By Father Gordon J. MacRae
(These Stone Walls) The elephant in the sacristy this week is, of course, that stunning May 11 article by Dorothy Rabinowitz in The Wall Street Journal entitled, “The Trials of Father MacRae.” In effect it brought the truth of one case of false witness to the public square for all to see, and the result is a far different story than what many in the news media have propagated to date. Like any wound so exposed, I found the article to be painful but necessary, and the cleansing of this festering wound of wrongful imprisonment will no doubt be painful still.
Just a week before that Journal article appeared, the local Comcast cable system in Concord, NH decided to add EWTN to its Basic Cable service available to, and funded by, prisoners at no cost to taxpayers. This prison system lost access to EWTN five years ago, and it is suddenly back. Our friend, Pornchai, was the first to notice. He awoke during a sleepless night and turned on his little TV. There on his screen was Dawn Eden being interviewed about her book, Peace I Give You; Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints. Pornchai wrote of her and that book in “Divine Mercy and the Doors of My Prisons” for Holy Souls Hermitage last month. If you haven’t read his guest post, you must not miss it.
The next morning Pornchai told me about EWTN and Dawn Eden so I tuned in later that night in time to catch a rerun interview with the late Father Richard John Neuhaus, as brilliant and erudite as ever. It made my heart sink a little. He left us in January, 2009, and I have written more than one tribute to him, the last being “In Memoriam: Avery Cardinal Dulles and Fr. Richard John Neuhaus” on TSW in January 2011. They were the greatest of friends and collaborators, and they left this world three weeks apart from each other. In the last century of American Catholicism, there has been no one to match the strength of their combined voices in the public square – with the exception, of course, of the legendary Archbishop Fulton Sheen.
The night Father Neuhaus posthumously appeared on my TV screen, he was right on cue. I was lying awake re-reading a series of his commentaries for First Things magazine on the Catholic priesthood sex abuse scandal. Originally published in “The Public Square” section of First Things, we collected these brilliant commentaries into a single document posted under “Articles and Commentary” here on TSW with Father Neuhaus’ original title, “Scandal Time.”
Father Neuhaus wrote most of “Scandal Time” just before and after the U.S. Bishops’ ratification of the so-called Dallas Charter in 2002 with its policies of zero tolerance and widespread suppression of the rights of accused priests. It makes for painful but necessary reading because it exposes a gaping wound in the life of the Catholic Church in the United States – a wound that threatens the very nature of priesthood. Father Neuhaus did not cushion his message, and in fact began it by citing The Wall Street Journal’s Dorothy Rabinowitz:
“Unbridled outrage can too easily become hysteria. One recalls [the] blizzard of criminal charges and lawsuits over alleged abuses, including satanic rituals and other grotesqueries, perpetrated by people working in day care centers. Whole communities around the country were caught up in a frenzy of mutual recriminations, and many people went to jail, until the heroic and almost single-handed work of Dorothy Rabinowitz of The Wall Street Journal exposed the madness for what it was.” (Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, “Scandal Time,” 2002)MY LOT IN LIFE
A TSW reader suggested awhile back that my being falsely accused and wrongly imprisoned may be “your lot in life,” brought about so that These Stone Walls could come into being. I find that to be an intimidating notion, and I’m not sure I want to put much stock in it. The euphemism, “my lot in life” is intriguing, however. We’ve all heard it and used it, but I think most people are unaware of the term’s Biblical roots. It comes from the practice of casting lots, a term used throughout Scripture... (continued)