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The world is going to 'hell in a handbasket' - end of April edition

Reading the news can be hazardous to one’s sense of hope for us as a species or as a just and vibrant culture. This past couple of weeks offered a perfect illustration of this with two stories. One dealing an imprisoned priest fighting to clear his name while the other deals with two chimpanzees named Hercules and Leo.

Fr. Gordon MacRae has been in prison in the United States for the past 20 years. The crimes for which he was accused and convicted are claimed to have occurred when he was between 25 and 30 years old. Brought with no evidence or corroboration whatsoever, the claims were accompanied by lawsuits settled by his Diocese for hundreds of thousands of dollars despite evidence of fraud. Father MacRae maintains his innocence of these crimes, and could have left prison 16 years ago had he accepted any of the “plea deals” presented to him before trial. In the years since the panic-driven and selective release of files and other accumulated claims and demands for money – but no evidence – some began to take a closer look under the surface of the case against Father Gordon MacRae. What is found there is troubling to anyone concerned for the state of due process, justice, and liberty in America.

In 2005, Dorothy Rabinowitz, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and member of The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board, published an account of the travesty of justice by which Father Gordon MacRae was convicted. It is a story, as described by Father Richard John Neuhaus in First Things magazine, of  “a Church and a justice system that seem indifferent to justice.”

On March 17, Saint Patrick’s Day, at 10 A.M., Chief Judge Joseph LaPlante was scheduled to hear oral arguments in the ‘Habeas Corpus’ appeal filed on behalf of Father MacRae in U.S. District Court in Concord, NH. (Habeas corpus -Latin for you [shall] have the body- is a legal action or writ by means of which detainees can seek relief from unlawful imprisonment.) Allowing neither a hearing on the merits nor testimony of witnesses, Judge LaPlante denied the petition of Fr. MacRae, relegating him to continue his sentence in prison despite a virtually overwhelming mountain of evidence pointing to his wrongful conviction. Evidently Judge LaPlante was more concerned with protecting the perceived integrity of the initial prosecution that he was with respecting Fr. MacRae’s most basic human and legal rights of justice and freedom from unlawful imprisonment.

Too bad Fr. MacRae couldn’t have had his case heard by Judge Barbara Jaffe, a New York Justice of the Manhattan Supreme Court, who has granted a Habeas Corpus hearing to two chimpanzees belonging to Stony Brook University. The case, launched by the 'Nonhuman Rights Project' is to determine whether they should be freed from their ‘imprisonment’ on the basis of their legal rights as ‘persons’ under the law. This right that Judge Jaffe has extended to Hercules and Leo is the same right denied to Fr. MacRae by Judge LaPlante.

So there you have it. On the one hand, a priest is denied his motion to prove his innocence before a court, thereby denying him of a basic human right. While on the other hand, a different judge extends that same right to two chimpanzees so that a group can argue for their freedom.  That leaves the score at Chimps - 1, Humans - 0 when it comes to deciding who is or is not a person in the opinion of the American judicial system.

The world is clearly going to hell in a handbasket.


  1. Not to mention blogs should be added too. Read too many of them and you think Pope Francis is persecuting Traditonalists.


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