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Russell Ford: Legal Update

The name of Russell Ford should be quite familiar to This Rock readers who remember his apologetics articles published in these pages in years past. Imprisoned in an Alabama penitentiary since 1987 for a crime he did not commit, Ford converted to Catholicism while in prison and soon launched a Catholic apologetics initiative within his own prison and beyond.

Over the course of two decades, Ford has helped lead more than 100 people, most of them fellow prisoners, to the Catholic faith. He has also taught catechism classes and provided catechetical materials to inmates of other prisons across the country. His question-and-answer book, The Missionary’s Catechism, has become a minor classic (available through

Two years ago, Ford began a quest for exoneration based on new evidence that has come to light. His appeal is complicated by the fact that Alabama’s justice system destroyed all DNA evidence from the trail, but it appears his case is progressing favorably. Supported by advocates led by Catholic laity, Ford and his legal team have been negotiating the daunting technical hurdles and challenges of the legal system and remedies that he has to navigate and overcome. He has just been granted an extraordinary ruling in federal court granting him a “certificate of appealability” acknowledging that he has presented substantial evidence that his constitutional rights were violated with respect to his claims related to newly discovered evidence and alleged destruction of evidence. His case will soon be heard in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals; if necessary, the case will be petitioned before the United States Supreme Court.

The financial cost of such appeals is very high, often reaching into six figures. Ford presently is receiving pro bono legal representation, but there are heavy and essential costs involving court fees, procurement of evidence, and other necessities for mounting a credible appeal. He has no money for such expenses, but his close and longtime Catholic friends have established a legal fund to provide these costs. He desperately needs more concerned people to render monetary assistance so that he may present his case to the courts and win his exoneration and freedom.

If the appeal is ultimately successful, donors will be blessed in knowing that their contributions helped exonerate and emancipate an innocent man, a man who is on fire with the Catholic faith and is determined to invite as many people as possible, both within and outside prison walls, to embrace the Catholic Church.

Tax-deductible contributions can be made payable to First Century Christian Ministries, Inc., P.O. Box 70697, Montgomery, AL 36107. Please write “Ford Legal Fund” in the memo portion of your check. Above all, please keep Russell Ford and his appeal for release in your daily prayers and intercessions. For more information, please contact Marshall Pickard at (334) 514-1109.

Marshall Pickard
Via E-mail

Oral Tradition

I enjoyed Fr. Longenecker’s article on the early “home” churches (“The Problems with Primitivism,” November-December 2010). However, Father left out one important aspect in comparing early home churches and present-day home churches.

In home churches after the invention of printing in 1400, participants could bring their personal Bibles. This was not possible in home churches prior to 1400 for two reasons. First, the Bible as we know it was not assembled and accepted by the Church until 397. Second, only the very rich could afford a Bible or books because they were handwritten, usually on expensive material, and consequently very labor-intensive.

Different parts of the New Testament were reproduced and passed around among the different churches, but oral teaching was the primary means for spreading the Good News prior to 1400.

Frank Myers
Downey, California

Cheap Shots Disappoint

I heard long ago that when one has something negative to say, it’s a good idea to start on a positive note, if possible.

I really look forward to receiving my issue of The Rock. Not a single article escapes my eager attention. It is by far the best magazine I have ever subscribed to. Of course, the general subject matter has a lot to do with that.

In the November-December issue, Christopher Check’s “Liberate Yourself from E-Slavery” states: “The Glenn Beck groupie whose blood boils when his hero exposes the latest cultural disaster should try to remember what it was that Beck was in a lather about the week before. Or the day before.” Evidently Mr. Check is not a fan of Glenn Beck, and why should I or any other reader care. The comment has nothing to do with the subject of the article. From time to time cheap shots such as these crop up in movies or on television. I guess some folks can’t resist a good lick now and then aimed at those whose views they don’t share. Would that they might hire a hall, except that few are likely to show up.

I am disappointed that you in your editorial capacity allowed what really amounts to a snide remark about someone whose commentary not only encompasses cultural matters but political issues besides. That raises the question, over what is Mr. Check exorcised? And again, who would care?

I hope in future issues your writers can strive to stray on topic, and if they do stray that you will lead them back.

John J. Auer
Columbus, Ohio

Peter’s Revelation

In addition to the points Carl Olson raises in favor of Peter being the leader of the early Church over James (“Was James the Real Leader of the Early Church?” September-October 2010), there is one incontrovertible fact. In Acts 10, God revealed to Peter—not James—that Gentiles as well as Jews could be received into the Church. Even if there is some confusion from a human perspective about who was leader of the Church, from God’s perspective there is none: He revealed it to Peter. Only afterward did the other apostles, including Paul and—reluc­tantly, it seems, James—begin preaching to Gentiles.


—Fr. Michael Moore
Hanford, California

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