.  I remember visiting as a 12 year old and going to a movie theatre with some friends.  The clerk at the theatre window took an unusually long time to wait on us and I let her know that she had customers - us!  I noticed that my friends hastily apologized and told the clerk that I was the grand-daughter of Creamus Small, a well-known and fairly respected black man in those parts.  Later, my friends chastised me for speaking up. "This is the 'South' they said. That meant nothing to me - then.

Much later I learned about the lynching of blacks in the South, and even later we learned that lynchings were still happening.  In 1955 the nation was jolted from its apathy by the murder of Emmett Till, a 14 yr. old teenager from Chicago.  Emmett was visiting relatives in Mississippi when he was accused of whistling at a white woman.  He was kidnapped from his great-uncle's home, beaten, shot in the head, and thrown into a river. Emmett's uncle and another black man risked their lives to identify the two white men who snatched Emmett from his family. Both men were smuggled out of Mississippi before they could be killed in retaliation. Emmett's body was returned to Chicago where his mother insisted that the casket be left open for the world to see what had been done to her son.  The two accused killers were found not guilty by an all-white male jury.  Later they bragged about killing Emmett.

I used to hear family members and other adults talking about what they experienced when they visited relatives in the "South."  They talked about the speed traps, the whites-only bathrooms, restaurants where they were refused service, having to enter public establishments through the back doors because only whites could use the front doors, the way whites spoke to them, and being extra careful of how they looked at or spoke to a white woman.  None of what I heard from them made me want to visit the South.  Somehow, as black people do, those talking about the South always laughed at the "close calls," or at their sly way of talking to whites in authority in the South.  They never seemed angry. To them it was simply a matter of surviving in the South.

In the '60s, when all hell broke loose, I saw and felt the hate on the faces of whites as little black children tried to enter so-called white schools.  I used to wonder what kind of people they were. And then my friend, Dolores, wanted me to visit the South with her. Frankly, I wanted to visit some southern cities to see the memorials to those who died during the civil rights struggle, but I decided long ago that I would have to see them on television or in books because I had no plans to subject myself to the whims of people who judged me solely on the basis of my skin color.  During my career I had met and worked with leaders of nations, the rich and the poor, and saw no need to subject myself to any people who thought of me and mine as little more than animals.  I let Dolores convince me that things had "changed down south" and I would be pleasantly surprised. We headed to Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi.  Good grief, I thought, if I survive this...

The days before we left, we found the planets unaligned. I had problems with my iPad and iPhone.  Apple said it was an ATT problem and ATT said it was an Apple problem, and I was thoroughly frustrated.  Dolores insisted that I was upset because I didn't want to go on the trip.  Truth be told, I didn't.  And the problems with my electronics only added to my distress.

We headed to New Orleans, a city I knew and loved.  That night we stopped in Fultondale, Alabama.  I never thought I would be in Alabama!  Fultondale is just outside of Birmingham.  Birmingham -  where four little black girls died when the KKK bombed their church.  As we drove through Tuscaloosa - I was flooded with memories.  Next came Meridian, Mississippi. Ole Ms! Jasper County - jasper brings to mind lovely gemstones thought to promote healing and relaxation, not so Jasper County - the site of KKK activity in firebombings. Memories came flooding back.

I thought of the three young men - James Chaney (a black Mississippian), Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner (both white, from New York)  -  murdered in 1964 in Philadelphia, Mississippi (just outside of Meridian, MS) because they were helping black people to register to vote. They were arrested by local police, released to KKK members who beat and killed them. They went missing on June 21, 1964, but their bodies were not found until August 4, 1964, buried in an earthen dam. Their killers were identified and went to trial.  They were always acquitted by all-white juries.  Finally, in 2005, on the 41st anniversary of their deaths, one man was convicted on charges brought by federal (not state!) officials. Edgar Ray Killen, an 80-year old white supremacist, and a part-time Baptist minister, was sentenced to 60 years in prison on three counts of manslaughter rather than murder which is what the prosecutor sought. The frail old man sat passively in his wheelchair breathing through an oxygen tube. The three men he killed (others implicated had died) were not allowed 41 years of life, not allowed to complete their education, marry, have children and grand-children.  No, Killen and other members of the KKK had enjoyed 41 years of a good life after orchestrating the deaths of the three young men. I know our Lord has forgiven him; it might take awhile for the families, friends and colleagues of the three who were killed, to do the same. Blacks and whites died to give us the privilege of voting, to eat at the same restaurants, to use the same facilities, and to have the same education in schools as whites had always enjoyed. Without the help of some caring whites, I doubt that segregation would have ended as soon as it did.  We owe a debt of thanks to a number of blacks and whites who gave their lives in the name of civil rights for all. May they rest in peace.

