Friday, September 3, 2010

Father Gordon J. MacRae

Priest in Exile

Father Ron Rolheiser, a Missionary Oblate Priest of Mary Immaculate, and President of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio Texas, has written columns for about 28 years, which I have come across from time to time while reading publications they have been in.  He has always called his column "In Exile", and he explained what he meant by it one time about 8 years ago.

He picked this in part because of St. Paul in 1 Cor 13:12, which is often translated as we see life "through a glass, darkly", though I prefer the New Jerusalem translation of that verse: "Now we see only reflections in a mirror, mere riddles."

Various people over the years have written him in support of this title, saying that they find with their particular illness, or lot in life, that they are indeed living like exiles, to which I can personally relate.

But, for an example of one living life in exile, St. Paul's life in prison, where he considered all these trials joy, is best exemplified for me in modern society, by Father Gordon MacRae, a guest of the state of New Hampshire in their state prison.

I mentioned Father Gordon in my article the other day on priests who have touched my life.  I know of Father Gordon only through the Internet, even though he has no personal direct access to it.  I have read his very thoughtful blog These Stone Walls regularly, and have also researched some of the facts presented there about his case.

Father Gordon was sent to jail for allegedly molesting teen boys.  The fact that there was no reasonable evidence to support the claims seemed to have no bearing on how things went for Father Gordon.  In fact, he was found guilty, and sentenced to prison for 33 1/2 to 67 years, and has been incarcerated since 1994.

Well, if he went to jail for it, he must have done it or something else that he got away with. Right?  Although there is a possibility that that could be true in many instances, it is not necessarily so, when it comes to sexual abuse and Catholic priests.  There have been a number of Catholic clergy who have molested young people.  As a proportion of the offending population, they are not small enough to be insignificant, but they are a very small percentage of that group. 

Yet, they get all the media attention, and therefor almost all of the public scrutiny.  As well, many of the dioceses of the Catholic Church here in North America, have settled claims from alleged abuse victims on the scantiest of evidence, but the most scandalous of accusations.  No doubt, though many were really hurt by abuse, this has been used for financial windfalls by some fortune hunters.  As well, some wounded individuals have found their moment of fame through this as well.  Before you get your knickers in a twist, I am in now way claiming that there has not been a lot of sexual abuse in our society and that it touched priests and religious as it touched all other demographic groups.

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.

St. Theresa, a doctor of the Church, lived in a world that contained a lot of hostility and gossip, and she asked her best friend Jesus about it.  As reported in an article about her in Catholic Online by Terry Matz, here is how that conversation went.
Sometimes, however, she couldn't avoid complaining to her closest Friend about the hostility and gossip that surrounded her. When Jesus told her, "Teresa, that's how I treat my friends" Teresa responded, "No wonder you have so few friends." But since Christ has so few friends, she felt they should be good ones. And that's why she decided to reform her Carmelite order.
Our Saviour lets those He really loves suffer, because He loves them so much.  Sounds bizarre, doesn't it?  How else can they be like Him, who suffered so unjustly?  One of the challenging verses found in the Letter to the Romans is verse 17 in Chapter 8:
"And if we are children, then we are heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, provided that we share His suffering, so as to share His glory."
So, Father Gordon MacRae, a man innocent of claims against him, and of the charges for which he was convicted, remains in prison.  He remains an imprisoned alter Christus, following in the footsteps of St. Paul, who knew whereof he spoke in the Letter to the Romans, and even more in the footsteps of Our Dear Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Please join me in praying for Father Gordon's exoneration and release from prison.


Jack in AZ said...

I want to believe that this fellow is innocent, but yet it's really hard for me to believe that a jury, after thoughtful and objective deliberation, actually found him guilty, and that a judge found the whole thing so repellent that he sentenced him so harshly if he wasn't really guilty. Maybe they know something we don't. I don't know. I guess I've heard of miscarriages of justice happening, but where are the "Free Fr. McCrae" activists carrying signs and appearing on "60 Minutes" TV show?????? Apparently most people don't buy that he's innocent. Of course the most common perception of the public is that no one in prison is guilty - they all have a "I got railroaded" story to tell. So that doesn't help his cause either. As far as the accusers recanting you may as well forget it. Money buys a lot of comfort and these guys will be living fat and happy off the land and their fat settlements from the Church. Why would God, a really true and just God, even allow such a thing to happen in the first place to an innocent and I mean totally innocent man????? Yes, I'm familiar with Job, I happen to be a Bible-believing Christian (not really Catholic, not anymore, I became a Christian in my heart in 2001 and became saved then) and I am more familiar with the Bible and spontaneous non-formula non-repetitive prayer man most Catholics. But anyway, I just want to say that I want to believe that the father is innocent, but it's hard to really believe that given where he is and for how long. Murderers in the state I live in are given less time than that (seriously I do not exaggerate)

Michael Brandon said...

Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Jack in AZ.
My wife and I spend our winters in Tucson AZ.

Father MacRae was caught in a perfect storm, and though I haven no doubt about his innocence, and there are many who have been working to free him, it is not popular in our culture to come to the aid of one of "those" priests.

I too had an encounter of the living Jesus. At that time, I acknowledged the salvation that you and I received in our Baptism. As you appear to have been baptized in the Catholic Church, you will always be a Catholic, and we would welcome you home, should you find it in your heart to return.

God Bless You