Called “a light in dark times” These Stone Walls marked a recent milestone: eight years of publishing a voice never before heard in the world of Catholic media.
Back in 2010, I was contacted by a noted documentary filmmaker interested in an on camera interview with me. He and his research team had spent many months reviewing my trial and the public record in my regard and were interested in producing a documentary film about the story. Getting camera footage of an interview with me in my present location is no small affair.
But the interview was approved and the camera crew was allowed admission to the New Hampshire State Prison, a very rare event. Only The Wall Street Journal had previously gained such entry for interviews with me. The documentary interview resulted in two hours of camera footage to be edited into a hopeful film project tentatively titled “Perversion of Justice” as my trial and imprisonment had been described by The Wall Street Journal.
Today, the film footage and the entire project sits unfinished on a shelf somewhere. It was not the only project on the film producer’s plate at the time. He was also researching another documentary with the more general topic of Catholic priests falsely accused. The project gained support and an endorsement from the Catholic League for Religious & Civil Rights.
The result is a riveting and compelling production with a focus on the Philadelphia cases of Father Charles Engelhardt, who died in prison during production of the film, and Msgr. William Lynn. The finished documentary was stunning in its factual coverage of a fraud that had grown out of control and destroyed the lives of several priests. It further developed a story I wrote about in “The Lying, Scheming Altar Boy on the Cover of Newsweek.”
But that documentary film also sits unused on a shelf next to the one about me. No American broadcast media venue would agree to air it, so the follow-up project about me was also shelved. After my recent post, “Will Fr Charles Engelhardt’s Prosecutor Take a Plea Deal” I received this letter from the film producers:
“The ABUSE IN PHILLY film has gone nowhere, which of course has been a big disappointment. As you know, Philadelphia D.A. Seth Williams has been under FBI investigation for corruption and has recently resigned [Note: he will be sentenced to federal prison in October 2017]. So there is still hope in getting the film out there as its main argument is the DA’s corrupt prosecution of these priests.”
WHY I WRITE
Whether the news you consume is in America or Australia or anywhere else in the Western World, do not believe for a minute that you are getting the whole story about the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. The original story was, sadly, for the most part true. From the licentious days of the 1960s to the 1980s there were true accounts of some Catholic priests behaving very badly.
But in America, three things happened in response. Church officials adopted a practice of mediated financial settlements with lawyers. This meant that virtually anyone making a claim would get a settlement. Activist groups like SNAP use the news media and the scandal to serve their own agendas resulting, in part at least, in a suspected lawyer kickback scheme in which SNAP leaders had allegedly been involved.
Then the U.S. bishops, in a 2002 time of panic, adopted the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” and its “zero tolerance” for anyone “credibly” accused. “Credible” in this context means that money has changed hands.
Since then, as is now evident in the “trial by media” endured by Cardinal George Pell in Australia, the news media has the story it wants and passively or actively resists all the rest. The media steers the news, carefully vetting what you see and hear. In direct or indirect cooperation with contingency lawyers and activist groups like SNAP, the news media often creates the news.
Here is a stark example. A few years ago, SNAP, the discredited Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, staged a protest in Rome near the Vatican.- “Staged” is indeed the right word.
That night, a CNN commentator reported that “the Vatican has denied an audience with the Pope for 100,000 victims of sex abuse by priests” who gathered in protest to have their voices heard. It was fake news. It was a lie choreographed by SNAP while CNN was manipulated and used.
There really was a protest staged in Rome that day. It was about an hour long and took place a few blocks from the Vatican. The event consisted of about 30 people, mostly SNAP members. It was 99,970 people shy of the 100,000 that CNN reported were there. Another 20 or 30 were reporters who showed up to cover the media event. After being called on it by Bill Donohue at the Catholic League, CNN issued an embarrassed apology for the exaggerations.
As a Catholic writer in the “new media” world, I believe I have a single mandate: to place before you a story that “established” media neglects. When These Stone Walls was first launched in July and August of 2009, my first and foremost intent was to tell you the story of Catholic priests falsely accused and to present the evidence that most in the news media ignore.
THE TURNING OF THE TIDE
SaveThese Stone Walls quietly turned eight years old toward the end of July while I was caught up in a series of controversial posts. I never set out to be controversial, but as one writer put it to me in a letter recently, “your very existence among Catholic blogs is controversial.”
Should I apologize for that? I much prefer Ryan MacDonald’s analysis of These Stone Walls as “A Voice in the Wilderness.” The Gospel itself begins with such a voice. My “wilderness” is the abyss of false witness. Having experienced first hand the status of an outcast in both the Church and the world, I cannot remain silent as it happens to others.
In his 2012 book, Hope Springs Eternal in the Priestly Breast, author Fr. James Valladares, Ph.D. quoted Cardinal Avery Dulles about an article I wrote that began These Stone Walls:
“Your article is an important one, and hopefully will be followed by many others. Unfortunate though your situation is, you are in a position to carry on an effective apostolate on behalf of falsely accused priests. The time is bound to come when the tide will shift and even the bishops will be ready to hear the priests’ side of the story. The change will come, but not before the public is prepared for it by articles such as yours. Your writing, which is clear, eloquent, and spiritually sound, will be a monument to your trials. – (Card. Avery Dulles, Hope Springs Eternal, p. 274)
That same chapter in Hope Springs Eternal by Father James Valadares includes something presented early on in These Stone Walls about why I write and what I write. It was a response to a letter I received from another falsely accused priest who reacted with bitterness to my call for civility and fidelity.