In New Orleans we stayed with an old friend of Dolores', Sr. Carla, at the Ursuline Sisters Convent.  What a building. What a history the Ursulines have in New Orleans.  This is the home of the Shrine of Our Lady of Prompt Succor (Quick Help).  They have a huge school with students from Kindergarten through 12th grade; impressive buildings and gardens. There was some damage from Hurricane Katrina, but their beautiful stained glass windows were spared, thanks they say to Our Lady of Prompt Succor. We visited the Amistad Research Center at Tulane University. They have my book, and a lot of material about Dr. John Crowley during his years in Selma, Alabama.  Dolores promised to send more materials for their Center. We visited the French Quarter, ate delicious beignets, and walked around a bit even though the weather was blistering hot.

That evening we went out to dinner with Sr. Carla, Sr. Donna and two other Ursuline nuns.  Sr. Carla wanted me to tell them all about my Peace Corps and Foreign Service experiences.  She encouraged them to ask questions.  After they asked two or three questions, and I answered them, they were off talking about things and people they all knew. Sr. Carla was chagrined. I understood the dynamics perfectly. It's comparable to someone inviting you to their home to see their vacation pictures.  After a few minutes your eyes glaze over and you find yourself talking about more mundane things.  So after a few minutes of hearing about the Burma bridge in the middle of my village of Quiquijana, they quickly - emphasis on quickly - moved on to things, things they could relate to.

A couple of days later we left for Biloxi, MS enroute to Dauphin Island.  Dolores told me that in the past Dauphin Island did not allow blacks on the island.  She related that a black couple who were friends of Carol, who owns the only bed and breakfast home on the island told her that when two black friends visited her, the husband enjoyed working in the garden.  A neighbor came over to ask Carol why she was bringing blacks to the island. Carol laughed at the neighbor and said, "That man is a federal judge. You'd better hope that you never have to go before him in court!" They thought she was importing blacks to work on Dauphin Island! Carol and I hit it off perfectly! She is a delight! She is as real as it gets!  She has worked in Central America, been a nurse, and cares for those less fortunate. She is warm, welcoming and generous with her time, her home, and her sharing.


Dolores also shared that years ago her husband, who had established a Catholic church on the island, took some black kids from Selma to the island.  As they walked along the beach, Dr. Crowley was told that blacks were not allowed on "our" beaches.  He was taken aback, but left immediately with the kids.

We went out to dinner one night and as I approached the restaurant I saw a sign on the door: "We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone."  Wow! I wondered what that meant. I was afraid to ask.  Later I mentioned it to Dolores.  She said it meant they didn't want people coming in barefoot or without tops.  Hmmm, why didn't the sign just say that?

We had a delightful visit to a dress shop where the owner, Marti, remembered Dolores from four years ago when Marti helped her select an elegant outfit to wear to a movie premier in Selma where Dolores' husband was being honored posthumously. Marti is a lovely, gracious, and giving woman.

On our last night, we had dinner in Gulfport, Mississippi at our hotel.  Near the end of dinner, Carol's husband, George, handed me a newspaper clipping showing a photo of him and Bull Connor, the infamous Commissioner of Public Safety in Birmingham. George was holding several police dogs as they lunged at a terrified black civil rights marcher. My heart wept. I didn't trust myself to speak. I could barely hear George saying that was a different time, and they were basically ignorant of what they were doing. I said nothing; I simply handed the picture back to him. I could not help but wonder why he showed me the picture. Dolores thought it was by way of an apology - of sorts.  The next day we said goodbye to Carol and George.  George hugged me and kissed me on the cheek. Dolores was floored.  She said she was surprised that he would hug, let alone kiss, a black woman.  I laughed. I am beyond being surprised anymore!

