Victims of former priest Donald Grecco have their say

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Toronto Star 

Published On Thu Jun 3 2010

Jim Rankin Staff Reporter


 Donald Grecco, a former priest from the Diocese of St. Catharines, runs from a Hamilton courthouse after his sentencing hearing Thursday. He has pleaded guilty to sexually molesting three former altar boys in the 1970s and ’80s.

 HAMILTON—Mike Blum shook uncontrollably in the witness box, the childhood victim of an older man who sat stone-faced half a courtroom away. A man who in his prime was a priest with the Diocese of St. Catharines — and had a penchant for sexually assaulting altar boys.

 Until Thursday, when a publication ban on his identity and that of another victim was lifted at their request, Blum, 46, had been one of three nameless former altar boys whom Donald Grecco, 70, molested in the 1970s and ’80s.

 Blum’s shaking — he often has trouble holding a coffee — started after he came forward with his allegations. He cannot work and has tried to kill himself.

 Reading out his victim impact statement, Blum held up a picture of himself as a teenaged boy.

 “I want you to remember and look at that child,” he said, looking Grecco in the eye. “The child whose life you destroyed. The child you preyed on and who had a life of hopes and dreams waiting for him to fulfill. The child who had the right to live a life and grow to a man without the pain you inflicted . . . ”

 Grecco, looking tanned and dressed in a dark suit, showed no emotion throughout the sentencing hearing, which included victim impact statements from his two other victims and their close family members. The victims were given copies of a hand-written apology from Grecco, which was not read out in court.

 The mother of the victim who wished to remain unidentified told court she complained to the diocese in 1986 about Grecco’s behaviour, yet he remained an active priest for nearly two more decades.

 Victim James Hennessy, who also asked for the publication ban on his name to be lifted, could not be in court, but Crown attorney Greg Smith read his words. Since coming forward, Hennessy’s life has deteriorated. Now 41, he is obsessed by the case, no longer enjoys his young children, and has seen a decline in income from his work in sales.

 The sentencing hearing has been delayed for six weeks due to a medical test Grecco is to undergo, the outcome of which may change sentencing submissions made by his lawyer and the Crown attorney. Justice Kathryn Hawke agreed to the delay but insisted the victims have their say on Thursday. Grecco is scheduled to reappear on July 16.

 The former priest pleaded guilty in March to sexually molesting the three former altar boys while a parish priest in Cayuga, and later in Welland. The incidents occurred between 1978 and 1986.

 Blum complained to the diocese in 2005, but the court was told “nothing” came of it. The diocese properly followed protocols, Monsignor Dominic Pizzacalla told the Star last month.

 Two weeks after Grecco’s guilty plea in March, St. Catharines Bishop James Wingle resigned, citing a lack of “stamina,” and hasn’t spoken publicly since. It remains unclear whether the Grecco case is in any way related to Wingle’s sudden departure.

 Wingle was bishop in 2005, when Blum came forward. Another victim had complained to the diocese in 2001, just before Wingle was installed.

 Blum went to police in 2008. Ontario Provincial Police arrested Grecco that year after a three-month investigation. At that point, he was no longer an active priest. A routine search warrant, executed on the diocese, uncovered the fact there had been an earlier victim. The third came forward after police issued a press release.

 Grecco had been working recently as a grief counsellor and appears to have married.

19 Responses to Victims of former priest Donald Grecco have their say

  1. Sylvia says:

    His health situation didn’t keep him from running, did it?

  2. sher boudreau says:

    I’m the stepsister to one of the victims(James Hennessy) and I want to see this priest face the most harshiest of sentences possible. He stole my brother’s youth, his dignity, his ability to flourish as a young adult and now as a man. If I was still living in Ontario, I would stand up and speak to the court on behalf of my brother. It is time that the Pope stood up and did what is right and the death penalty should be invoked for these brutal monsters.

  3. Reality Checker says:


  4. Name required says:

    this man does not deserve life outside of jail or hell.