“It is ironic that this priest is often angry with me because he doesn’t think that I am angry enough. I assure you, he is wrong on that score. But being angry and feeling let down does not excuse me from doing the right thing. It does not excuse me from fidelity to the Gospel, fidelity to the Church, and fidelity to my own sense of right and wrong. At the end of the day, I am still wrongly imprisoned, but I have the freedom to choose the person I am going to be while wrongly imprisoned.” (Hope Springs Eternal, p. 275)
I don’t have a way to measure how I have done on that score, but my aim has been to place These Stone Walls before you with fidelity, not only to the truth but to the Church we serve. To do otherwise is to no longer serve Her.
I am not alone in this goal. This Catholic blog could not be possible without the assistance of four stellar souls from across the globe: TSW’s publisher, Suzanne Sadler in New South Wales, Australia; Father George David Byers who scans and edits my posts in Western North Carolina; Charlene Duline who keeps me in communication with you from Indianapolis, Indiana; and Lavern West in Cincinnati; Ohio who prints and sends me your comments.
A WEAPON OF MASS DESTRUCTION
After writing and posting “Cardinal George Pell Is on Trial, and so Is Australia,” These Stone Walls had a surge of readers from Down Under. For the first time in our eight years of posting on Catholic blogs, Australia was the second highest country visiting this site over a period of several weeks. Many of the comments on that post were appreciative that I took on the story of Cardinal Pell’s unjust “trial by media.”
But there were also comments that we did not post, and some of them were from Australia as well. One commenter declared that “the evidence against Cardinal Pell is overwhelming.” Then, without describing what that evidence is, the rant went on: “We all know the Catholic Church is a child-raping institution!”
That is indeed evidence, but only of the writer’s blind bigotry. It is not evidence against Cardinal Pell. The truth is there IS no evidence against Cardinal Pell. Accusations are not evidence. This is important. There is more at stake than just one man’s rights, or freedom, or dignity. The integrity of our Church is at stake: not our faith, but our Church, which in the words of St John Paul II, is to be a mirror of justice for the world.
After that post about Cardinal Pell’s “trial by media,” I wrote an article about what is really behind this story as it exists right now. I did not want to publish it on These Stone Walls because it would be like preaching to the choir. I wanted to publish it in a completely secular venue, but no mainstream news media will publish anything that casts your faith or your Church, or especially your priests, in a better light.
So I decided to submit it to an unusual venue, LinkedIn Pulse, the publishing platform of the professional networking site, LinkedIn. The article is titled, “A Weapon of Mass Destruction Catholic Priests Falsely Accused.” Mass destruction, as in the destruction of the Sacrifice of the Mass, really is what is at stake for Catholics if the priesthood’s trial by media continues.
What makes this article so important is the fact that it appears not in a Catholic publication, but in an entirely secular one. Within a single day of being published, it had hundreds of readers at LinkedIn. The article presents hard evidence of how the scandal of sexual abuse in the priesthood turned an even darker corner when the Church was not vigilant about fraud.
While the Church’s leaders were negotiating mediated settlements in decades-old claims against priests, a conspiracy was taking place to undermine your faith and bring down the Catholic Church. The real goal of the conspiracy has been to remove the Church’s moral voice from the public square, and toward that end, the scandal has made many inroads and gained many parasites using it for nefarious agendas.
One of those parasites is the news media, the only profession that currently registers lower than Congress on integrity polls. The news media leans decisively left and leaves “the rest of the story” untold. What has happened to Archbishop Anthony Apuron in Guam is not the end. What is happening to Cardinal Pell in Australia is not the end. The very point of “trophy justice” is that it collects trophies, and each one simply emboldens the next incursion into silencing the voice of Catholic witness.
Those who have used the scandal for agendas of their own – including some claiming to be Catholic – have closed more than just their eyes. There are none so blind as those who will not see. I want to ask you to read and share with others, “A Weapon of Mass Destruction: Catholic Priests Falsely Accused” and pray that the eyes that are opened will in turn help open some minds.
And whether you are new to These Stone Walls or have been reading for eight years, you can help us by sharing links to our posts. If what Cardinal Avery Dulles predicted is true, I thank you for being here with us at the turning of the tide. Your presence here brings hope and meaning to suffering.
“Father Gordon MacRae’s eye-catching, thought-provoking and conscience-grabbing blog, These Stone Walls is deemed by many to be the finest example of priestly witness in the plethora of scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church in the course of the past decade.” (Fr James Valladares in Hope Springs Eternal in the Priestly Breast, p. 274)
“While imparting a side of the abuse scandal that the major media refuses to provide, These Stone Walls is informative, thoughtful, and spiritually empowering… One visit will make anyone reconsider the one-sided hysteria we’ve heard in the media for the last two decades.” (Author, David F. Pierre, Jr., The Media Report)
Rev. Gordon MacRae writes at These Stone Walls, from where this article is adapted.