Ex-priest jailed 18 months on sex charges

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Age, ill health and apology shouldn’t keep Grecco from doing hard time, they say

Hamilton Spectator

13 December 2010

(SENTENCING Donald Grecco, a former priest from the Diocese of St. Catharines, runs from the Hamilton courthouse earlier this year.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Jim Rankin/Torstar News Service

Former priest Donald Grecco is going to jail for 18 months for altar-boy sex charges.

But Ontario Superior Court Justice Kathryn Hawke’s 18-month sentence and two-year probation sentence for the former St. Catharines’ Diocese priest infuriated his victims and their families.

Grecco, 70, had pleaded guilty to three counts of gross indecency in connection with some 24 incidents involving former altar boys from Cayuga and Welland in the mid 1970s and mid 1980s.

Two of the victims, Mike Blum of Dunnville and Jim Hennessy, who lives in northwest England, took the unusual step of asking that the court-ordered publication ban on their identities be lifted. Each has launched a $3-million lawsuit against Grecco and the diocese in connection with the abuse.

Crown counsel Gregory Smith had suggested a sentence somewhere in the middle-range of a two-and-a-half to four year term penitentiary term.

But defence counsel Brian Donnelly sought a conditional sentence, combined with probation and community service, that Grecco could serve in the community.

“It was just a waste of time. I think it is just a travesty of justice. Three years in a penitentiary would have been fairer,” said Jim Hennessy Sr. who attended the hearing on behalf of his son.

The incidents followed a similar pattern.

Grecco would offer the altar boys odd jobs or take them on trips. Once alone with them, he would initiate “play-fights” that would escalate into the parish priest sexually grinding against the victim.

All three victims, all strangers, said the memories of the abuse have left them emotionally scarred. They have all become withdrawn, angry, depressed, self-loathing.

Today, in a Hamilton courtroom, they heard how Grecco will be punished for the three crimes of gross indecency to which he pleaded guilty last month. Crown counsel has asked for a prison term of between 2 ½ and four years. His defence lawyer has asked for two years less a day of house arrest.

Grecco was born in St. Catharines on March 6, 1940 to a movie projectionist/janitor father and a stay-at-home mother.

He was the second of four sons, all of whom would become priests. His parents were devout Roman Catholics who were active in Thorold, where Grecco was raised.

His brother Patrick left the priesthood about 10 years ago. His brother Richard became a bishop. Another brother, Dennis, is a professor of theology at a university.

Grecco attended Notre Dame High School in Welland. He was ordained on June 4, 1966 in St. Catharines.

After serving at St. Mary’s in Welland from 1966 to 1970, Grecco moved to St. Thomas More Roman Catholic Church in Niagara Falls, where he stayed from 1970 to 1978.

In 1978, Grecco served at St. Stephen’s in Cayuga, where he came into contact with Mike Blum who has said there were 12 occasions when the priest had simulated sex with him.

In the summer of 1979, Grecco also drove a second complainant to a cottage up north where he was molested in similar fashion.

Grecco’s next stop was St. Kevin’s in Welland, where he served from 1979 to 1985. It was here that Grecco abused James Hennessy, who has said there were 10 occurrences of abuse occurring in 1984 and 1985.

Hennessy, who lives in England and has not attended the court sessions because of financial concerns, believes there are more Grecco victims who have not come forward. Hennessy said he knows for certain there is a fourth, a friend from his childhood days growing up in Welland.

Hennessy and Blum asked that the publication ban shielding their identity be lifted.

Crown counsel Gregory Smith told Ontario Justice Kathryn Hawke at a March 25 hearing that Blum complained to the diocese on Sept. 23, 1985.

“He was interviewed by a Monsignor Dominic Pizzacalla and essentially that went nowhere, Your Honour,” Smith told court. “There was nothing done at that point in time.”

From 1986 to 1996, Grecco served at St. Vincent de Paul church in Niagara-on-the-Lake. It was here he would meet his future wife, Colleen, a Picton real estate agent.

From 1996 to 1998, Grecco was the parish priest at St. Alexander’s in Fonthill.

In 1998, Grecco attended Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore and obtained his bachelor of science degree in pastoral counselling.