Despite the wounds to my spirit, I have come to see that our culture has come far in judging people by the goodness of their hearts and not the color of their skin. I saw blacks working at hotel desks, eating in restaurants, laughing and talking; doing what we take for granted, but what for them was a long, hard fought fight. I enjoyed  each and every person I met during those days down South.  Yes, I will visit the South again. No longer do the names of Biloxi, Meridian, Jasper, Birmingham, or Tuscaloosa cause my heart to skip a beat.  I know that God made fools and babies, and He protects both, and He loves both.  How can I do any less?


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Bishop Takes Pawn: Plundering The Rights of a Prisoner- Priest

By Ryan A. MacDonald

Bishop John B. McCormack, Aux. Bishop Francis J. Christian and  Fr. Edward Arsenault, announce names of accused priests 
      of the Diocese of Manchester.     
    "I do believe you will agree that we arrived at a point in our handling of these cases where canon and civil law are being eroded to the detriment and I think diminishment, not only of who we are as human beings, but of who we claim to be as Christians." (Catharine Henningsen, Voice of the Faithful Conference, February 5, 2004).

In October, 2000, Mr. Leo Demers - then Director of Engineering for WGBH-TV, the PBS-Boston television station that produces the news program, "Frontline" -  approached the Diocese of Manchester after being contacted by "Frontline" producers with an interest in the case of wrongly imprisoned priest, Father Gordon MacRae. Mr. Demers first called Auxiliary Bishop Francis Christian who flatly refused to discuss any aspect of the MacRae case. Shortly after, Mr. Demers was then summoned to meet with Bishop John McCormack. According to a sworn affidavit of Mr. Demers, Bishop McCormack informed him in this meeting: 

"What I am about to tell you must never leave this room. I believe Father MacRae is innocent and his accusers likely lied, but there is nothing I can do to change a jury verdict." 

Mr. Demers decided that he could not in conscience honor the secrecy demand of his bishop when two years later he learned that the bishop sent the case of Father MacRae to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome seeking his canonical dismissal from the priesthood based upon no evidence other than the fact of his convictions. 

A New Hampshire attorney has corroborated the statement of Leo Demers with a statement of her own. Her sworn affidavit reveals that in December 2000, she sought a meeting with Bishop McCormack after learning of the possible interest of Dorothy Rabinowitz and The Wall Street Journal in looking at the MacRae case. According to her statement, both Bishop John McCormack and Auxiliary Bishop Francis Christian were present at that meeting, and both unequivocally stated their respective belief that Father MacRae is in fact innocent of the claims that sent him to prison. The two bishops informed the attorney of their intent to explore and fund an appeal of Father MacRae's trial and sentence. 

In 2001, Father Edward Arsenault, Bishop McCormack's "delegate for ministerial conduct," raised the following points in two confidential memos to the Bishop: 

"My suggestion is that we address the inequity in Gordon's lack of base remuneration over the last 8 - 10 years {a calculable number) . . . This would alleviate ... the burden from you for extraordinary measures and would be more consistent with Church law." 

"It was unfair of the Diocese not to assist Gordon with funding an appeal of his sentence leaving him with a public defender for his only remaining hope for appeal."

"We ought to admit to Gordon that we have no reason to doubt that the Grovers  [the accusers] may have embellished their testimony to suit their own purposes and that we have never supported Detective Mclaughlin's tactics.” 

The "base remuneration" never took place. However, other confidential memos to Bishop McCormack from other Diocesan personnel reveal their doubts about the trial testimony against Father MacRae, including these excerpts from a memo from Diocesan Attorney Bradford Cook: 

"Throughout this process it was obvious that all of the Grovers were expansive in their testimony and it was aimed at getting a certain result, and frankly none of the attorneys involved in the criminal or civil cases trusted their testimony to be completely accurate. Whether it was all trumped up or totally manufactured is impossible to know . . .  That it was embellished was clear." 

"Detective McLaughlin has been the instigator of many cases in the Keene area and seems to be a crusader on sexual abuse cases, engaging in questionable activities which border on entrapment on occasion." 

"As to the involvement of Father Scruton or anyone else at St. Bernard's, clearly there were several members of the clergy located at that church who had problems and it is impossible to discount that one or more of them may have been involved with one or more of the Grovers." 

