Sunday, December 8, 2019

A Dark Age for Priests: Bishops as Judge, Jury, Executioner

                                By Ryan A. MacDonald

As a national spotlight is on New Hampshire's First in the Nation Presidential Primary, Bishop Peter Libasci chose this moment to deny the civil rights of his priests.   

In August, 2019, Bishop Peter Libasci of the Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire, published a list of the names of priests "credibly" accused in that state over the past fifty years.  The bishop cited "transparency" as his reason.

The list contains the names of 73 accused priests. More than half are deceased.  Only five of the 73 ever had a case for prosecution before any New Hampshire court.  All of the claims alleged abuse from three to five decades ago.  All were brought with financial demands resulting in secret settlements from the Diocese.

Bishop Peter Libasci's published list was generated by a one-sided grand jury investigation of the Diocese launched in 2002.  That investigation treated all claims in civil lawsuits and other demands for settlement as "credible" with no standard of evidence.

Bishop Libasci's press release also revealed that the claims against all 73 priests were determined to be "credible."  This is a standard that the United States bishops adopted at their Dallas meeting in 2002.  "Credible," as the bishops are applying it, means only "possible."  If it could have happened, it's credible.  A 2003 grand jury investigation report that a previous Bishop of Manchester agreed to publish was the source for the list.

My article cited above was followed by a related article by Fr. Gordon MacRae, a priest of the Manchester Diocese whose name appears on his bishop's list.  The list was published by a diocese whose previous bishop told others in secret that "I firmly believe Father MacRae is innocent and should not be in prison." 

Father MacRae's article is "A Grand Jury, St. Paul's School, and the Diocese of Manchester."
From reports I have seen generated by These Stone Walls, the article was heavily read around the world, most notably in Washington D.C., at the Holy See, and throughout Rome.  In New Hampshire, it was the most-read article of the year at These Stone Walls.

My article, "In the Diocese of Manchester; Transparency and a Hit List," focused on injustices behind the scenes in a decision of the Bishop and Diocese to publish that list anew.  Father MacRae's remarkable sequel brought to light a judge's ruling that publishing these grand jury reports - and by extension the Bishop's list of names - is barred under New Hampshire law.

Given the various one-sided grand jury investigations of Catholic dioceses across the U.S., Judge McNamara's Court Order should give Catholics pause.  The judicial findings summarized below cast doubt on the decisions of Bishop Libasci and other U.S. bishops to publish lists of names of accused priests arising from grand jury investigations:

  • "This Court disagrees with the decision to approve the 2003 Diocese-OAG Agreement.  The Agreement fulfilled none of the traditional purposes of the common law grand jury."
  • "The report agreed to in 2003 between the OAG and Diocese did not protect the privacy interests of subjects who were never charged with a crime by the grand jury.  It provided no due process protections for reputational rights with redactions of subjects' names to protect their right to reputation."

  • "Grand jury testimony can involve all sorts of false, damaging, and one-sided information and New Hampshire has no historical or legal basis for releasing such information."

  • "An allegation of wrongdoing or impropriety based on half-truths, illegally seized evidence, or rumor, innuendo or hearsay may blight a person's life indefinitely."  (Source:  Order of Judge Richard B. McNamara In Re:  Grand Jury No. 217-2018-CV-00382, August 12, 2019)


It is disturbing that the decision of Bishop Peter Libasci to publish the list of accused priests took place just days before the above Order by Judge McNamara was issued.  This is ironic and highly suspect.  It seems many U.S. Bishops are listening to their lawyers more than they are listening to the Pope.

On February 21, 2019, six months before Bishop Libasci threw his accused priests under the bus, Pope Francis signed a set of guidelines for bishops to follow on how allegations of sexual abuse by priests should be handled.  The list included 21 points that Pope Francis asked the bishops to observe.  Here is Point #14:

  • "The right to defense; the principle of natural and canon law of a presumption of innocence must also be safeguarded until the guilt of the accused is proven.  Therefore, it is necessary to prevent the lists of the accused being published, even by dioceses, before the preliminary investigation and a definitive condemnation." (Source: Guidelines of Pope Francis, February 19, 2019)

Rev. Thomas Guarino, Professor of Systematic Theology at Seton Hall University, has published what I consider to be a landmark article entitled "The Dark Side of the Dallas Charter."  (First Things, October 2, 2019.  Father Guarino characterized the 2002 Dallas Charter - the operable document under which accused priests are removed from all ministry:

