“BLESSED ARE THEY WHO HAVE NOT SEEN, AND YET BELIEVE.”
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:
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??
BALANCED MEALS – SURELY YOU JEST!
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 …”