A former Roman Catholic priest who sexually molested three altar boys a quarter century ago should do jail time in a federal prison, an assistant Crown attorney has urged.
Crown counsel Gregory Smith called for a term of between 2 ½ to four years for former Diocese of St. Catharines parish priest Donald Grecco, who has pleaded guilty to three counts of gross indecency.
Grecco admitted that on some 23 occasions during the 1970s and 1980s roughhousing and play-fighting escalated into him provocatively rubbing his clothed body against the three victims while he served at St. Stephen’s in Cayuga and St. Kevin’s in Welland. The victims were 15 and 16 at the time.
Ontario Superior Court Justice Kathryn Hawke is scheduled to sentence Grecco on Dec. 13.
Smith told court yesterday that Grecco, now 70, would befriend the victims’ families and offer part-time jobs or cottage trips to the youngsters. Once alone with the boys, Grecco would fondle them or grind up against them until he ejaculated. The three victims came forward in September and October 2008, leading to Grecco’s arrest.
“He snatched away their innocence to satisfy his own deviant sexual cravings,” Smith told court. “The actions of the accused violated one of the most sacred relationships in society, that of priest and altar server.”
“The accused struck when the victims were young and vulnerable. The actions of the accused had a devastating impact,” Smith railed, calling Grecco’s actions both “reprehensible and repugnant.”
Smith said all three victims, now married family men in their 40s, suffered despair and depression because of the abuse, and their personal lives have suffered greatly. Some contemplated suicide. Others have turned to alcohol and drugs.
Two of Grecco’s victims, Mike Blum of Dunnville and James Hennessy, who now lives in England, took the unusual step of asking that a court-ordered publication ban protecting their identities be lifted. Each of them is now suing Grecco for $3 million. The identity of the third victim remains shielded.
“Being a parish priest for Mr. Grecco carried high responsibility similar to that of a shepherd keeping a watchful eye on his sheep. He was a trusted and responsible figure in the community but his selfishness and deviant sexual behaviour put three boys in harm’s way of those entrusted to protect them,” Smith said.
Defence lawyer Brian Donnelly is seeking a conditional reformatory sentence of two years less a day to be served under house arrest.
Donnelly noted there were several mitigating factors including the fact Grecco pleaded guilty, took responsibility for his actions, has shown remorse, his age and the fact he suffers from two life-threatening conditions given he is recovering from colon cancer and has a chronic bowel problem.