  • "With their Dallas Charter of 2002 . . . the American bishops decreed 'zero tolerance' for priests accused of sexual abuse, a norm that violates equitable treatment for priests.  Cardinal Avery Dulles added, 'Having been so severely criticized for exercising poor judgment in the past, the bishops apparently wanted to avoid making any judgments in these cases.' "

Father Thomas Guarino points out that Pope Francis has been reluctant to invoke the term "zero-tolerance."  The Wall Street Journal  reported that of the 20 countries in the world with the largest Catholic populations, only the Bishops of the United States adopted a policy of zero tolerance for priests accused.  If any other American citizen were subjected to such standards for being shamed on public lists, lawsuits would soon follow.

After the Dallas Charter was enacted at the 2002 U.S. Bishops' Conference in Dallas, the late Father Richard John Neuhaus interviewed an American prelate who was one of the unnamed architects of the Charter.  Father Neuhaus quoted him in a First Things article:  "It may be necessary for some innocent priests to suffer for the good of the Church."  That prelate, according to Father MacRae was Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

"Zero tolerance" is an insult to Catholic theology and to our priests who are disenfranchised from their priesthood on the whim of a bishop after being accused.

"Transparency," however, as invoked by Bishop Peter Libasci and other bishops, is an insult to all the rest of us who have waited in the dense fog they call "transparency" for the Church to reflect the mirror of justice this world needs Her to be.

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Note:   A more complete version of this post by Ryan A. MacDonald was published at These Stone Walls under the title,


Bishop Peter Libasci, Diocese of Manchester, Priests, Bishops, New Hampshire First in the Nation Presidential Primary, Grand Jury investigation of Diocese, Fr. Gordon MacRae, Judge Richard McNamara, Rev. Thomas Guarino, Father Thomas Guarino, Dallas Charter, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Catholic New Hampshire

Sunday, July 14, 2019

The Testimony Judge Joseph Laplante Has Not Heard

 The Testimony Judge Joseph Laplante Has Not Heard

                   By Ryan A. MacDonald

Video documentary testimony of Rev. Gordon MacRae is a compelling challenge to the standard Catholic abuse narrative.  Is that why it went missing for seven years?

As long time readers know, I have written about the story of abuse in the Catholic Church and priesthood from multiple angles.  Some of those who present themselves as authority sources for this story are charlatans with agendas of their own.

Sites such as Bishop Accountability and the beleaguered and widely discredited SNAP, the Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests, have counted on their audiences to both share their agendas and to not look too closely at their lurid accounts.  I find that those who still routinely cite them as authorities generally share their obvious agenda to disrupt the Catholic Church, weaken its voice, and demolish its priesthood.

The story I and others have followed most closely is that of Father Gordon MacRae, a priest approaching his 25th year in prison when he could have been out in one year had he actually been guilty or willing to pretend so. I find most compelling the bravery necessary to stand by the truth in the face of such personal cost.  Others, however, still stick to their narrative.  For example, I just received this from a comment posted at the conservative site, Church Militant:

     "MacRae is in prison where he belongs.  Take a look some day at the long list of this               creep's crimes at bishop-accountability. Notice that he confessed to several indiscretions of the sodomic (sic) variety.  If he lied about those incidents when he confessed to authorities, then he could.easily be lying now to credulous people like you..."

As is usual, the writer of this twisted take on things gets to put it out there without taking any responsibility for it by  publishing his name.  Father Gordon MacRae, on the other hand, has courageously posted under his own name from prison for the last ten years in the face of vitriol from those with the worse combination of human traits:  closed minds and open mouths.

I  and others have written extensively about the corrupt bias and agendas of the site the above writer refers to. (See and follow the links to related articles).  A problem with the Bishop-Accountability site is that it plays the "every one's a victim" card by redacting all names of accusers so that readers never know who it is they are reading about.

In "A Priest's Story" Parts I and II, The Wall Street Journal's Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Dorothy Rabinowitz wrote the same story, but independently investigated it.  She named the accusers, thoroughly debunked their claims, and demonstrated the fact that most were "serial accusers" having made identical claims against multiple others in attempts to squeeze money out of the accused.

She uncovered the story of one such "victim," a man who has since recanted his entire set of accusations against MacRae while Bishop-Accountability has ignored his recantations.  He today says he was approached by a corrupt detective with a promise of money if he would concoct a claim against MacRae "as others had done." He states today that MacRae is entirely innocent.

