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May 27, 2013

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Rory Connor

I sent the following comment to the Association of Irish Priests website but it was only published in part:

From the article by Dorothy Rabinowitz:
“[Accuser Thomas Grover said] that he had been sexually assaulted by Father MacRae when he was 15 during five successive counseling sessions. Why, after the first horrifying attack, had Mr. Grover willingly returned for four more sessions, in each of which he had been forcibly molested? Because, he explained, he had come to each new meeting with no memory of the previous attack. In addition, Mr. Grover said, he had experienced “out of body” episodes that had blocked his recollection.”
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The allegations against Fr MacRae have a lot in common with those against Fr Paul Shanley a priest who was at the centre of the child abuse scandal in the Boston Archdiocese. The initial accuser in Boston was Greg Ford and according to an article in Forbes Magazine:
http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2003/0609/066_print.html

“As his parents tell it, in years of therapy Greg had tried, unsuccessfully, to recall being molested by anyone. When his parents showed him the [Boston] Globe article, he didn’t remember Shanley or recognize his photograph. The Fords persisted, showing Greg a snapshot from his First Communion with Shanley. At last Greg collapsed, sobbing, and said that from age 6 to 11 he had been raped by the priest.

“Later he estimated this happened 80 times. He alleged that Shanley took him from his one-hour Sunday school class, raped him, then returned him to his classmates. Verona Mazzei, who was director of the Sunday school program, says she never saw Shanley take any kids from class. The Fords say Greg never exhibited any unusual behavior during these years. “As soon as it happened, each time he left that room, he forgot about it,” Rodney Ford says. “The specialists he sees now are amazed that he could block this out, that he had such control.”

The State dropped Greg Ford from the case – and two other accusers as well who joined the case later – but NOT on the basis that the above allegations were ridiculous because the 4th (ultimately successful) accuser told a very similar tale. The reason why the original accuser was dropped may be linked to the following (also from the Forbes article):

“Moreover, MacLeish’s client, Gregory Ford, 25, of Newton, Mass., has spent time in 17 mental institutions and halfway houses and is on antipsychotic medication and unable to work, his parents say. In the past he has threatened to kill his father. Archdiocese lawyers believe Greg may previously have said he was molested by his father and a cousin; his parents deny it.”

In spite of this Fr Shanley was convicted in 2005 and sentenced to 12 to 15 years in prison. On January 10, 2010, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts unanimously affirmed Shanley’s conviction and specifically confirmed that a person could be convicted SOLELY on the basis of Recovered Memory.

Accordingly I wouldn’t be at all confident that Fr Gordon MacRae’s appeal will be successful. There are other similarities also. For example the Church in Boston paid huge amounts of “compensation” to Fr. Shanley’s accusers BEFORE the trial and I recall one juror after the criminal trial referring to this as one reason why they convicted Fr Shanley! The Church authorities also decided to throw Fr MacRae to the wolves. According to Dorothy Rabinowitz

” There is no clearer testament to the times than the public statement in September 1993 issued by Father MacRae’s own diocese in Manchester well before the trial began: “The Church is a victim of the actions of Gordon MacRae as well as the individuals.” Diocesan officials had evidently found it inconvenient to dally while due process took its course.”

Why is it left to a secular writer from the Wall Street Journal to defend a Catholic priest? Dorothy Rabinowitz was instrumental in discrediting the Satanic Ritual Abuse hysteria of the 1980s and I do hope (against hope) that she will be successful here. If she is, then Father MacRea could probably sue his own Diocese for libel and negligence!

Rory Connor

Another post to the Association of Irish Priests that was only published in part (the first paragraph)
http://www.associationofcatholicpriests.ie/2013/05/pulitzer-prize-winning-journalist-takes-up-the-case-of-priest-jailed-in-the-united-states/

(1) Why does markdark consider it inappropriate for an organisation of Catholic priests to speak out in favour of a priest who may well be innocent? The kind of allegations made against Fr MacRae would be considered ludicrous in an IRISH court e.g.

"…… the spectacular claims Mr. Grover made in court—charges central to the case. Among them, that he had been sexually assaulted by Father MacRae when he was 15 during five successive counseling sessions. Why, after the first horrifying attack, had Mr. Grover willingly returned for four more sessions, in each of which he had been forcibly molested? Because, he explained, he had come to each new meeting with no memory of the previous attack. ….."

(2) Dorothy Rabinowitz was one of the main opponents of the Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA) hysteria of the 1980s and subsequently campaigned against “Recovered Memory Syndrome (RMS)”. Can I mention that the late UK cultural historian Richard Webster suggested to me that the complete absence of SRA in Ireland could be due to the influence of the Catholic Church and its opposition to Freudianism. Mr Webster was an expert on – and critic of - Freud and believed that SRA hysteria (and Recovered Memory) could be traced back to his ideas.

Unfortunately I don’t know enough about Freud and Richard Webster did not know enough about Ireland to test this theory. Maybe some doctoral student looking for a subject could take it up?

Here is one hint. By the time the Irish Catholic Church lost its influence in the 1990s, Satanic Ritual Abuse was discredited in the UK and USA AND Recovered Memory was under attack (though by no means finished off). Could this explain why there was NO SRA panic in this country and much less RMS than in the UK and USA – even though Ireland is heavily influenced by English and American culture? So where is the author or doctoral student who will follow this up?

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