In a meeting in early January, 2002, Bishop McCormack promised the imprisoned priest that $40,000 in "non-donated funds" would be set aside to retain appellate counsel for him. Then suddenly the 2002 scandal broke out in Boston, implicated Bishop McCormack, and left Father MacRae outside the rapidly circling diocesan wagons. Bishop McCormack's subsequent memos to the priest continued to promise a defense, but with conditions. The memos called for MacRae's termination of any contact with The Wall Street Journal and Dorothy Rabinowitz before the diocese would agree to assist him further. Bishop McCormack's newer overtures promised help only if Father MacRae would agree to limit any inquiry to the length of his sentence and not the history and merits of the case or the convictions themselves.

Father Edward Arsenault contacted Father MacRae through the prison chaplain in 2002 with an assurance that the Diocese would retain Attorney David Vicinanzo to represent him. Reportedly, Father Arsenault asked the imprisoned priest to forward to his office all defense files retained by the priest. In December, 2002, Father Arsenault answered one of Father MacRae's letters with a statement that he "has not yet had an opportunity to discuss the materials you sent with Attorney Vicinanzo."
Months later, Father MacRae learned that his legal defense files were never given to the lawyer, and were instead taken by the state Attorney General's Office when serving a Grand Jury subpoena for priests' records on the Diocese. From that point on, Father Edward Arsenault and Bishop John McCormack both stopped responding to Father MacRae's letters. 

At the same time all of this was going on, Father Edward Arsenault and the Diocese of Manchester were deeply involved with negotiations with plaintiff lawyers for mediated settlements.  For a stunning review of what went on behind closed doors in these mediated settlements, please see an eye-opening article by Father George David Byers entitled, "The Judas Crisis...Follow the Thirty Pieces of Silver." 
When Bishop McCormack signed an agreement with the Attorney General's Office to publish the files of some 62 priests accused, a part of the agreement was that each priest would have a ten-day period to review and challenge publication of any files pertaining to him. Concerned that privileged legal documents and other materials produced post-trial by Father MacRae were about to be published, the imprisoned priest wrote to Father Edward Arsenault in January, 2003, asking that this ten-day review be afforded to him. He received no reply. 

Ten days after the files were published, in March of 2003, Father MacRae received a letter from an attorney for the diocese describing what he must do to obtain his files and review them before the release. The month-long delay in his receipt of that letter has never been validly explained to him.

After the publication of this vast release of files, Father MacRae wrote to both Bishop McCormack and Attorney General Kelly Ayotte protesting the publication of files that were fraudulently obtained by the diocese and published without regard for the priest's confidentiality rights. Bishop McCormack wrote that he tried to prevent the publication of files that were confidential, but was not successful. Attorney General Ayotte's representative wrote to Father MacRae stating that all files obtained by a Grand Jury in New Hampshire are considered confidential under law, but added that Bishop McCormack signed a waiver of confidentiality enabling all the accused priests' files to be published. 
In 2004, Bishop McCormack proposed in writing that he would like to meet with Father MacRae at the prison to discuss the norms under which he must send Father MacRae's case to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Then the bishop cancelled this meeting and sent the case with no input from Father MacRae, with no defense, and without MacRae knowing any of the specifics of what was sent. 
In 2005, after Dorothy Rabinowitz published a two-part article exposing the clearly unjust trial and imprisonment of Father Gordon MacRae, officials of his Diocese, including his bishop, ceased all communication with him until 2008.

