Sunday, December 16, 2012

Father Gordon MacRae - imprisoned for abuse payoff?

Wall Street Journal    By DOROTHY RABINOWITZ April 28, 2005
Nine years after he had been convicted and sent to prison on charges of sexual assault against a teenaged boy, Father Gordon MacRae received a letter in July 2003 from Nixon Peabody LLP. law film representing the Diocese of Manchester, N.H. Under the circumstances -- he was a priest serving a life term -- and after all he had seen, the cordial-sounding inquiry should not perhaps have chilled him as much as it did.

". . . an individual named Brett McKenzie has brought a claim against the Diocese of Manchester seeking a financial settlement as a result of alleged conduct by you," the letter informed him. There was a limited window of opportunity for an agreement that would release him and the Diocese from liability. He should understand, the lawyer added, that this request didn't require Fr. MacRae to acknowledge in any way what Mr. McKenzie had alleged. "Rather, I simply need to know whether you would object to a settlement agreement."

Fr. MacRae promptly fired a letter off, through his lawyer, declaring he had no idea who Mr. McKenzie was, had never met him, and he was confounded by the request that he assent to any such payment. Neither he nor his lawyers ever received any response. Fr. MacRae had little doubt that the stranger -- like others who had emerged, long after trial, with allegations and attorneys, and, frequently, just-recovered memories of abuse -- got his settlement.

By the time he was taken off to prison in 1994, payouts for such claims against priests promised to surpass the rosiest dreams of civil attorneys. The promise was duly realized: In 2003, the Boston Archdiocese paid $85 million for some 54 claimants. The Portland, Ore., Archdiocese, which had already handed over some $53 million, declared bankruptcy in 2004, when confronted with $155 million in new claims. Those of Tucson and Spokane soon did the same. [...]

If the events leading to Fr. MacRae's prosecution had all the makings of dark fiction, the trial itself perfectly reflected the realities confronting defendants in cases of this kind. For the complainant in this case, as for many others seeking financial settlements, a criminal trial -- with its discovery requirements, cross examinations, and the possibility, even, of defeat -- was a highly undesirable complication. The therapist preparing Thomas Grover for his civil suit against the diocese sent news, enthusiastically informing him that she'd had word from the police that Gordon MacRae had been offered a plea deal he could not refuse, and that the client could probably rest assured there would be no trial. On the contrary, Fr. MacRae would over the next months refuse two attractive pretrial plea deals, the second offering a mere one to three years for an admission of guilt.[...]

Having given his reasons, the judge then sentenced the priest, now 42, to consecutive terms on the charges, a sentence of 33-and-a-half to 67 years, Since no parole is given to offenders who do not confess, it would be in effect a life term. [....]

In the years since his conviction, nearly all accusers who had a part in conviction -- along with some who did not -- received settlements. Jay, the second of the Grover sons -- who had, Detective McLaughlin's notes show, repeatedly insisted that the priest had done nothing amiss -¬came forward with his claim for settlement in the late '90s. And in 2004, the subject in the Spofford Hospital incident, Michael Rossi -- "This is confession, right?" -- came forward with his claim.

"There will be others," predicts Fr. MacRae, whose second appeal of the conviction lies somewhere in the future. His tone is, as usual, vibrant, though shading to darkness when he thinks of the possibility of his expulsion from the priesthood -- a reminder that there could be prospects ahead harder to bear than a life in prison.


  1. I'm so happy to see this story profiled here. I have followed it since Ms. Rabinowitz first wrote of it in 2005. This story became more and more disturbing as time went on. Here is a link to a more recent update with some staggering information about this injustice:

  2. I am a huge fan of Dorothy Rabinowitz.We share a passion for innocent victims who were targeted by false allegations .This is another thing the victim community does not want to hear.Just because they weren't believed does not mean that every accusation is true.Most are and some are not.

    1. NOSHIE63: "... innocent victims who were targeted by false allegations. This is another thing the victim community does not want to hear."

      Don't assume that all victims consider themselves to be well-represented by the political activists. Many victims are exceptionally sensitive to injustice.

      This is also true in the Catholic community, where groups like SNAP would like to bury cases like MacRae's because they undermine sound-bite propaganda.

  3. OK but those people are not vocal.The people who wish to take revenge on everybody are the one's who post on blogs and probably write on their 1040 under occupation ...."Professional Survivor".

    1. NOSHIE63: "... those people are not vocal."

      In general you will not know whether a person's life was afflicted with the tsara of abuse. Surivors have learned that most non-survivors will behave with stupidity, or with ignorant cruelty, should they reveal their stories. (The same has been true for many other groups, such as repatriated POWs, parents whose children have died of cancer, etc., etc.)

  4. Thank you for bringing attention to Fr. MacRae's case. Dorothy Rabinowitz writes so well, and I appreciate that fights injustice with her words. God bless you! Liz

  5. We need to see more people highlighting this especially from the Catholic Church. What disturbs me is that no one from the Church that has the power to do something is even looking into this.
    We need to keep praying , keep sharing and keep talking about it.

  6. I have Seen Fr.Gordon MacRae's story on EWTN. I heard about it earlier. What a Cross to carry. Fr.MacRae will be rewarded. We need to pray for him. Very sad, It is a in justice to those who have really experienced abuse, to have people who are profiting in such an evil manner. My prayers are with Fr.MacRae, May God be with him through this most awful trial.


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