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‘Cover-up’ claims after Perth priest is jailed for assaulting altar boys

Thomas MacCarte

A shamed priest who was sent to a Perth monastery after grooming altar boys has been jailed for four years.

While he continued working as a priest Thomas MacCarte’s victims, whom he had groomed and bribed, lived with the secret until 2019.

One finally revealed what had happened to him and the police became involved.

Jailing 70-year-old MacCarte at Liverpool Crown Court, Judge Gary Woodhall said there had been a “cover-up” by the authorities which led to MacCarte escaping justice in Scotland for three decades.

Glasgow-born MacCarte, whose address was given in court as St Mary’s Monastery, Hatton Road, Perth, pled not guilty to five offences of indecent assault.

He was convicted of three and cleared of two of them.

Used church authority to prey on boys

He said “It is clear from the evidence that you groomed both boys, it appears, when you had consumed alcohol, often to excess.

“You used both boys for your own sexual gratification, with little thought or concern about their needs or wishes.

Thomas MacCarte.

“You bribed both with money and you threatened them that they were to stay silent, that nobody would believe them over a man of the church.

“They were also each concerned about the effect of accusing a man of the church.

“Those threats and the imbalance in the relationship between you and them bought their silence and meant that they felt unable to pursue any complaint against you.”

Drunk priest assaulted two boys

Liverpool Crown Court heard the priest, who was based at Bishop Eaton monastery in Liverpool, in the late 1980s and early 1990’s, took advantage of the older boy’s vulnerability.

Rather than providing him with support and guidance, he provided alcohol and money and then repeatedly assaulted him.

The judge said his offending behaviour against the other younger boy happened when MacCarte was so drunk he escorted him back to the monastery.

During the trial the jury heard the boy thought MacCarte was “cool” and did not lecture boys about sex or lust but let him and some friends visit him to smoke cannabis and drink alcohol.

MacCarte told the jury the incidents had not happened and maintained his victims claims were false.

Church “cover-up”

He was reported to his parish priest by one of the victims father’s after his son told him about “sexual things’ that had happened.

Judge Woodhall pointed out,” Rather than take action or investigate what had happened, you were simply moved on.

“The church records suggest that the reason for the move was put down to the provision of alcohol to other males.

“I am satisfied that on all the evidence deployed in the trial that was not the complete report about what had been alleged against you.

MacCarte was moved to St Mary’s Monastery on Kinnoull Hill, Perth when the allegations came to light.

“Whatever may have been communicated to those higher up within the organisation of the church, what actually happened was a cover-up to avoid any embarrassment.

“The complaint was effectively swept under the carpet.

“You were moved on and allowed to continue working in the church and communities without any investigation and your two victims were left wondering why it was you were simply moved on.”

Survivor described as ‘hero’

The judge said an impact statement from the older victim told how: “You destroyed his relationship with Christ.

“He describes suffering from depression, anxiety and a life full of hatred, shame and guilt.

“He describes thoughts of, and attempted, suicide.

“He does go on to describe how having the strength to make this complaint and to require you to face up to what you have done has, in part at least, allowed him to reconnect with his faith.”

The court heard he also described having been “in a spiritual desert” for 30 years and described the other victim as “a hero” for speaking out.

“He describes how he suffered nightmares, an unshakeable fear he had done something wrong, unexplained guilt, shame and anger leading to deep-rooted self hatred.”

‘Normal life’ for 30 years

The two victims went to police in 2019 after they discovered they had both been molested by the same priest.

Judge Woodhall pointed out MacCarte had “been able to live a normal life for the last 30 years, unlike your victims.”

Peter Killen, defending, said the defendant was of previous good character and had gone on to do “undoubtedly some good work over the next 30 years.”

He said that the offending was “obviously a gross breach of trust”.

He has been a recovering alcoholic for 12 to 15 years and is asthmatic.

“He will find incarceration very difficult because of his age and general health,” Mr Killen said.

Church response

The Diocese of Hallam, in which the pervert operated, issued a statement responding to the claims made in court.

It said: “It was with deep sadness that we heard during the recent court proceedings in Liverpool, the details of Thomas MacCarte’s criminal behaviour.

Our thoughts are first and foremost with those who were abused and with their families.”

However, it did not directly address MacCarte’s move to Scotland, toher than to confirm the current Bishop did not move him and “has been and remains a friend of the survivor’s family and will continue to support victims and survivors of all forms of abuse.”

The Catholic Church in Scotland pointed out MacCarte was a member of the Redemptorist Order – an autonomous missionary religious order, with properties across the UK, over which the Catholic bishops of Scotland have no autonomy.

A spokesman said: “A member of their clergy living in one of their properties here would not have any duties or responsibilities in local parishes which come under the authority of the diocese in which they are situated – in this case the Diocese of Dunkeld.”

A spokesman for the Redemptorist Order said:  “As a congregation we are deeply shocked to learn of the behaviour for which Thomas MacCarte has been sentenced.

“Our thoughts are with those who had the courage to speak out and with all those who have been impacted by these events.”