Saturday, June 24, 2023

When the poisons hatch out

 When Fr. James Jackson was arrested for viewing gigantic amounts of child and infant pornography it set off a bizarre chain reaction throughout certain corners of Catholic social media. For going on three years now I've watched a saga that has no heroes and a lot of people who have been taken for fools, driven mad  or had their private lives exposed. 

I suppose the second step after the arrest was the fundraiser Restoring the Faith Media podcaster, Mike Parrot set up to hire a private investigator to look into the accusations against Fr. Jackson. At the time I thought the effort was a well-meant act of folly, like Don Quixote tilting at windmills. Fr. Jackson did not have one or two nasty photos saved on a shared computer in the rectory living room. Albino character assassins from the Vatican didn't sneak into his rooms and plant smut on his computer. No lay person with a grudge just waltzed into the rectory, hit the Dark web for what must have been many hours and high stepped out like cartoon villain without a priest, a secretary, the sacristan or a housekeeper noticing and questioning. Maybe things are really loose in Rhode Island but from my childhood to today I've never been to the rectory without having a good reason and my presence was known and expected. Getting into a rectory or a separate parish office without an appointment is close to impossible. 

Enter Church Militant. That crew seem to take great personal glee whenever they can report on a juicy nasty story especially if it involves sex or anyone who's considered to be in Traditional Catholic circles. For reasons that have never been clear, CM's leadership seemed to take a personal offense toward the fundraiser. A phone call was made to the RTF guy and he was told that he ought to stop the fundraiser and return the donor money. Both CM and RTF agree on this point but after that the story turns into a wildfire.  RTF says that CM threatened and attempted to blackmail him. CM says that RTF was told that if the fundraiser was not stopped the public would be informed  that the whole thing was unsound. RTF released a video declaring that he was being attacked and then the armies of supporters for CM and RTF formed. 

 On RTF's side were old friends who had blogs or Twitter accounts of their own, and many new people who were disgusted by CM in general and were naturally sympathetic to anyone who spoke back to them. On CMs side were their fans, Catholic media owners who had positive relations with CM and enemies of RTF.

CM advised a person who is described as a long-time friend to the organization that a story was going to be run on the RTF guy and hoped it wouldn't cause any trouble for the friend. The long-term friend ended his business relationship with RTF, who was naturally furious. RTF cried out that CM had gotten him fired from his job. Many people, myself included were appalled.  CM fired back with grass burning fury. Rather than a naive young man whose family was in danger of going without due to his job loss, CM portrayed him in a much different light. A statement of a former business partner was published and a number of things were posted about his property and his relationship with the Oblates of St Augustine. 

At some point a lawsuit for defamation was filed and the whole saga moved to the sewer. Sordid things were posted daily. Accusations of grave sins by the leading parties  were exposed to the public. In addition, there were accusations of hacking, invasion of privacy in regards to people's addresses and photos of homes, harassment and tale telling about people who weren't even part of the story but happened to be friendly with either side. 

Finally the legal proceedings concerning the defamation claim  concluded and the drama shifted to an administrative proceeding of the Marines. 

Fr. Jackson plead guilty.  The formal part of the saga is at an end.  Neither side can let the revolting matter drop and neither side can resist in schadenfreude. Everyone involved with this thing looks horrible and it's one more example of what bad, really bad things can occur when lay people make their money and fame off the Faith. Please, instead look to the saints and pre-Vatican II catechisms for clarity, instruction and advice.