This man who recanted is convinced that the others now in hiding - others he knew well as they all concocted their claims together - also created false stories with the enticement of money.  I should add here that Father MacRae took and conclusively passed multiple polygraph examinations in this case while his accusers remain unresponsive to requests that they now do the same.

In June of 2016 I wrote about "The Grievous Error in Judge Joseph Laplante's Court." Judge Laplante is a United States District Court Chief Justice.  In 2016 Father MacRae and his legal team brought a habeas corpus petition before Judge Laplante with an extensive, well-investigated, and well documented Memorandum of Law in support of Father MacRae's efforts to seek a new trial. As a hearing was held in U.S. District Court in Concord, New Hampshire, the imprisoned priest was in his jail cell just a few miles away forbidden from being present.  Like State judges before him, Judge Laplante ultimately dismissed the appeal without allowing any testimony from Father MacRae or any of the named witnesses who were prepared to testify on his behalf.  The judge, a former prosecutor, seemed to lapse into his prosecutorial role by undermining witness testimony without actually even hearing it.

The most convincing testimony for MacRae's defense is in his own words.  The commenter cited above has not indicated whether he looked and listened, but I have listened extensively to newly released video documentary evidence in which this beleaguered priest got to do what he was prevented from doing at his trial, and at every effort for justice since.He spoke openly and candidly about his accusations and accusers, and it is both riveting and compelling.  Here is what he wrote about this video testimony at These Stone Walls:
   "All I am asking of the Church is simply to be heard.  As I approach the ominous 25-year mark in wrongful imprisonment, being heard feels almost as important to me as being free.  Almost! At my trial and sentencing 25 years ago, I was not permitted to utter a single word in my own defense.

      "At a flawed 1996 appeal represented by a public defender, I was not even allowed to be present. In three attempts at habeas corpus appeal at the state and federal levels, neither I nor any witness on my behalf was allowed to speak.  At no time since my 1994 trial has anyone heard a single  word from me.

     "Since then, all the pundits of both left and right have had their say.  SNAP has had its say, invited by the US Bishops to help shape the Dallas Charter.  SNAP demanded, and was given, the ruin of a filial relationship of trust between bishops and priests, transforming it into a model of servitude in which priests are summarily separated from their civil and canonical rights.

     "Voice of the Faithful has had its say, using 'The Scandal' toward its own ends to reshape the Church in its own image and likeness.  Bishop-Accountability has had its say, recklessly treating every lawsuit and decades old demand for money as 'proof' that condemns every priest to the dubious justice of 'guilty for being accused.'
     "The contingency lawyers have had their say, relentlessly brow beating Church officials into more than $3.5 billion in unquestioned financial settlements across America since the story emerged in the early 1990s.

     "And every step of the way for over twenty-five years, the news media, including the Catholic media, has aided and abetted this by both hyping stories of real abuse and suppressing stories of false witness and greed.

      "Now, after 25 years of silent endurance, it is my turn to speak."

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I for one am inclined to let him, and I suggest you do the same.  The video documentary testimony in Father Gordon MacRae's own words should not be missed.  And if you care at all for the Church and priesthood, that testimony should be widely shared.

You will find it at the ABOUT Page at These Stone Walls.  Just scroll to it.  The audio portion of Part I begins about 30 seconds into the tape.

And please share this post.


Monday, August 29, 2016

The Father Gordon J. MacRae Story: Injustice in New Hampshire

By Ryan A. MacDonald

L to R:  The Plea Deal of Monsignor Edward Arsenault; The Wrongful Conviction of Father Gordon MacRae; The Arrest of Judge Arthur Brennan

Here in one place can be found the series of links on the case against Father Gordon MacRae investigated, researched, and published by Ryan A. MacDonald.  Please share and post links to this URL.

I recently received an email from a well known American journalist asking if my investigation
and articles on the case of falsely accused and wrongly imprisoned priest, Father Gordon J. MacRae, can be found in one place.  I had never thought of this, but it's an excellent idea.  single post with a list of links to my publications at multiple sites on this case would be a helpful tool for anyone with an interest in this story that remains a gaping wound on the integrity of American justice.

In 2005, I came upon the story of Father Gordon MacRae in a series of articles by Pulitzer-Prize winning writer, Dorothy Rabinowitz in The Wall Street Journal. This was my first inkling that the case against this Catholic priest, that I and most others thought to be fairly and justly adjudicated, was in fact deeply flawed.