At that time, Bishop McCormack sent a letter to Father MacRae expressing his concern that he has "learned you have retained new counsel" in this case. Bishop McCormack wrote that he has retained counsel to represent him - though no one knows why the Bishop would need representation in Father MacRae's appeal. The Bishop's letter also detailed that he has commissioned lawyers to conduct a review of Father MacRae's trial for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Bishop's secret "review" bypassed all the lawyers and investigators diligently working on Father MacRae's appellate defense. Bishop McCormack has refused to divulge to the priest or his legal and canonical advocates the nature of that secret review.
Father MacRae has had no communication from his bishop since that 2008 letter. In a letter to Rome, Bishop McCormack asserted that since his imprisonment, Father MacRae has refused, through unnamed third parties, to have any contact with his Diocese or other priests.  MacRae has consistently maintained that he has never made such a request and has never learned the identities of these "third parties." It was upon review of the events I have described above that the late Reverend Richard John Neuhaus, Editor of First Things magazine, called the case of Father Gordon MacRae “A Kafkaesque Tale," the title of this editorial in the August/September, 2008, issue of First Things
A KAFKAESQUE TALE by Rev. Richard John Neuhaus 
"Among the many sad consequences of the sex abuse crisis are the injustices visited upon priests falsely accused. A particularly egregious case is that of Father Gordon MacRae of the diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire. He was sentenced to thirty-three years and has been imprisoned more than twelve years with no chance of parole because he insists he is innocent. 
I have followed the case for several years. Lawyer friends have closely examined the case and believe he was railroaded. The Wall Street Journal's Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Dorothy Rabinowitz published, on April 27 and 28, 2005, an account of the travesty ofjustice by which he was convicted. 
Now the friends of Father MacRae have created a website, which provides a comprehensive narrative of the case, along with pertinent documentation Bishop John McCormack, a former aide of Boston's Cardinal Law, and the Diocese of Manchester do not come off as friends of justice or, for that matter, of elementary decency. You may want to visit the website and read this Kafkaesque tale. And then you may want to pray for Father MacRae, and for a Church and a justice system that seem indifferent to justice."
(First Things, August/September 2008)

"For we have made lies our refuge, and in falsehood we have taken shelter." (Isaiah 28:15)

To learn more about the troubling case of Father Gordon MacRae's false accusations and wrongful imprisonment, consult the following:

Sunday, March 25, 2012

(John 20:29)

By Charlene C. Duline

At Mass recently as the priest spoke about penance and forgiveness, I thought of Father Gordon MacRae in prison for 18 years for crimes that never happened. He was sold, like Christ, for a few thousand dollars – almost half a million dollars to be more exact. Recently, his attorneys –some paid and some pro bono - presented an appeal for a new trial. The appeal and brief are devastating. One wonders what kind of jury, prosecutors, detectives and judge testified, heard, and sentenced him. Yes, the clergy sex scandal had exploded at that point, but does that mean that all reason went out of the window? Why were they so ready to throw this priest into prison and throw away the key? His sentence was 33 ½ - to 67 years. That is, in effect, a life sentence, especially for one who insists on his innocence. That means he cannot apply for parole without admitting guilt. His movements within the prison are restricted because he will not admit guilt. He is punished again and again for maintaining his innocence.

When we sang the beautiful, spiritual, “Without Seeing You” at Mass that day, I could not help but think of Father Gordon. I thought of what we - those who believe he is innocent, those who are touched by his writing, those who see him as a holy man, and those who love him – feel about him without seeing him and knowing him only through his writings and those of Ryan A. MacDonald.

Without seeing him, we love him
Without touching him, we embrace

Fr. Gordon reaches out to us from his prison cell behind those stone walls and we embrace him in our hearts. This saintly man now serving his 18th year in prison cares so much about others. If you only knew a portion of what he does for others… Someday his story will be told, hopefully by him. No one else could do justice to his story.

Without knowing him we follow.
Without seeing him we believe (in his innocence)

What kind of man is this who is not bitter? Eighteen years of his life has been within those cold prison walls, subjected to the whims of others every day. He does not resent his former bishop, John McCormack, who reneged on his promise of providing legal support and who later sent information to The Vatican without letting Fr. Gordon or his attorneys know what the information was. No, he will not say one negative word about Bishop McCormack who, in effect, by doing nothing, allowed Fr. Gordon to receive a life sentence. In fact, in a press release just before his trial, his diocese announced that Fr. Gordon was guilty of the crimes of which he was accused. That was about as helpful as pouring grease on a kitchen fire!

With such bitter lemons, Fr. Gordon didn’t make lemonade or Margaritas (for obvious reasons). He spent several years in a cell with seven other prisoners. He did not complain. Methinks he could live with the devil because of his extraordinary spirituality, his calm, his patience and his acceptance of others. He has garnered a certain amount of respect in the prison. He is one of few, if any, prisoners there who can sit and eat at any table in the chow hall: with skinheads, blacks, Latinos, Muslims, and other groups. Some may not like him, but they respect him. Prison guards know that he often keeps the peace when prisoners are riled by something stupid a guard may do or say.

