Former priest ‘preyed on innocence’

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The Hamilton Spectator
04 June 2010
Ken Peters

Picture Jim Rankin, Toronto Star.  Donald Grecco, a former priest from the Diocese of St. Catharines, runs from a Hamilton court house after his sentencing was delayed Thursday. He pleaded guilty to sexually molesting three former altar boys in the 70s and 80s.


Three strangers. All in their 40s. With so much in common.

They suffer insomnia. They’re loners. They live painful lives.

All share one more common denominator. They were all southern Ontario teenaged altar boys in the late 1970s and early 1980s who were sexually molested by former Roman Catholic priest Donald Grecco.

Ontario Court Justice Kathryn Hawke heard victim impact statements from all three victims yesterday before ordering Grecco, who has pleaded guilty to three counts of gross indecency, to return July 16 for sentencing. Grecco, 70, served as a parish priest in Cayuga, Welland, Niagara-on-the-Lake and Fonthill. The abuse took place between 1979 and 1985.

Grecco is married to a Picton real estate agent where he now resides.

At the victims’ request, Hawke lifted publication bans on the identity of two of the three victims.

Dunnville’s Michael Blum, 46, read his victim impact statement and addressed Grecco personally.

“You were a predator who enjoyed the cloak of the church and you preyed on the very innocence you swore to protect,” he said.

“I have lived and relived every terrible sinful thing you did to me, every day and every night. I have no rest from you, no escape. You consume my thoughts every day and you haunt my nightmares every night,” he said, adding he continues to “smell” his abuser.

The abuse followed a similar pattern. Grecco would befriend the victim’s families. He would employ the youths to do odd jobs or take them on trips. Once alone with the teens, Grecco would initiate playfights that would escalate into the abuser performing a “humping motion” on his victims before having an orgasm.

James Hennessy was 14 when he was abused as a altar boy at St. Kevin’s Church in Welland. Crown counsel Gregory Smith read the victim impact statement of Hennessy, who resides in England.

“I don’t see the joy and fun in my young children anymore. I have become distant from my friends. I don’t feel I can talk about this part of my life with them. I have become distant and lonely,” he wrote.

The third victim, whose name is protected by the publication ban, was an alter boy at St. Stephen’s Catholic Church in Cayuga. Grecco received permission from the victim’s mother to take him on a fishing trip to a Collingwood-area cottage. During the car trip, Grecco initiated a word game. The 14-year-old boy performed badly and was advised he would be disciplined.

Once at the cottage, Grecco pushed the lad onto a bed before climbing on top of him. The priest performed a humping motion that eventually led to him having an orgasm.

The victim’s mother read a tearful victim impact statement in which she talked about her guilt for allowing Grecco to take her son “through hell.

“How much pain and suffering can one person cause for so many? God gave me a beautiful young boy to love through their life and I failed him,” she said, bursting into sobs.

The mother stated that in 1986 she raised the abuse with the Archbishop of St. Catharines and was told “this was an isolated incident.”

Court was previously told the victim took his concerns to the diocese Sept. 23, 2005.

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

Monsignor Wayne Kirkpatrick, chancellor of the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Catharines, is on retreat and was unavailable yesterday for comment. Previously Kirkpatrick has refused to comment on the Grecco case while it is before the courts.

The victims each received a copy of a one-and-a-half page handwritten apology letter from Grecco yesterday.

“It wasn’t addressed to anyone. It just said he was sorry. It’s a moot point,” said Blum outside of court.

Court was told Grecco is scheduled to see a specialist next week for assessment of a “bleeding” problem. But the physical ailment didn’t stop the heavy-set former priest from running across a downtown Hamilton street yesterday in a bid to try to avoid having his photograph taken by a newspaper photographer.

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