"...The whole sordid DSK affair reminded me of something that happened in prison in 2001, a full year before the national onslaught of sex abuse claims against Catholic priests.
One day one of my fellow prisoners – Randy, a name which fit him well – was called to the prison visiting room for an unexpected visit. Upon his return, he was at my cell door, which was itself an unusual occurrence. Randy was one of those individuals who lived to scheme, and who approached every human interaction in terms of what might be in it for him. I was not at all in Randy’s circle of friends in prison.
Yet there he was. Thirty-something year-old Randy had an offer he thought I couldn’t refuse. He had just been visited by his lawyer, whom he declined to name, and wanted to tell me of an “interesting opportunity” proposed by the lawyer. According to Randy, the lawyer asked if he is Catholic. Randy responded, “Well . . . sort of. I guess I used to be.” The lawyer then asked if he “ever had a problem with a priest growing up.” Randy – who caught onto opportunities quickly – saw where this was going. “I guess that depends,” he told the lawyer who reportedly responded:
“Well, if you want to accuse a priest of something, I can have $50 grand in your account by the end of the year – a $100,000 settlement split fifty-fifty.”Randy was shaking with enthusiasm as he stood at my door. He said he told the lawyer that he lives in a cellblock with a Catholic priest who has been accused. “Even better,” the lawyer reportedly said. “Tell him where you grew up and see if he can get you a name.”
So, let’s get this straight. For a “finder’s fee” I was to provide the name of some elderly or deceased priest who might have been present in Randy’s childhood community. Randy described this scenario as “a win-win situation all around” – except perhaps for the poor priest he was planning to accuse. And it wasn’t just Randy. I wrote of several similar fraud attempts in my 2005 article for Catalyst, “Sex Abuse and Signs of Fraud.”
I related the “Randy story” to a Catholic official who openly doubted there was any connection between money and the clergy sex abuse scandal. “If this is true,” he wrote in reply, “it saddens me that some prisoners would come up with such a scam.” I pointed out that the scam was not proposed by a prisoner. It was proposed by a contingency lawyer, a member of the bar who swore an oath to uphold justice. The Church official never responded to that fact. He just went on negotiating settlements for every claim involving a fellow priest that came across his desk.
I guess I shouldn’t leave the “Randy story” dangling lest you wonder how it ended. I sent Randy packing with a promise to personally expose him if he ever attempted such a scheme. He never gave me the name of the lawyer. “You never know,” he said. “I might want to take him up on it some day.” I knew two other prisoners who attempted the scam. Both received settlements even after I exposed it.
Does this story send a chill down your spine? It should. Father Richard John Neuhaus once wrote to me that the very idea of priests and sexual abuse “is sleazy business.” Indeed it is, but the driving forces behind its public face have been news reporters and contingency lawyers, and neither has made this business any less sleazy.
Greed ranks right up there with lust among the Seven Deadly Sins."
Editor’s Note: Several of you have expressed a desire to join Fr. MacRae in a Spiritual Communion. He celebrates a private Mass in his prison cell on Sunday evenings between 11 pm and midnight. You’re invited to join in a Holy Hour during that time if you’re able.