As The Year of the Priest Ends, Are Civil Liberties for Priests Intact?
by Fr. Gordon J. MacRae
The Year of the Priest comes to a close this week amid the most vocal persecution the Catholic Church, the Pope, and the priesthood have seen in a century.
Civil liberties for Catholic priests are in grave jeopardy from both outside and Inside the Catholic Church. The state of affairs was best summed up by Catholic League President Bill Donohue. Appearing on a segment of NBC's "Today" show awhile back, Donohue faced off against a pair of contingency lawyers who were amassing their fortune drumming up claims against Roman Catholic priests on a national scale. The lawyers' agenda that day was to gain support for extending civil statutes of limitations so Catholic Institutions can be sued long after current laws would permit. Bill Donohue had the only memorable sound bite on the program, and the "About" page on These Stone Walls begins with that quote:
"There is no segment of the American population with less civil liberties protection than the average American Catholic priest."
I am here to tell you that Bill Donohue spoke the truth that day, and he did so with the courage and candor for which I and many others have come to admire him. I want to write about what he said, and about why I believe it is true. I write from the point of view of my own experience.
If some of what I write here is challenging for Catholics to read, let me begin with an assurance. At no point in my entire ordeal of the last sixteen years have I ever placed my own well being above the Mission and welfare of the Church. There came a point in 2002 at which I was very close to putting aside my own effort for justice because of a concern for just that appearance. I realized that continuing to fight my case in a public forum could mean taking positions that place me in stark confrontation with Church officials. A number of priests have lashed out in public anger at the Church during this crisis. I will not be joining them.