The readers of his blog have given him a new purpose. He is buoyed by their support and the fact that he now has a voice in the blogosphere. One reader, Mary Elizabeth, wrote:

“You are indeed a holy priest, Fr. I have prayed and prayed for holy priests, and God shows me He has given us holy priests, right here at These Stone Walls. All I can think of is where would people like Jeremy and Pornchai be without you, Fr. MacRae?”

Fr. Gordon has a keen sense of humor and laughs often. But some have learned that that Scottish-Irish blood sometimes rears its head. He has never backed down from anyone, as a former prisoner, Jeremy, wrote recently:

         “There is a lot more to the story of Father Gordon MacRae than you know. I want to tell you about the real Gordon MacRae. I spent five years in prison with him, but we didn’t know him as Father anything. Just G. I was 19 years old when I went to prison and most people thought I was 16 or 17. Every young kid in prison is very aware of predators and prison is filled with them. A tiger can’t change his  stripes and a man who is a predator on the streets can be a monster in prison. G is far from a predator. He was the only person any of us could trust. He treated us with nothing but care and respect and challenged us to leave prison better than when we came in. In all those years I never saw, heard, or felt anything that made me believe G ever belonged in prison.

         There’s something else you need to know. There was this big, tough man on our cell block who everyone feared. I was a pretty tough kid and could handle myself, but one night this guy told my roommate to be somewhere else. Then he came in my cell and demanded something despicable from me. When I refused, he dragged me from my bunk and started beating me. I fought but was no match for him and he pinned me to the floor. All the upstanding convicts fled to their cells and blocked their ears. Then the beating stopped and I realized someone else was in the room. It was G. The man stood up and demanded that G leave. G just said, ‘I don’t jump on your command.’ Then this beast just lunged at him, but G stood there and didn’t move. When this guy saw that G wasn’t backing down he walked past G and left. G made sure I was okay. This man never came near me again. He never even looked at me again.

         I am out of prison today because of G. All I learned about courage and integrity and honor I learned from G.”

Another of Fr. Gordon’s supporters, Michal Brandon of Freedom Through Truth, wrote eloquently of Fr. Gordon’s saga.

“Father MacRae was caught in a web of deceit, with the over zealous, though misguided, investigation of a detective on a mission, a judicial system looking for justice, though facts were not as important, and a Catholic Church reeling from these allegations and without a good rug handy to sweep these allegations under, and so he remains a guest of the state. You can read about it on his blog from the link above or to the left, and you can do your own research to back up the claims of innocence made on his behalf.

Father Gordon is a good priest. I believe in him, as many who have read the circumstances do as well. He is truly in exile, but like St. Paul in exile, does what he can with what is available to him.

His writing is poignant. His ministry to those he encounters in prison is bearing fruit, and he remains loved deeply by His Father in heaven.”

 Another of Fr. Gordon’s supporters, Michal Brandon of Freedom Through Truth, wrote eloquently of Fr. Gordon’s saga.

“Father MacRae was caught in a web of deceit, with the over zealous, though misguided, investigation of a detective on a mission, a judicial system looking for justice, though facts
were not as important, and a Catholic Church reeling from these allegations and without a good rug handy to sweep these allegations under, and so he remains a guest of the state.
You can read about it on his blog from the link above or to the left, and you can do your own research to back up the claims of innocence made on his behalf.

Father Gordon is a good priest. I believe in him, as many who have read the circumstances do as well. He is truly in exile, but like St. Paul in exile, does what he can with what is available to him.

His writing is poignant. His ministry to those he encounters in prison is bearing fruit, and he remains loved deeply by His Father in heaven.”

Prison has taken its toll on Fr. Gordon. He carries heavy books up and down stairs to and from the library. He has several ailments for which medication is not always given to him when it’s due. He may go for a week or longer without the medication he should take daily. There is one medication prescribed that he refuses to take because he knows there will be times when he won’t get it for weeks, and his body will react as if he never had that medication. As a result, he has put himself at risk.

