Thursday, September 24, 2015

A Small Glimmer of Justice Found in The Fisher's Net Awards

These Stone Walls is a finalist for Best Social Justice Site

These Stone Walls, the blog of falsely accused priest Fr Gordon MacRae, is a finalist for The Fisher's
Net Award for Best Social Justice Site, an ironic achievement given that justice is denied this priest.

In the sometimes dark forest of Internet research, I came upon a ray of light one day, an online endeavor called The Fisher's Net Awards.  It's an international effort to recognize the finest website or web presence, in any of ten categories, that best represents the mission and teachings of the Catholic Church.  According to The Fisher's Net Awards website, "nominees must exemplify excellence in online media utilising creative use of design and technology or exceptional content."

I went to The Fisher's Net Awards site and did some exploring.  While there, I decided to nominate These Stone Walls for the category of "Best Blog."  I thought it would go nowhere, and nowhere is exactly where it went. There are some 20 million blogs and thousands of them describe themselves as Catholic blogs.  I thought the sheer volume of competition would overwhelm my nomination of the blog of a priest unjustly in prison.

The nominations for this award closed on September 8 so I went back there to have a final look. Sure enough, These Stone Walls was missing from the long list of finalists in the "Best Blog" category.  I spent some time reviewing the sites listed, and voted for the Catholic blog I thought best fit the criteria for exceptional content even though it wasn't the one I nominated.

Then I opened up a few other categories to scroll through their list of nominees.  When I looked at the nominees for "Best Social Justice Site," I was startled to see These Stone Walls listed among the five finalists. I voted again, thinking I might be in a tiny minority.

A week or so later, I began to come across some social media buzz about this category so I went back to it.  I was shocked to see the voting tally for These Stone Walls stretch all the way across the page with more than 70% of the votes.  I can only attribute this outpouring of support to one thing:  among the hearts of Catholics, there are many who recognize the need to bring some small glimmer of justice to the story behind These Stone Walls.

This is not the first public acclaim that the consistently exceptional content at These Stone Walls has produced.  But it is the first main stream Catholic recognition on an international scale.  Please lend your support to this endeavor by visiting The Fisher's Net Awards, by reviewing the nominees, and by voting in each of the ten categories listed there. Please also spread word of this effort among your social media contacts.

And if you deem it worthy, please join the votes and voices of many in recognition of These Stone Walls, a voice in the wilderness that raises the bar in the Catholic online world.  You can vote only once in each category, and voting closes on December 1, 2015.


  1. Father MacRae deserves the recognition that would accompany winning this award! What a valiant priest! I'm sure he'd disagree with my description, but when I think of the many times HE'S HELPED ME instead of the other way around, I can only marvel at how God has raised him up even in the midst of the moral & legal desolation in which he's forced to live. God bless him & all priests who are unjustly imprisoned &/or removed from priestly ministry! And may justice be served on all responsible for these heinous acts.

    1. Hi Ryan,
      I'm the person Guilty of Nominating Fr. G. in the "Social Justice" Arena! I thought it Poetic Justice, & a "Tongue in Cheek" response to the USCCB'S IGNORING FR. G.'s situation!
      How can they Preach "Social Justice" while he remains in Prison?!?!

  2. He had 86% of the vote when I voted for Father a few minutes ago. That's a huge lead.

  3. I have to get something off my chest. I have been following the Fisher’s Net Award and like many readers I voted in most of the categories. I was quite enthralled that These Stone Walls was a finalist and so heavily dominated the vote in the category for Best Social Justice Site. When the voting closed on December 1, I noted that TSW had garnered almost 90% of the votes. Then last night as I logged on to view the winners I was shocked to see that the judges there had set aside that vote and instead selected a site that had about 3% of the vote. I know Father Gordon doesn’t much care about recognition, but for me this was just a small gesture that the Church knows this man is still there on the side of the road with his priestly heart still beating. This was not just an opportunity for Father Gordon. It was an opportunity for the Church. It seems to me that once again the priests and the Levites crossed to the other side and kept going. How sad for them. And now that I’ve said it Let’s just move on.