As I looked more closely, and probed more deeply, it became apparent to me that this priest is a victim of a zealous sex crimes detective, a set of political agendas, and the greed of men pretending to be victims to ride a wave of media coverage of Catholic scandal to commit fraud.

There are two common denominators in the case against Fr. Gordon MacRae:  Expectations of money, and Keene, NH sex crimes detective James F. McLaughlin.  The articles below tell a shocking and unexplained account of fraudulent investigation, witness tampering, and claims of attempted bribery and falsification of evidence. 

The following statement by Steven Wollschlager was presented to FBI Special Agent (Ret.) James Abbott who spent three years investigating this case. This disturbing statement is from an individual who accused Father MacRae and has now recanted. This man has nothing to gain except his own integrity by making this statement, but no New Hampshire judge has allowed him to testify.  Here is his statement: 

"My name is Steven Wollschlager. . . In 1994 I was contacted by Keene Police Detective McLaughlin. . . I was aware at the time of Father MacRae's trial knowing full well that it was bogus and having heard of the lawsuits and money involved and also the reputations of those who were making accusations. I agreed to meet with the above detective after being told I would be reimbursed for my time. 
During this the meeting, I just listened to the scenarios and statements being spoken to me by the police. The lawsuits and money were of greatest discussion and I was left feeling that if I would go along with the story I could reap the rewards as well . . . .  McLaughlin had me believing that all I had to do was make up a story about this priest and I could receive a large sum of money as others already had.  McLaughlin reminded me of the young child and girlfriend I had and referenced that life could be easier for us with a large amount of money.
I left that meeting after being given $50, easy money like what would come from lawsuits against MacRae.  I was at the time using drugs and would have been influenced to say anything they wanted for money."

When told of this statement, Detective McLaughlin described it to The Wall Street Journal as "a fabrication." However, it is a testament to the role of money in this story that a full year before Father MacRae was charged with the claims of accuser Thomas Grover, hard evidence places this detective investigating this case from the Concord law office of Thomas Grover's contingency lawyer, Attorney Robert Upton. Probing phone calls in an attempt to get this priest to say something incriminating, instead cast doubt on the role of this detective. Was he investigating a crime or choreographing a lawsuit?

Former FBI Special Agent Supervisor James Abbott spent three years independently investigating this case culminating in this statement from his Affidavit:       "In my three-year investigation of this case, I have found no evidence to support that Father MacRae committed these crimes, or any crimes. Indeed, the only 'evidence' is the statements of the accusers themselves which have been convincingly discredited by their own family members and others."

The links below are to articles independently investigated and researched. These articles are published at These Stone Walls or A Ram in the Thicket. It is my hope that readers will bookmark this URL and forward it or post it to refute the distortions of those with an agenda to mask the true facts of this story.


  Bombshells and Black Ops in the Fr Gordon MacRae Case 

The Story Buried under the Father Gordon MacRae Case 

A Touch of Deja Vu 

How Psychotherapists Helped Send an Innocent Priest to Prison 

Whack-A-Mole Justice Holds Court


The Trial of Father MacRae:  A Conspiracy of Fraud 

The Prison of Father MacRae:  A Conspiracy of Silence 

The Post-Trial Extortion of Father Gordon MacRae 

Judge Arthur Brennan Sentenced Father Gordon MacRae to Die in Prison 


Judge Joseph Laplante Denies Priest's Appeal 

For One Priest, A Fate Worse Than Dying in Prison 

A Grievous Error in Judge Joseph Laplante's Court 

The Testimony Judge Joseph Laplante has not Heard

"Those aware of the facts of this case find it hard to imagine that any court today would ignore the perversion of justice it represents." Dorothy Rabinowitz, The Wall Street Journal, May 13, 2013

Bishop John McCormack, Bishop Francis Christian, and Msgr Edward Arsenault release the names of "credibly" accused priests to the news media.


Bishop Takes Pawn:  Plundering the Rights of a Prisoner Priest 

To Azazel:  The Gospel of Mercy in the Diocese of Manchester

Justice and a  Priest's Right of Defense in the Diocese of Manchester

Prelude to the Year of Mercy:  Confronting the Truth by Father George David Byers, Missionary of Mercy

#MeToo&#HimToo: Jonathan Grover & Father Gordon MacRae

Please share this post. Please send it to others. Please post links in your social media and in comments on the topic of Catholic priests falsely accused.