Monday 20 January 2014

Attention British Catholic Bloggers

FATHER MARK PATERSON, O.Carm. INNOCENT of sexual assault.

We all know that the media has a field day when a Roman Catholic priest or brother is accused, usually by Roman Catholics, of having either had an affair with or sexually abusing someone--usually another Roman Catholic.

Our hurt that a priest has (or may have) hurt one or more of us (again, Roman Catholic) laypeople or priests, behaving shamefully and sacrilegiously, is compounded by the media's salacious interest in the case, sometimes reviewing it again and again, giving the impression that there are more accusations than there actually are, and as many convictions as there are accusations. This leads to public contempt towards ALL church-going Roman Catholics, and public approbation for merely tribal Catholics who loudly declare themselves separate from "all that rubbish." And this is particularly painful in the United Kingdom, especially Scotland, where, since the Reformation, Roman Catholics have been a marginalized and very often reviled minority.

And for all these reasons, it is a matter of great joy that the Edinburgh High Court has quashed the unjust conviction of Father Mark Paterson, O.Carm. Father Mark Paterson, former Catholic chaplain at Aberdeen University, did not sexually assault his accuser. Father Mark Paterson did not behave shamefully and sacrilegiously. And a short paragraph or paragraphs in a few British newspapers and blogs have briefly mentioned that the conviction was quashed.

That is not enough. Father Paterson has been maligned in the press. The nasty testimony of his (adult, female, non-student) accuser was described in salacious detail in the tabloids. However, the testimony of his defenders has not been read by the public until now. The news was not, for example, in this week's Catholic Herald, as we might have expected (but this may be because the paper went to press before the editors heard the news).

Not good enough. Bells should be ringing from Papa Stronsay in the
Orkney Islands to the Abbey of Saint Cecilia in Ryde. However, that's not going to happen overnight. Just as it was left to a layman to work for seven years to get Father Paterson's conviction appealed, it has been left to British Catholic bloggers and social media to get the word out.

So let's get the word out. Please repost this post, or post "The conviction of Father Mark Paterson, O.Carm. for sexual assault has been quashed" and then link either to my article at Catholic World Report or to this post at Laodicea.

It's not PC to say so, but it is a fact: some accusers of priests are just making up malicious stories for gain. And, given this case, one even begins to wonder if a Roman Catholic priest can get a fair trial in Scotland, even today.

Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream (Amos 5:24).


Stellamaris said...

So is that vindictive liar now going to be dragged into court to account for her vicious accusations?

Jackie said...

No, Seraphic, it's not "PC" to suggest that some accusers are "making stories up." It is part of victim-blaming culture, though.

The manosphere makes the same suggestion with their False Rape Society, by the way. They believe women who've accuse abuse are out to ruin men's reputations. These are the same people who want to make things even more difficult, despite the fact that there is less than a 2% conviction rate for victims of rape in my country.

Not good company to keep, in my opinion.

I am just as angry as you for this man being falsely accused. An innocent man was damaged, immeasurably. Faith was damaged. Our church was damaged. I want justice, too. But not at the expense of doubting those who come forward.

Why do I take this viewpoint? Because the priest that confirmed me was a pedophile.

After he abused some of my classmates, those who were brave enough to tell the truth -- and imagine how hard that would be for a teenage boy (many didn't tell until college, if then) -- most people did the same thing as you. They said that some people "make things up."

By the way: Nothing ever came of it. Father E was relocated to a different parish in another state. We were the 2nd of 4 parishes he would be moved to.

Absolutely your story about Fr. Paterson should be publicized, as much as possible. But there is no need to suggest that people doubt accusers of abuse. Trust me, it will happen anyway.

Heather in Toronto said...

Jackie, victim-blaming is horrible, and what happened to your classmates was horrible. I'm so sorry to hear of it.

It's unfortunate but understandable. No one wants to believe that someone they thought they knew could be a predator, because that means that they might have been wrong about someone. So it couln't possibly be true, it must be a mistake, or someone must be out to get him.

And even more unfortunately, every so often it really does happen that someone makes an accusation out of malice and/or greed. Far less often than the odious underbelly of the Manosphere imagines, I'm sure. But yes, sometimes it does happen.

And every one of those sleazy scam artists does a double disservice to humanity. A false accusation smears the reputation and career of an innocent person, and an accusation proven false makes it that much harder for genuine victims, who outnumber fake ones by a huge margin, to be taken seriously. It makes it that much easier for someone to think that so and so is "such a good guy" that they couldn't possibly have been wrong about him and it must be just like that case that was proven to be some deranged blackmailer or whatever. Even when the facts of the case are completely different.

A truly and maliciously false accusation is an awful thing, which is why they make us so angry. Would that they didn't exist at all. No one here is saying that they are the rule rather than the exception, nor that all accusations should be considered automatically suspect (except as far as "innocent until proven guilty" considers all accusations to need to be proven rather than disproven).

Seraphic said...

There's a reason why I stress that this accuser was an adult, a non-student hanging out in a student chaplaincy and well over thirty.

She wasn't making claims about her childhood, claims that were echoed by others. She, known to students as a teller of malicious tales, was making claims about fictious events for the 2002-2004 period.

I dislike the manosphere as much as the next woman. But it is an unfortunate truth that some women (and very probably some men) do indeed lie about abuse to get men in trouble or for some other gain. (In this woman's case, there was evidence presented that the woman thought her favourite priest would return if the priest she hated was removed.)

And that is why everyone accused of a crime should be allowed an adequate defense. And that is what court is for. Court is there so that guilt or innocence can be proven and justice be done. It isn't perfect, but that is what we have. I am sad when genuine victims of sexual assault are not believed, but I am also sad when good men and women are falsely accused.

Are there guilty priests still out there? Probably, and they shouldn't be. Are there innocent priests rotting in jail or whose lives were swiftly brought to a close by false accusations? Yes. And there shouldn't be.

Seraphic said...

Oh, and there are at least three victims in this story: Father Paterson himself, Rosie/Bernadette's mother, and arguably Rosie/Bernadette herself. They are all (arguably) the victims of the complainant and the systems that failed all three of them.

Cordi said...

Hooray that an innocent man was acquitted! I have a priest friend who was in a similar situation, so I know first hand what a relief justice can be!

Seraphic said...

I wonder if we haven't experienced a 180 degree turn in the English-speaking world. In the 1970s and 1980s, bishops, religious communities and laypeople-in-the-know (like some cops) did their darnedest to protect any priest from accusations and prosecution. Forty years later, though, in our laudable desire to get rid of abusers, it may be a case of "Jail them [accused priests] all, and let God sort them out."