  5. Ted Wallace says:

    Father Grecco was also the priest at St. George’s in Crystal Beach for some time. Being an altar boy, my inner instints made me pull back when I noticed his unusually ‘friendly’ demeaner; hence I was saved. Other than that, he was a nice guy.

  6. Ted Wallace says:

    The time of his tenure in Cyrstal Beach… late ’60’s.

  7. just me says:

    So sad. We want to see justice-but he is 70 with health problems…there may be refuge in the thought that this will lead him to snap in prison, but not good enough for the people and the families he shattered. Reality checker, some thoughts are best kept in our heads…why scare all the people he hurt with your bitterness? They have probably thought about it, but why throw that in their face at this time? No sense kicking when someone is already down.
    peace to all

  8. Reality Checker says:

    I’m not a bitter person ‘just me’ – I consider myself very wise, educated and extremely compasssionate. Ask anyone who personally knows me.

    I also do not run from REALITY!!!

    There are many hurt people – I fully recognize the pain and torture the victims – the spouses – the families and their supporters must be facing but….. WHY would anyone HIDE the fact that it could be a possibility???

    OOPS – guess it’s NOT something we should talk about – huh? – too sensitive for you ‘just me’???

    The victims need our support – and to NOT delve into something you don’t want to talk about is by no means supporting them!!!

    To each their own….

  9. just me says:

    Reality… I did not challenge your intelligence-and I did not ask that you hide anything. I felt that shouting ‘HIV’ followed by 3 question marks was a tad over the top-“at this time”. Would you want a doctor to shout like that at you if it was your diagnosis?
    You said, “OOPS – guess it’s NOT something we should talk about – huh? – too sensitive for you ‘just me’???”
    I’m sorry, but that type of taunting reply seems to contradict your opening statement of, ” I consider myself…and extremely compasssionate.”. I pray that you use another tone when you are supporting the people whose lives Mr. Grecco has ruined.

  10. concerned catholic says:

    I hope he burns in hell !

  11. Theresa Guillemette says:

    I am the wife of a man whos life fell apart because of the Catholic Churchs priests and brothers. As a 7 yr of boy his family allowed the church to take there son to a school to help him as the family was very poor and he was a handful. He was physical and sexually abused over the yrs there. when he told his mother the head of the school said he needed to stay longer because he has become an awful liar. He learned as a child to bury it. Many yrs later when the story broke he did have the brothers charged and he had to relive it all on the stand just to watch them walk out the door free without any time. How could kids remember facts 40 yrs ago? They did and the church covered it up, shifted them from one place to another and changed thier names. This time my husband did not bury it. It buried him. It took him to the bottom and he never returned from it and I hate the court system that promised them justice and the Catholic Church for what they have allowed.

  12. Michael says:

    Glad that Rev.Grecco is punished for his crime. he is fully resposible for his crime, not the church in his case. No one went to the church with complaints while he was in in active ministry. He was already out of priesthood. There are no winners or losers. Both suffer: vicim (survivor) and the accused. There are supporters in both sides. I was just talking to a few women from Cayuga, they are of opinion that the victims also to be blamed. The reason they gave was there were many other kids in the church , why none of them got abused (some of them were children of these women who were altar servers too), So they claim that the victims and their families are also resposible’. I agree to disagree to their comments. Certain cases it may be right. I have met neather of these party or know them. So I do not know who is right and who is wrong. But there are cases which happend in that way.
    Child sexual abuses, molestation, abuse of women and vulnerable adults existed from time immemorial. It happens in every society and in families . It is nothing new.Twenty years back people did not take it as serious as now. So also church also did not understand that time the seriousness of it. Now church is aware of the seriousness of this crime and acts accordingly. Years back when one of our children commited a serious crime, the we tried to save them by hiding the truth. All families did that. Even today some families do the same. It is because they are theirown and they protect them. The same way the church looked at in the same way years back. That does not mean that the church or the families are right. But I just wants all to look in that way too. Like TIM wrote in this blog if you stand very close to the mirror you can not see well of yourself. After I finish this many will be lashing at me. I already know who will be writing first.
    One thing I need to say, if the church is so bad and all the priests are bad, why so many go to church, why many children serve as altar servers??? especially churches around cayuga, hagersville, Brantford, hamilton, Caledonia etc etc. ???. Some are there who do not find hope in the church, but there are countless who find hope and strength.
    Good people know very well it is the individuals who are criminals, in it there are priests, ministers, teachers, parents, men and women. Not all the priests: there are some as in every society and profession who are criminal.People understand it very well, that is why they go to church, children go to catholic school and take part in all activities of the church: altar servers, youth group, choir etc etc.