    Father Gordon took a “let’s move on” attitude but frankly he is used to being knocked around in the Catholic public square. Let me share with you something that happened last week. Father Gordon has been invited by a secular justice project called “The Marshall Project” to be a contributing writer for their effort to call attention to the criminal justice system in the U.S. The invitation came from Bill Keller, former editor of The New York Times. So Father Gordon wrote an article, and they loved it. While its publication was still pending, they asked him to submit another. So he did, and he mailed it on December 7. Given that the vote for the “Best Social Justice Site” was so heavily in his favor he wrote at the end that These Stone Walls was a first place finalist for that Social Justice Award. Then he mailed the post, but the next day he learned that the vote was discarded by the site managers and awarded to someone with only a 2 or 3% of the vote. So he had to reprint the article and eliminate that statement at the end and then remail it and ask Mr. Keller to disregard the first version. Now think about this in the light of what Father Gordon has written in this week’s post. It’s the very point I made in my earlier comment. The priests and the Levites crossed the road again and kept going while the former editor of The New York Times celebrates this priest for his writing skill and sense of social justice. I think Father Gordon just wants to move on but he also knows that the insult is not to him alone but to all of those who took the time to weigh the matter and vote. My experience is that Church entities in situations like this have their own reasons for doing things like this, often nefarious, and then circle the wagons when it comes back to haunt them. Father Gordon was not entirely thrilled that my comment sort of took over the combox here and people were no longer commenting on his post, which is a really good one, but in a way we are. I for one am really tired of seeing the priests and Levites pass by. And so I say follow your conscience and inquire as you will. Thank you for standing by this good man.

  4. The following comment by way of explanation was posted on These Stone Walls by Brian Holdsworth of the Fishers New Awards site:

    Hello TSW followers. My name is Brian Holdsworth and I’m one of the founders and judges on the Fisher’s Net Awards. We’ve received a couple angry emails which condemned us for the outcome of the awards. I took the time to personally respond to each but since then I’ve come across this comment thread and thought I should respond here as well.

    There are many serious accusations being thrown around on here that I find offensive and unfair (especially in which the sincerity of my Catholic faith is called into question). I’d like to invite all of you to think long and hard before you assume the worst about someone and pass such judgements unless you’re convinced that you will stand blameless before God when you’re judgement comes.

    The Fisher’s Net Awards clearly describes how the awards are chosen on the website, but let me take the time to reiterate. The nominees were submitted to us for approval and inclusion in the public voting. Once the nomination period ended, the public polls were opened. On December 1st the polls closed and the judges were given the chance to chose the winner from the top 3 (based on public votes). TSW was one of the top three for its category, but for whatever reason, the judges did not pick it as their favorite. This process was described on the FAQ page from the beginning.

    You may not think it’s the best way to choose the winner, but we thought it best combined input from the public as well as expert opinions. Without the latter, it would have simply been a popularity contest instead of something based on actual merit. The FNA was not setup to be a popularity contest but an award based on having created the best website (with an emphasis on design and technical achievement). Based on that criteria, TSW didn’t actually qualify because it is neither technically or visually impressive (which shouldn’t come as a surprise given Fr. Gordon’s limited resources – i.e. who can blame him). You may disagree, but as a professional web designer, I think my opinion bears a little more weight. In spite of that fact, I spent the time looking through the site and reading the articles. Considering we had hundreds of nominees, I couldn’t actually afford to take that kind of time with each one, but for this one I made an exception and after reading it, decided to include it to try and bring greater awareness to Fr. Gordon’s case. I included TSW as a nominee even though doing so was a violation of our own judging criteria. It’s ironic that I’m now the subject of so much anger…

    The judge’s decision was not rigged and it was democratic. The judges were not influenced by anything other than the criteria and this makes it impossible for the decision to be the result of any single person’s agenda.

    I appreciate the passion and conviction with which you all follow this blog and fight for awareness for this case, but getting outraged over an online award of little consequence is going to do little to bring justice to Fr. Gordon. Nor will outrageous accusations and conemenations against people with whom you are not acquainted. Please take the time to inform yourselves before you attack others and draw such conclusions and if you can’t be sure, consider not saying anything at all.


I invite all readers to post comments that are courteous and on topic. Comments will be posted after moderation.