The Standard (St. Catharine’s, Ontario)
03 June 2010
Posted By JOHN VESSOYAN, QMI AGENCY
The nightmares have begun and the memories of his teenage years have resurfaced.
He is finished trying to bury the demons in his mind, and instead he’s confronting them head on because that’s the best way, he believes, to get rid of them.
His wife, three children and a counsellor have also assisted him in dealing with the pain of years past.
The man, who is now in his 40s, was only 13 years old when his torment began. He is a victim of Donald Grecco, a former priest at St. Kevin’s Catholic church in Welland, St. Alexander church in Fonthill, St. Stephen’s Church in Cayuga and St. Thomas More in Niagara Falls.
Grecco is due to be sentenced today, 10 a.m., at the John Sopinka Courthouse in downtown Hamilton after having pleaded guilty to three counts of gross indecency in cases of abuse that date back nearly 30 years.
Now 70, Grecco sexually abused teenage boys in Welland and Cayuga between 1978 and 1986. The St. Catharines native was originally charged by the Ontario Provincial Police in the fall of 2008.
Because of a publication ban imposed by the courts, this victim’s name cannot be used for this story.
The victim was born and raised in Welland but no longer lives here, and is living in another country. While growing up in his hometown, he served as an altar boy and was in the rectory at St. Kevin’s under the tutelage of Grecco.
At the age of 13, the abuse began. He recalls 14 incidents with the former priest, however, he knows there were more.
At the time, the boy witnessed his parents separate, He was upset, vulnerable and on the edge of depression. Grecco was there to ease some of his pain and did so by taking the young boy on trips to Canada’s Wonderland and to a cottage north of Barrie. Grecco taught the teenager how to drive a car years later when he was old enough to apply for his licence.
“For me it was a rough time, Grecco was a friend,” the victim said in an interview from his home.
“I did have trust in him. He came across as a family friend, I thought there was a friendship between us.”
But this was no ordinary, friendly relationship between a boy and a priest. There was more to it for Grecco.
The priest would initiate play fighting and wrestling, which would lead to other things. Grecco would lie on top of the lad, drop his trousers and rub himself against him.
The abuse d the boy did not try to stop it as he felt he owed Grecco gratitude because of the support provided during difficult times and because he also took him on trips, he thought at the time.
“I wasn’t enjoying it, but you put up with it and (think) it will be over soon. I never thought it was right, but it was like the ends justified the means.
“What he was doing was wrong … but I almost felt duty-bound. I felt I had to be nice to him and let him do things,” he said.
By the time he turned 17, the abuse stopped — but the only way it did was by no longer associating with the priest, the victim said.
“I realized he wasn’t my friend. He was there to groom me so that he can be the pedophile that he is,” he said.
He admits his faith in the Catholic church has dwindled since the incidents in his youth. He still takes his family to church, but not every Sunday. A father of three young boys, he and his wife have had their eldest son baptized, but not the younger two — he’s reluctant to do so due to the ongoing sex scandals shaking the Catholic church worldwide.
“I would like to have them do their first communion, I would like to have them get baptized, but I’m having a hard time being a part of a church that allowed this (abuse) to happen,” he said.
The church needs to be more forthright and accountable when dealing with abuse cases, he said. In the past, churches have sent priests to other parishes when learning about in-house abuse in an attempt to cover it up. Coverups undermine parishioners and righteous priests, he believes.
“When the church finds out about these things, they have to deal with it. If you murder somebody you go to jail, if you steal something you go to jail. A priest sexually abuses somebody, nothing happens to them, they just go to another parish. That’s not right.”
The victim’s wife was the first person to know about his abuse, followed by an OPP officer who investigated and pressed charges, the man said. The victim went to a church in his new town outside of Canada to try and discuss his personal trauma with a pastor or priest there, but he didn’t get too far with his intentions.
“They were very reluctant to talk to me. They refused to talk about it,” the man explained.
The victim’s family, relatives and close friends are aware of what happened, but his revelations took decades. His father found out a few years ago, just before charges were laid against Grecco. Then slowly, more people were told about the abuse. His mother, who didn’t believe for a long time about Grecco’s sinful behaviour, even invited the ex-priest to her son’s wedding in 2001, but Grecco did not attend.
Looking back now, the man is happy he finally disclosed to others the secret he had kept, but he regrets staying quiet for so long.
“What I truly wish was that I was stronger as a young person and would have stopped it right away so it would have never happened. And I also wish I would have gone to somebody back then and told them so it didn’t happen to anyone else.”
He said Grecco should be severely punished for the crimes he committed against him and others.
“I want to see him do prison time.”