Journalism outside the Box: Wall St. Journal Bravely Profiles Stunning Case of Wrongfully Convicted Priest Fr. Gordon Macrae

May 21, 2013

Afflicting the comfortable: The Wall St. Journal's Dorothy Rabinowitz (l) shatters complacent journalism. Eighteen years in prison and counting: Fr. Gordon MacRae

Former N.H. judge and "Occupy" leader Arthur D. Brennan

In a stunning article that bravely veers from the media's usual, tired coverage of the Catholic Church abuse story, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Dorothy Rabinowitz has taken up the case of Fr. Gordon J. MacRae, who has been serving a 33½-to-67 year sentence in a New Hampshire state prison since 1994 on abuse charges.

Rabinowitz's article in the Wall Street Journal reports that MacRae was wrongfully convicted in a grave miscarriage of justice.

Troubling details exposed has thoroughly examined Fr. MacRae's case before, and this is the second time that Rabinowitz has profiled MacRae, as she first reported about the priest for the Journal back in 2005.

In a nutshell, Fr. MacRae was convicted by a jury and imprisoned based on the claims of a single accuser named Thomas Grover, whom Rabinowitz aptly notes had "a considerable history of forgery, assault, theft and drug use."

In 1994, the then-27-years-old Grover claimed that Fr. MacRae sexually assaulted him over five consecutive weekly counseling sessions years earlier in 1983 when he was 15 years old. Asked why he would repeatedly return to a place where he had been brutally attacked the week before, Grover amazingly testified that he "had experienced 'out of body' episodes that had blocked his recollection" of previous abuse.

But these are not the only troubling aspects of MacRae's case. Among the others:

  • there are multiple, independent attestations that Grover has said privately that he was never assaulted by MacRae, and he accused the priest in order to sue the Church for money;
  • there are multiple, independent sources who say that they were coerced by law enforcement into falsely implicating MacRae of abuse;
  • a signed statement from a courtroom witness claimed that a therapist hired by Grover's contingency lawyer used hand signals from the back of the courtroom during the trial in order to coach Grover on the witness stand; and
  • a veteran FBI agent conducted a three-year investigation and concluded, "I discovered no evidence of MacRae having committed the crimes charged, or any other crimes."
The New Hampshire judge who sentenced MacRae, Arthur D. Brennan, is now retired, but he was recently in the news for getting arrested in Washington D.C. as part of the "Occupy" movement.

Closer to justice?

Could Fr. MacRae finally be released from prison in the near future? It seems we may know the answer soon. According to Rabinowitz:
"A New Hampshire superior court will shortly deliver its decision on a habeas corpus petition seeking Father MacRae's immediate release on grounds of newly discovered evidence. The petition was submitted by Robert Rosenthal, an appellate attorney with long experience in cases of this kind. In the event that the petition is rejected, Father MacRae's attorneys say they will appeal.

"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."
Kudos to Ms. Rabinowitz for reporting the truth however unpopular the cause. Investigative journalism and digging for the truth take hard work. Few journalists are brave enough to publish stories such as this one, which challenges the mainstream media's conventional thinking that any accused priest is automatically presumed guilty.

Fr. MacRae's case is sponsored by the National Center for Reason and Justice. Stay tuned.


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