A few weeks ago he had a terrible sinus infection or so he thought. His ears were draining, and he could barely hear. All prisoners dread going to “sick call.” They must arrive at 7 am and wait. And they wait. When the few chairs are filled, they have to stand. They are sick and have tried, sometimes for weeks, to get over whatever ails them just to avoid going to “sick call.” Sometimes after waiting for hours they are told the nurse is not in. Often they are told to buy some cough drops in the commissary. I knew Fr. Gordon was feeling very ill when he told me he was going to “sick call” the next day. He saw a nurse who was surprised to find that both of his ear drums had burst due to a raging infection. By this time he had lived for several weeks with a constant buzzing in his ears, and even some drainage He could barely hear. Antibiotics were prescribed. I scolded him for delaying going for treatment. His hearing is gradually returning, but he was told that he might have to live with the incessant buzzing in his ears.

A few days later many of the men on Fr Gordon's pod, including my godson, Pornchai, suffered a stomach upset that caused vomiting, diarrhea, and terrible stomach cramps. Fr. Gordon escaped this episode he says. Usually this nasty bug sweeps through the pod like wildfire and everybody without exception gets it. Fr. Gordon dodged the bullet this time, thankfully. Good thing, because few prisons bother having a doctor on staff. And if/when a prisoner is dying and has to go outside the walls to a hospital, he is shackled with chains on his legs and hands - no matter how sick he is. And when a sick man has to jump through hoops to "maybe" see a nurse, he'd rather writhe in his bunk. Sad, but true. A few years ago a New Hampshire representative to the state's House of Representatives introduced a bill to remove doctors from NH prisons and replace them with veterinarians. And would you tell us, sir, what you think of prisoners? That tells us what he thinks of prisoners. The inmates just might be better off with vets. Certainly the vets that my late poodle daughter had were superb and often called to check on her. When was the last time your doctor called to check on you after an office visit??

Most of us think prisoners get three balanced meals a day. Right? Wrong! Dinner, for example, is often two fish sticks and a spoonful of mashed potatoes. Sometimes the food is so revolting that only those without money to buy from the Commissary can eat it. Prison officials don’t care. It’s prisoners who cook the food. When spaghetti or macaroni is served, instead of rinsing it, the cooks simply add more water and more pasta to the pot, and the result, I’m told, is like eating macaroni mixed with glue. I’ve learned that there is no such thing as “balanced meals” in prisons. Did you know that prisons purchase food that is “recalled”? I was shocked to learn that. They get the cheapest of anything labeled “food.” The New Hampshire State Prison now spends approximately one dollar per day per inmate! The men can seldom identify the food being served. They are able to purchase noodles, dried or canned meat, etc. from the commissary. The prices were increased drastically a few weeks ago. Fr. Gordon says he has gained weight. He describes it as “baby fat.”

And because of back problems, Fr. Gordon is unable to exercise as he used to. He lives for the day in April when the ballfield door to the yard is opened and he can walk for several miles. Of course, the door is only open a few days during the spring/summer. A certain guard has to be there, and if he is not there, the door is kept locked and the prisoners don’t get out that day. It is sad to hear Fr. Gordon tell me at the end of any week, that the door was only opened one day or hasn’t been opened in two weeks. Walking is the only exercise he can get and he walks for miles. He is so grateful to be outside in the air. He is forlorn when the weather is nice, but the door doesn’t open.

David F. Pierre, author of 

and “Double Standard,” is a staunch supporter of Fr. Gordon. When he revealed his “EXCLUSIVE REPORT: Alarming New Evidence May Exonerate Imprisoned Priest,” everyone took notice, especially SNAP. For those readers who had neither the time nor the inclination to read the entire Brief (a lengthy tome), Mr. Pierre selected the most pertinent points (of which there were many), and the result is a bombshell. One wonders what kind of judge and jurors, not to mention prosecutors, could have sentenced Fr. Gordon to 67 years in prison. Mr. Pierre’s “EXCLUSIVE REPORT…” is a must read.

Hopefully, soon Fr. Gordon will be released from those stone walls. Just think: 18 years in prison for a crime that you did not commit. Only a man such as Fr. Gordon, a holy priest, could have served those years without becoming angry and bitter. If he is not granted a new trial and released after a judge and/or a jury hears the alarming new evidence as well as the evidence that was not allowed at the time of his original trial, what will we think? What will we do? We know what Fr. Gordon will do. Fr. Gordon will simply go on being the amazing priest that he is, and his prison ministry will continue to flourish. He is on the path to sainthood and he will not be denied.

* With apologies to David Hass, composer of “Without Seeing You …”