05 October 2010
By JOHN VESSOYAN/Tribune Staff
ST. CATHARINES — Michael Blum is not giving up.
He wants answers and accountability from the institution and people in power who he says betrayed him and brought him agony.
He also wants other victims of sexual abuse in the Catholic church to be unafraid of speaking out and disclose their ordeals.
He is seeking about $3 million, which includes $300,000 for pain and suffering, $100,000 for special damages and $50,000 for mental distress. His lawyers say it will take between two and five years before a settlement can be reached.
On March 25 Grecco pleaded guilty to three counts of gross indecency for acts committed against three former altar boys.
The civil suit claims have not been proven in court.
The Dunnville man, who is now 46 years old and was an altar boy at St. Stephen’s Church in Cayuga when he now claims he was abused, along with his lawyer Robert Talach announced the details of the lawsuit during a news conference Tuesday morning in St. Catharines.
The whereabouts of Grecco and Wingle are unknown, said Talach.
After the news conference, The Tribune was told by a diocesan representative that Msgr. Wayne Kirkpatrick, diocese administrator, was not available to comment, adding that he is away until Thursday.
Documents disclosed to the media state Grecco, Wingle and the diocese have 20 days after being notified of the lawsuit to file a defence if they wish to.
Blum is encouraging victims of Grecco and clergy to come forward. He has established a toll-free line at 1-866-674-4994 and an e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org for victims to contact him and discuss sexual abuse in the church.
“How many more Michaels are out there who have been through hell? I do believe there’s more out there who don’t have the support to come out with it,” Blum said.
“There is help out there and if you’re ready and if you have a support group … I know for me personally it burned me up for many years before I even went to the diocese.
“It was a difficult decision but it was the right decision to come forward.”
Talach said there could be other men preying on innocent children. He questioned the diocese’s handling of the issue when it was brought to its attention years ago.
“Nobody went to the children’s aid society, nobody went to the police from the diocese — they know better than that,” Talach said. “If you want true transparency, if we’re going to buy the apologies that are being tossed around now, then let’s open the books and tell us who’s who. How many other children in this diocese are at risk? How many pedophile priests have been shuffled to another diocese? This contemporary issue that’s happening in our own Catholic Church has come home now to St. Catharines and they need to deal with it.”
Talach and Blum said the lawsuit is not about money.
“This is about accountability,” Talach said.
“Our criminal justice system stops at the door of the perpetrator. It has no mandate and frankly at times no interest in pursuing what went on at the institutional level. It is clear here the diocese and Bishop Wingle knew there were complaints about Grecco and they did what? Nothing as far as we know. If anything, we may learn he was hustled out of the priesthood.”
Grecco, who also worked at St. Kevin’s in Welland, St. Alexander in Fonthill, St. Thomas More in Niagara Falls and St. Vincent de Paul in Niagara-on-the-Lake, was ordained in 1966 and met Blum in 1978. Soon after meeting the two met, the abuse began, according to the claim.
Blum alleges he was 14 when Grecco would fondle the boy’s private parts and engage in simulated intercourse. Grecco, a St. Catharines native, also performed other sex acts on Blum and ejaculated on him during the abuse.
The victim said because of the molestation he is having reoccurring nightmares, has contemplated suicide and is unable to work.
“I have not been able to support my family,” he said. “They are burdened financially by me as I cannot work. I lost my career. I have been told by medical professionals I will never be able to work again.”
Blum was one of three victims identified in Grecco’s Marsh 25 guilty plea on the charges of gross indecency. Welland native James Hennessy, who now lives in England, was another victim who came forward. The third man still can’t be named because of a publication ban imposed by the courts.
Grecco will be sentenced on Oct. 29 at the John Sopinka Courthouse in downtown Hamilton.
He was originally scheduled to be sentenced on the criminal charges June 3, however, the defence argued he had health problems and required further examination. The sentencing was pushed to July 16, but once again it was delayed because Grecco was in hospital recovering from cancer surgery.