A new chapter has begun in the story of accused Catholic priests, but some in SNAP and VOTF seem frantic to suppress it. Why fear the truth?
Last month, I was invited by the editors of These Stone Walls to write a "Special Report" about a new development in the case of Father Gordon MacRae, a priest of the Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire whom I believe - to a moral certainty - has been wrongly imprisoned for nearly 18 years. My "Special Report" described new evidence presented in a Motion for New Trial filed in the New Hampshire court system. The legal documents are posted in their entirety at the website of the National Center for Reason and Justice, and they are most compelling.
In the weeks to follow my brief report, David F. Pierre, Jr., author of the book Catholic Priests Falsely Accused, presented an equally compelling synopsis of the new evidence in the case of Father Gordon MacRae in an "Exclusive Report" at The Media Report. If you do not have time to review the extensive legal briefs and exhibits at the NCRJ site, David Pierre's report provides a superb and accurate summary.
David Pierre’s "Exclusive Report" also had the effect of alerting some of the New Hampshire news media to this emerging story. WMUR News in Manchester, New Hampshire ran a fair and balanced account which can be viewed here. A few New Hampshire newspapers covering the story were far less fair and balanced. The New Hampshire Union Leader blasted Fr. MacRae’s 1994 trial and conviction in front page headline stories, but the recent news of new evidence challenging the conviction was buried in a three inch blurb on page 10. The Keene Sentinel, the sole newspaper in the community in which Father MacRae was tried and convicted in 1994, seemed hampered by its policy of not printing names of accusers in reporting the new evidence.
This is entirely new, of course. Most New Hampshire news outlets covered the 1994 MacRae trial with not only names, but photos, as a pitifully sobbing Thomas Grover described his lurid tales of adolescent abuse from the witness stand. What the news media did not see at that time was something described by witnesses who later came forward. A therapist hired by Thomas Grover's contingency lawyer was also in that courtroom. Two persons have attested seeing her run her index finger over her eye and down her cheek prompting Thomas Grover to begin sobbing. As Grover himself was reportedly overheard saying to friends in the parking lot after trial, "I should get an Academy Award for that performance!"
Indeed he should. There is substantial evidence today that Thomas Grover and his brothers committed fraud and larceny, not just against Father Gordon MacRae and the Diocese of Manchester - which was only too willing to write checks without investigation – but against the court system itself and the people of New Hampshire, including its news media. The citizens of New Hampshire should be rightfully outraged at how these scammers got one over on them. When all was said and done, Church settlements with the Grover family accusers alone amounted to more than $600,000.00. Such fraud has been widely enabled by the climate of Catholic scandal.
NOW COME THE VICTIM ADVOCATES
Sadly, but predictably, the folks at the Bishop-Accountability website have ignored new developments in this story. They were eager to publish all the dirt on Father Gordon MacRae as it emerged in the great one-sided purge of Church settlement files in 2002 in which every money-driven accusation was treated as demonstrably true. However, more recent efforts to get Bishop-Accountability to live up to its self-description as a clearinghouse for the story of accused priests have met with silence. The Media Report's "Exclusive Report" has not been published by Bishop-Accountability. Several prior reports I have researched and published on this case have also been provided to Bishop-Accountability for publication, but without response. These include, "Truth in Justice: Was the Wrong Catholic Priest Sent to Prison?" and "Should the Case Against Father Gordon MacRae Be Reviewed?"
Just as predictably, the much-diminished New Hampshire Voice of the Faithful (VOTF), along with a few members of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) have become a tag team trying to stifle news of new evidence in the Father MacRae case. In their predictably toxic comments following secular news reports of Father MacRae's appeal, SNAP and VOTF members seem not only agitated by the new evidence, but frightened by it. A member of New Hampshire Voice of the Faithful has waged a one-woman propaganda campaign that has minimized and misrepresented the new evidence in the hope that readers won't review it for themselves.
Meanwhile, a SNAP spokeswoman invited anyone who wants to score a windfall settlement to accuse this priest anew to help halt the momentum pointing to his innocence. The same formulaic comment by this one SNAP member has followed hundreds of news articles about virtually every U.S. priest who has been accused. Writing this single comment everywhere that will print it seems to be her full-t1me job. And it demonstrates why the names of accusers should be publicized.
SNAP's usual spokesperson, David Clohessy, has been silent, however, apparently busy defending himself against a court order that he turn over all SNAP’s records, files, and financial reports. Mr. Clohessy emerged from that court hearing to do what he does best in front of any TV camera that will point in his direction: he cried. David Clohessy’s previous news sound bite about Father MacRae described the imprisoned priest's efforts to obtain due process and fair treatment as the work of “a dangerous and demented man.” This spoke volumes about SNAP's agenda, and its corporate fear of any version of the Catholic abuse narrative beyond the one they want the news media to report.
SNAP and VOTF discredit themselves and diminish their own credibility by taking the position that no Catholic priests have been falsely accused. Their attempts to minimize and cloud the emerging new evidence of Father Gordon MacRae's innocence belies their true agenda which has nothing to do with justice or truth or even protecting children. It is to control and manipulate the news in order to characterize the Catholic Church and priesthood as lecherous offenders unworthy of trust.
For the most part, SNAP and VOTF were once comprised of apparently good and honest people who took on a cause they believed to be right. What they have become, however, is a fearful lynch mob trying to influence justice through revulsion instead of due process. It is time for Catholics and the mainstream news media to give them the attention they deserve. Let the truth be heard.
Spero columnist Ryan A. MacDonald is a free lance writer who blogs at A Ram in the Thicket.