Hamilton Spectator online
13 December 2010
Ex-Roman Catholic priest and altar boy molester Don Grecco is going to jail.
But Ontario Superior Court Justice Kathryn Hawke’s 18-month sentence and two-year probation term for the former St. Catharines diocesan priest infuriated his victims and their families.
An emotional Mike Blum, one of Grecco’s victims, left in tears along with his wife.
Jim Hennessy Sr. came to the hearing on behalf of his son, Jim Hennessy, who was also abused by Grecco. “It was just a waste of time,” Hennessy Sr. said. “I think it is just a travesty of justice. Three years in a penitentiary would have been fairer.”
Blum, of Dunnville, and Hennessy, who lives in northwest England, have launched separate $3-million lawsuits against Grecco.
A third complainant, whose identity remains shielded, expected Grecco to receive four or five years.
“It’s not worth my embarrassment (in coming forward) for the guy to get almost nothing. He got a little time — it’s not enough.”
Grecco, 70, had pleaded guilty to three counts of gross indecency in connection with some 24 different incidents in the mid- 1970s and mid-1980s.
Crown counsel Gregory Smith had sought a penitentiary term of three to 3½ years. But defence lawyer Brian Donnelly suggested that a conditional sentence served at home, combined with probation and community service, would be more appropriate.
“I think her Honour gave a thorough and considerate judgment,” Donnelly said outside court.
Donnelly asked the court to recommend that Grecco serve his sentence at a Brampton reformatory, adding later the facility has a good reputation for handling inmates with health concerns. (Grecco suffers from chronic bowel disease, hypertension and arthritis and underwent surgery for colon cancer this past summer.)
Grecco’s crimes of abuse began in 1978 when he was the parish priest at St. Stephen’s in Cayuga and established a pattern. Grecco would employ the altar boys to do odd jobs or take them on “fishing trips” to a cottage in the Collingwood area.
Once alone with the teens, Grecco would initiate play fights or roughhousing that would result in him grinding himself against the boys.
In their impact statements, all three victims said that since coming forward they have suffered severe anxiety problems, alcohol abuse and suicidal thoughts.
Justice Hawke quoted from Blum’s statement.
“I trusted you, my parents trusted you, the community trusted you. I believed in God, the Catholic Church and I believed in you.
“I had no friends and no one I could trust and turn to. I prayed for you to stop. I thought my God had deserted me,” Hawke read.
The judge also read a portion of Catharine Hennessy’s victim impact statement on the damaging effect of disclosure on her husband.
“There is a part of him that has disappeared and the light has gone out,” Hawke said.
But Hawke outlined some mitigating factors: The fact that Grecco was 70 and not likely to reoffend, having left the priesthood in 2000, the fact he pleaded guilty, showed remorse and offered an apology letter, and his ongoing health concerns.