Thursday, June 28, 2012

Lucia False claims against innocent priests

Since the beginning of this week, I've been reading the blog of Fr Gordon MacRae, who was sentenced to 33.5 to 67 years in 1994 for the sexual abuse of a teenage boy (aged 15) who went to him for counselling. It's looking like the claims of abuse were false and were only made in order to gain a large settlement payout from the Church.  However, Fr MacRae is still in prison while his lawyers fight for a new trial for him.

In the last decade of media coverage of the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, scant attention has been paid to the probability of false claims against innocent priests. When one understands the role of the contingency fee bar in the mediated settlements of claims against Catholic dioceses, it becomes a virtual certainty that some priests have been falsely accused for money.

One such case was profiled in a riveting two-part series of articles by Dorothy Rabinowitz (”A Priest’s Story,” The Wall Street Journal, April 27/28, 2005). Ms. Rabinowitz was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for her compelling disclosures about false witness and witch hunt sexual abuse prosecutions in American courts of law.  Her coverage of the travesty by which Father Gordon MacRae was convicted is a troubling account of how justice can be distorted by accusers and lawyers who have a financial stake in its outcome.  It’s a story, as described by the late Rev. Richard John Neuhaus in First Things magazine (June/July 2009), “of a Church and a justice system that seem indifferent to justice.”

One glaring omission from the prosecutorial rhetoric in the Father MacRae case is the fact that he could have left prison over fourteen years ago had he actually been guilty and willing to say so.  On multiple occasions before and during his 1994 trial, MacRae was offered pre-trial plea deals by the state’s prosecutor with the approval of his accusers. In exchange for a plea of guilty in lieu of a trial, MacRae could have served a prison sentence of only one to three years and could have left prison over fourteen years ago.  Of course, the jury never knew of MacRae’s repeated refusals of such a deal.

Judge Arthur Brennan, however, likely did know of this when he sentenced the priest to sixty-seven years in prison, more than twenty times the maximum sentence that the state was prepared to impose if MacRae would plead guilty.

The National Center for Reason and Justice ( now endorses the appellate defense of Father Gordon MacRae, and sponsors a website at TheseStoneWalls. It contains a comprehensive case history for which this writer and others contributed substantial research. The late Cardinal Avery Dulles wrote that case of Father Gordon MacRae “must come to light and will be instrumental in a reform.”

It seems there are people who automatically assume that if an abuse accusation is made against a Catholic priest that it must be true, since all priests are most likely guilty anyway. WhaleOil certainly acts in that way (see Better than buggering little boys).

Related links: Truth in Justice: Was the wrong Catholic priest sent to prison? ~ TheseStoneWalls
Alarming New Evidence May Exonerate Imprisoned Priest ~ The Media Report

4 comment(s):

Reggie said...

Lucia Maria said...

Hi Reggie, yeah, I saw that when it came out in the media. Tempting as it would be to use that against him, I'm going to refrain.

Jeremy Harris said...

There is no doubt in certain countries the abuse has been worse than others. I guess the differing justice system in countries plays a large part in how many are caught and convicted and how large the financial incentive is to falsely accuse.

I.M Fletcher said...

There's a very good article by Brendan O'Neil from spiked! magazine about how the numbers of abusing preists is greatly exaggerated both in the U.S and in Ireland.

The term ‘paedophile priest’ has become such a part of everyday cultural lingo that most people, when they read in last week’s relatively respectable UK Independent that ‘over 10,000 children have come forward to say they were raped [by Catholic priests]’, would probably think, ‘Yeah, that’s possible’. But it isn’t true. The Independent was referring to a study commissioned in 2002 by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, which was published in 2004 under the heading ‘The Nature and Scope of the Problem of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States’. This study covered the period of 1950 to 2002, and it did indeed find that 10,000 individuals in the US - 10,667, to be precise - had made allegations of sexual abuse against priests (against 4,392 priests in total, around four per cent of the 109,694 Catholic priests active in the US between 1950 and 2002). But this doesn’t mean that these 10,000 ‘[came] forward to say they were raped’.

The 10,667 made various allegations, ranging from verbal abuse (being forced to indulge in sex talk) to being shown pornography to being touched by a priest over or under their clothing. Then there were the more serious allegations, which included being coerced into mutual masturbation, oral sex and, in some instances, rape. Yet where 3,553 of the individuals claimed to have been touched over their clothing and 3,981 to have been touched under their clothing, a smaller number claimed to have been subjected to what is described in the report as ‘penile penetration or attempted penile penetration’, that is rape or attempted rape; 990 boys and 213 girls made this allegation – a total of 1,203 individuals, not 10,000.

Moreover, if we are serious about such Enlightened ideals as justice and equality before the law, then we have to accept the fact that not all of these allegations were ultimately proven to be true. Out of the 10,000-plus allegations made against priests in America, 3,300 were not investigated at all because they were made after the accused priest had died (surely even the most riled anti-pope commentator accepts that a man who is no longer around to defend himself cannot be convicted of a crime). Of the 4,392 priests in America who were accused of sexual abuse in the period of 1950 to 2002, 1,021 were investigated by the police, and of these, 384 were charged, of whom 252 were convicted. So around six per cent of all American priests who had allegations made against them were finally convicted.

Go read the whole thing...

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