Grecco returned to Canada in 2000 and officially left the priesthood on March 21, 2001.

From 2000 to 2008, Grecco operated a counselling service and worked for insurance companies to provide grief, marriage and family counselling, first in St. Catharines and later in Belleville and Picton.

In 2002, Grecco married Colleen, a divorcée with two grown children. In 2008, he retired from counselling and assisted his wife in her business until his arrest in September 2008.

A month after the arrest, his stepson, who suffered from depression, reportedly committed suicide at the age of 23.

Publicity from the arrest made life difficult for the couple, according to defence lawyer Brian Donnelly.

After Grecco’s guilty plea to three counts of gross indecency, a letter went out to a local Picton school making sure school authorities were aware of Grecco’s proximity to the school.

Donnelly said the publicity has caused the couple to be shunned and has impacted their relationship, and that Grecco has accumulated “substantial debt.”

“He is essentially facing financial ruin,” he said.

Donnelly said the couple have separated and appear on their way to divorce. Grecco’s stepdaughter has had no contact with him since June.

Beyond family and financial woes, Donnelly said, Grecco has major health concerns and suffers from chronic bowel disease, a degenerative disc disease, hypertension and had surgery for colon cancer in July.

Grecco also has legal problems. He was arrested Oct. 6 with breaching his bail conditions by not disclosing a change of address. But his lawyer said the breach is in connection with the two weeks Grecco spent recuperating at Quinte Gardens Retirement Residence. .

But Grecco could not find a new surety, meaning he spent more than three weeks in custody at the Quinte Detention Centre waiting for the new charges to be dealt with.

On the three counts of gross indecency to which Grecco pleaded guilty in March, Donnelly sought a conditional, non-custodial sentence to be served in the community along with a period of probation and community service “that would essentially tie him up” for the next six years.

Donnelly said the fallback position would be a sentence of two years less a day in a provincial reformatory.

He cited a number of mitigating factors, including Grecco’s health and age. He said his client had no previous record, had accepted responsibility for his actions and pleaded guilty, and that a considerable length of time had passed since the crimes. He also argued that there was no penetration and that there was no grooming with alcohol, drugs or pornography.

“In my submission there was a lower level of violation and invasiveness,” the lawyer said.”

Donnelly said Blum called Grecco before choosing to go to the police. On Aug. 27, 2008, Blum called again with a police wiretap in place.

“He asked Grecco if he remembered what happened. ‘I don’t know why I did it. I wish I could take it back. It was dumb and I was dumb,’” Donnelly quoted his client as saying.

Grecco also wrote a letter of apology that was filed with the court.

Still, Hennessy told the Spectator he wants to see Grecco serve time for his crimes.

And Blum said recently that the defence proposal for a form of house arrest for Grecco is not satisfactory.

“I think he deserves some time in jail,” the Dunnville man said.

Blum was also unimpressed with Donnelly’s submissions about the number of mitigating factors.

“I’ve been dealing with this 30 years and if he just gets a house arrest or whatever they are going to call that, I don’t agree with it,” said Blum, who would like to see Grecco receive a sentence of more than two years in a federal penitentiary.

