russell fordIf you’ve never heard of Russell Ford, you should. In 1987 he plead guilty to raping a woman and was sentenced to serve a twenty-five year prison term in the state of Alabama. The allied offenses of sodomy and kidnapping were dropped as part of the plea agreement. Ford seems to have always held that he was duped into taking a plea agreement and didn’t rape his accuser.

While in the second year of his prison sentence, Ford was received into the Catholic Church and from that point forward he devoted his remaining time in prison to catechize the teach the Catholic faith to fellow prisoners. In addition to that he wrote articles for Catholic publications, co-founded the Alabama prison systems’ GED Program, founded the Killian Mooney Catechetical Institute, earned a business degree, helped to facilitate an anger management course for inmates, founded the First Century Christian Ministries (FCC), and published a book entitled, ‘The Missionary’s Catechism’. This man tells a story of great suffering in prison at the hands of prison guards who persecuted him physically for his faith.

His conversion story and missionary work has been documented online in detail at many of the Mainstream Catholic Media (MSCM) Outlets:

Being that I too converted to Catholicism while incarcerated, and wrote three books on the faith while in prison, and evangelized the faith to my fellow inmates, I couldn’t get enough of listening to Ford’s interview on ‘The Journey Home’ with Marcus Gordi. In fact, don’t know how any disciple of Christ who wouldn’t be moved by this man’s testimony. His experience in prison reminds us all that God is still in the business of confounding the wisdom of men by taking the worst of sinners and doing the impossible with them. Due to Russell Ford’s misrepresentation of his actual legal standing, he has also reminded us that sometimes we get in the way of what God is trying to do.

Even though Ford had already plead guilty to raping a woman nearly twenty years prior, around 2006 he began to launch appeals “based upon new evidence that has come to light”, seeking relief from his sentence because of new evidence that had been uncovered that proves him innocent of the crime, and petitioning the Alabama state appeals court for a modification of sentence on the grounds that he had been a model prisoner – letters of endorsement from various Catholic leaders accompanied that petition. According to Mark Gordon, in his groundbreaking expose of the Russell Ford scandal, none of those efforts to prove his innocence or lack-of-guilt were successful. This, despite the fact that an appeal to raise money to help Ford with legal cost was published in Volume 22, No 1 – January 2011 of ‘This Rock Magazine’ (now called Catholic Answers Magazine).

Nevertheless, after Ford was released on June 19, 2012, after serving his full sentence, he has continued to hold onto his claim of innocence. And it’s perfectly fine that he believes that he is innocent, but the story he is telling is that the courts (even the Supreme Court of the United States) have ruled that he has proven/shown his innocence. Such is even published on the landing page of his First Century Christian Ministry website, “Carrying a large amount of tenacity into prison when he was wrongly convicted of a violent crime in 1987 . . .” Russell Ford said on ‘The Journey Home’ interview with Marcus Grodi that he was legally proven innocent. He told MSCM darlings Karl Keating and Patrick Coffin that he was legally proven innocent, and they, in turn, have told others. MSCM magazine ‘The Catholic World Report’ published an exhaustive interview with him, in which he restated his legally proven innocence. This interview was later removed from their website after Gordon’s expose was published. You can read the cached version here. In it Ford states:

” . . .the judge plans to vacate my conviction, grant the decree of innocence, and expunge my record sometime this month or next month (letting us know what he’s going to do is called ex parte, which is highly illegal and considered unethical, but it’s common in Alabama’s good-ole-boy system). In order to make that happen, I had to sign an affidavit forfeiting my right to compensation for wrongful incarceration, but my good name and reputation mean far more to me than the $4-5 million I could get in litigation… after about 10-15 years. Anyway, after the judge grants my decree, we plan to put everything pertaining to my case on our website.”

I contacted Mark Gordon about this article, and asked him why does it matter (as far as supporting Ford’s prison ministry) that Ford is misrepresenting his actually legal standing. Gordon’s response was that Ford is FCC and FCC is Ford, “. . . and as we demonstrated Ford has not been truthful about a central element of his story. Are you really sure he’s being truthful about the rest?” Gordon also went on to raise issue with the fact that the scale/success of Ford’s apostolate can’t be or have yet to be documented to be true, and that he hasn’t registered his not-for-profit ministry in the dioceses where he is operating as a Catechesis instructor.

Gordon asked me if all that gives me pause? Actually none of what has transpired yet in regards to the individual Russell Ford gives me pause. I pray for him and I really hope he comes to realize that just telling the truth is what allows Jesus to use his disciples and their testimony for His Glory. We don’t need to add anything to the truth – our testimony is not open for embellishment. Rather, it is when we lie that Satan is able to slither in and use our dishonesty for his glory and for our destruction. (See also: ‘Scandal Time’ by Harold Fickett, which explains why ALETEIA.ORG published the Russell Ford expose).

To the contrary, what does give me pause is the dangers of Mainstream Catholic Media, which has the potential to be even more dangerous than the secular mainstream media because we actually trust it. In 2011 I wrote about the complete Death of Black and Hispanic Catholics in MSCM in the United States, and to-date nothing has changed. MSCM in the US still doesn’t look very Catholic, and it’s never going to reach anyone other than Whites until it realizes that you have to meet people where they are, and that requires that we appeal to people through their self-identification, which sometimes means appealing to people through base identifiers of skin color and ethnicity. Non-Catholic Blacks have a great deal in common with the content on EWTN, but content is not the reason why they’d always choose BET over it. They’d appreciate the content of most Catholic magazines and blogs more than they would JET, Ebony and etc., but no one writes for those publications who they could identify with enough to give them a chance.

Now comes the hard lesson learned from the Russell Ford scandal. MSCM is going to have to consistently screen the people they put before the people of God, especially the ones who are asking us for money. I don’t care who recommends these people. It could be Karl Keating again, or it could be Pope Francis himself. Recommendations in this regard are fallible, and should be treated as such. This man was out of prison for barely one year before he was put on ‘The Journey Home’ as a model covert? How does that happen? One year out of prison I was still trying to figure out how to live without someone turning my lights off for me and telling me when I could shower, and I was only in prison for five years and half years. But one year out of twenty-five year prison term and Ford is being created by MSCM as a the second coming of St. Paul? Come on!

MSCM has to realize that we want to keep trusting it. We don’t want to disregard as we have the secular mainstream media. If it wants to keep our trust, it has to work everyday to earn it. Enough is enough, and once is enough of this type of scandal.

Russell Ford was solicited to make a comment in regards to Mark Gordon’s expose, but did not return comment at the time of publishing.