Catholic Church responds after Sheffield bishop is accused of failing to report sexual abuse

The Catholic Church in Sheffield has responded after one of its bishops was accused of failing to report the sexual abuse of altar boys.

Monday, 11th October 2021, 11:43 am

The Bishop of Hallam, Ralph Heskett, allegedly knew about a priest who preyed on altar boys in Liverpool but failed to report him to the police, a court was told.

Liverpool Crown Court heard that one victim’s dad had complained to Bishop Heskett, who was then parish priest at Bishop Eton in Childwall, Liverpool, but the culprit was moved to Scotland and police were not informed.

Father Thomas MacCarte, now 70, was last week convicted of three counts of indecent assault, relating to sex attacks when he was based at Bishop Eton Monastery in Merseyside three decades ago.

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Bishop of Hallam, Ralph Heskett, has been accused of failing to report the sexual abuse of altar boys during his time in Liverpool

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During the trial, jurors heard a victim’s dad had ‘immediately complained’ to Bishop Heskett when his son told him at the time about ‘sexual things’ MacCarte had done to him.

The Diocese of Hallam today 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.

“Although we can confirm that Bishop (then Father) Heskett was the parish priest at Bishop Eton in the early 1990s; he was not, however, the Provincial of the Order and did not move Thomas MacCarte from Liverpool.

“Bishop Heskett has been and remains a friend of the survivor’s family and will continue to support victims and survivors of all forms of abuse. If you have been abused we would urge you to come forward and report the matter to the Safeguarding department.”

The trial heard MacCarte let altar boys smoke cannabis and drink alcohol so he could sexually abuse them.

Robert Wyn Jones, prosecuting, said: “It was agreed that the matter would be dealt with by the church internally and Father MacCarte was moved away to Scotland, with the promise that he would be sent on a course.”

His crimes eventually came to light after two victims went to the police in 2019.

MacCarte, now of St Mary's Monastery, Hatton Road, Perth, Scotland, is due to be sentenced later this month.