kpeters@thespec.com

905-526-3388

User Comments

  • By: Bobby1
    Dec 13, 2010 2:11 PM I grew up in-  Army Bases around the Country and was Catholic and a Alter Boy. The bases had their own Catholic Priests who always inter-acted with all the young boys on base with sports, hobby craft etc. Personally, I never had a bad experience or ever heard of any friend who did! However, I believe I was lucky, too many stories of Priest abuse, can’t understand it and totally outraged by it. These are not real Priests, send them to prison just like any normal child abuser! I stopped going to Church simply because Sunday donations became the focus not spiritual beliefs! It became a business, look at the Churchs and the extravagant homes Priersts live in?
  • By: Mkelly
    Dec 13, 2010 1:51 PM This sickens me….  …18 months is a bloody slap in the face to the victims. And lets be real here.. a diddler will be a diddler be that sick piece of crap married or not. A diddling priest will be a diddler regardless of being a priest or not, has nothing to do with celibacy. If a priest were able to wed, it’s property, when he passed, would go to his family, being celibate, it goes to the church. If a sick diddling priest were allowed to wed he’d still be a diddling sick f***.
  • By: aDevil
    Dec 13, 2010 12:18 PM REAL justice…  would have this pervert executed and his body paraded through through he Vatican as a warning to the Pope to control the sexual exploits of his representatives.  
  • By: Garden
    Dec 13, 2010 11:27 AM Cleansing is happening now. The church needs to make new rules. Priest did marry before the times of Constantine De Napoles. He made the rule of salebrecity for the reason of fear that the church will over run his reign. 
  • By: Dodger47
    Dec 13, 2010 10:29 AM @ Grecco  He should be put away for his natural and not let out again, I have a suggestion leave the cell door open. Man loves to kill,murder and abuse people whether small children or not. This guy was a pervert, I feel sorry for his victims. There was a story out of Switzerland the other day that one of the people who accused a priest said they lied to get money. I am not saying that in this case that is the case. But we have to look under the bed and find the true story. Priest are easy targets and quick money
  • By: scotonfire
    Dec 13, 2010 9:39 AM Should  die in prison.
  • By: commonscents
    Dec 13, 2010 9:17 AM Sorry  Justaguy, god is too busy helping people win basketball games and lotteries to take care of this animal, or children with cancer or war etc. etc. Just another religious hypocrite who used his ‘higher standing and authority’ to destroy others lives. It will be the lawyers and judges who deal with him, not a bearded man floating in the clouds.
  • By: justaguy
    Dec 13, 2010 8:56 AM I pray!  If god exists, I pray to him through this blog…Please Lord forgive me for my sins, and please Lord send Don Grecco to jail for the remainder of his life for his betrayal of theses innocent boys and the pain they carry due to his behavior…Thank You Lord!
  • By: Hammerborn
    Dec 13, 2010 8:45 AM I was dumb?!  No, dumb is when you forget your car keys. You Don Greco are a monster.
  • By: gabster
    Dec 13, 2010 7:21 AM how many??  of these cases will it take for the Vatican to take full responsibility – they have coerced the Irish into being tight lipped about situations there – and one can only imagine how much of this goes on there considering the majority of the country is Catholic – and for most attended schools run by priests and or nuns. Good God…..this stuff makes me sick to my stomach.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

3 Responses to Ex-priest jailed 18 months on sex charges

  1. Sylvia says:

    A female judge. Ontario Superior Court Justice Kathryn Hawke. A female judge views the sexual violation of those young boys as worthy of no more than an 18 month stint behind behind bars for Grecco – and as she well knows that translates into a matter of months when “good” behaviour is factored in.

    I am thankful, as I said elsewhere, for the small mercy that Grecco is actually going to spend time behind bars.

    I have been thinking since I posted that comment of what that says – that I have come to view a measly 18 months as a small blessing.

    What have we come to in this country? When it comes to child moleters, and judges and sentencing of men who violate the innocence and rape the souls of little boys, what have we come to?

  2. Di says:

    I believe a lot of people think or seam to think, that all Priests are “The Godly Thou Art”. I also believe this so called human hasn’t got what he really deserved.
    Where is the Justice in Life for the Victim? Donald Grecco is no longer a Priest which he shouldn’t be ever again to let to teach religion of any sort at all. He doesn’t care what the Victim has to live with for the rest of their lives, trying so hard to forget what happened to them, trying to be the person they want to be. No Priest is ever allowed to get away with such a disgusting, cruel, heartbreaking crime.
    This is a child crime offence which should be treated in the courts as such!
    Just because he is a Priest should never make any difference. He is no longer a Priest so why do the Courts protect him? If any other male did this to a child he wouldn’t get his sentence so leanient so what does Donald Grecco get it soo easy?
    I had a Uncle, a Priest that’s why I now how people think they are “Oh, so Godly!” When are the laws & courts going to finally give the Proper Justice where it is Deservered?
    This type of act sickens me to the stomach. Courts are too Leanient & must give these people “Life In Prison” for what they have done to the people who have to live with it.

  3. Fred says:

    Sick Catholic Masters of manipulation & molestation, the sickest purest evil will get theirs oh thy will get theirs as their days will cometh…

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