Rev. Gordon MacRae: Priest Allowed to Work with Youth Five Years

By Katherine McQuaid
Union Leader
March 4, 2003

[Back to main article of this feature, with links to other articles and documents.]

Church officials allowed Rev. Gordon MacRae to continue ministering to children for five years after they found out he had sexually assaulted a 13-year-old boy. And at least seven more boys have said they were victimized by MacRae during that time, according to investigative files released by the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office yesterday.

MacRae, 49, is serving a 33½- to 67-year prison sentence for performing oral sex on another boy during “pastoral counseling” sessions at St. Bernard Church rectory in Keene.

The priest was convicted of the crime in 1994, when he also pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting three other boys.

Church officials first learned MacRae was abusing a 13-year-old altar boy at Hampton’s Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Parish after the victim admitted the abuse to a Catholic Charities counselor in 1983.

The boy said MacRae, who was ordained in 1982, would touch his genitals in what the priest called the “spider game.”

In an interview with detectives last year, the boy’s counselor, Judith K. Patterson, said at the time she reported the abuse she was told by Catholic Charities director Fr. John P. Quinn that Bishop Odore Gendron would report the “delicate” case directly to the Department of Welfare commissioner.

The Department of Welfare was notified, and a report was filed with the Attorney General’s Office and later with the Cheshire County Attorney’s Office, but MacRae was never prosecuted.

“. . . since Father MacRae is receiving counseling and is being strictly monitored, I do not plan to take any further action at this time unless I hear further from (the Department for Children and Youth Services) or Rev. Quinn,” wrote Cheshire County Attorney Edward O’Brien to Deputy Attorney General Peter Mosseau on Jan. 13, 1984.

The attorney general’s report said the Division of Welfare relied on what it was told by Quinn, and never conducted an independent investigation into the allegations.

On June 15, 1983, the Catholic Diocese of Manchester transferred MacRae to St. Bernard Parish in Keene. The diocese therapist, Dr. Henry Guertin-Ouellette, told state workers he felt confident therapy was working for MacRae, and he was not likely to engage in any more deviant behavior.

“While MacRae did continue in counseling with Dr. Guertin-Ouellette for some time following the original report about the incident in 1983, there is absolutely no evidence that the Diocese restricted MacRae’s ministry in any way as a result of the allegations involving (the victim),” the attorney general’s report said.

Before, during and after the 1983 abuse in Hampton, MacRae was molesting three brothers in Keene, whom he befriended while in the seminary in 1979, when the boys were 10, 11 and 14, according to the attorney general’s report.

That abuse — which continued for one of the brothers until he turned 19 in 1986 — involved fondling, fellatio and sodomy, according to the attorney general’s report.

The brothers said MacRae acted like a father figure to them. He would get them drunk in the rectory, offer money for sex, let other men abuse them, and threatened to kill them with a gun if they told anyone about the abuse.

MacRae pleaded guilty to abusing the boy in Hampton and two of the Keene brothers during his 1994 trial. The three Keene brothers sued the diocese in the late 1990s and settled out of court.

MacRae also admitted to abusing a fourth boy in the St. Bernard rectory in 1987. Investigators said MacRae touched the 15-year-old boy’s genitals during what he called the “robot game,” and also performed oral sex on him. The sexual activity ended when the victim stole MacRae’s checkbook to buy a gun to kill MacRae.

MacRae was finally removed from ministry in 1988, while the priest was serving as executive director for Monadnock Regional Substance Abuse Service, where he counseled adolescents and served Mass.

The attorney general’s report said the diocese never warned the staff at the drug and alcohol abuse treatment center of MacRae’s previous sexual misconduct.

About a year after he took the job, New Hampshire State Police received a report that a 17-year-old patient said MacRae tried to touch him sexually during a counseling session after Mass. MacRae denied the allegations, but was removed from ministry.

After admitting to soliciting sex from yet another boy, MacRae was sent to New Mexico for in-patient therapy.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.