  13. arlene says:

    Your ignorance is unbelieveable!! You don’t need to know the people involved in ANY child abuse case.It is NEVER the fault of the child when abuse takes place. It is ALWAYSthe fault of the abuser.To even think that it is possible for a CHILD to be responsible for an adult’s behaviour is reprehensible and
    so incredibly dangerous! A child is NEVER responsible for the behaviour of an adult. Even if a male or female child acts provocatively in front of an adult,it is up to the ADULT to make the right decision. Your lack of understanding on this basic point is pathetic!

  14. Michael says:

    Actually you are the woman who is ignorant and pathetic. No knowledge about anything. If you go back to what I wrote months back, you may know why I wrote this way because i too was a victim of child abuse not by a priest, but by one of my distant cousin. That does not mean all the cousins are evil. People like you are like a frog in the well. I am resposible also for my acts, so also every one. It is different from case to case. Also age of each individual. I think you need some counseling.
    I think you do not have in basic education and you better not write meaningless comments which confuses people.

  15. Sylvia says:

    Amen arlene. God help us when we stoop to blaming a child to rationalize or excuse the perverted actions of a Roman Catholic priest.

    Michael, take time to read the articles before you comment. The diocese WAS informed, and informed while Grecco was still very much a priest: 13 December 2010: Ex-priest jailed 18 months on sex charges

    Here’s a quote:

    Crown counsel Gregory Smith told Ontario Justice Kathryn Hawke at a March 25 hearing that Blum complained to the diocese on Sept. 23, 1985.

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

    The diocese knew in 1985. Nothing was done.

  16. michael says:

    Thanks for the information.Twenty five years back abuses were not taken as seriously as now.Whether it is priest, minister or teacher or lay person etc. The same parents used to beat their children those days, if they do it now it is a different situation. Always there is story both sides. People out side of this web site know it, that is why they do not buy what Arlene and others buy and still go to church. That is why I go to church, my wife go to church, my children go to church.
    My cousin i have forgiven him and moved on. I feel I am one of the happiest person in the world. My cousin is not rich. So there is no point to sue him. If he was a priest of catholic church , i may do it which will bring me a million dollar lo!
    The catholic church went through many crisises in the past, it will fase in the future too. But it will survie. People like Arlene will not be able to destroy it. People will countinue to trust the priests and the church .
    Many of the ones who write here do not like to hear the facts and reality. So they jump immediatly even sometimes attacking Father Time, who support your web site and contribute to it.
    I do not know many who write here are happy people?

  17. arlene says:


    I truly feel sorry for you if you were abused as a child.We are not talking about different ages of people here, so you are the one that is confused here….I am stating that a CHILD is NEVER responsible for abuse that occurs when the perpertrator is an ADULT. NEVER……that is what deliniates the difference between a child and an adult.Believe me I am a very happy person and glad that you are as well. Just because someone questions authority or challenges authority does not make them unhappy. In terms of my “basic education” as you call it I can reassure you that I have far more education than you.

  18. Sylvia says:

    Theresa Guillemette, you and your husband obviously had a lot of pain in your life because of the abuse your husband endured. I can’t make the pain go away, but I can and will pray for you and your family.

    You say it took your husband to the bottom. Is he still at home with you? Is he drinking? What happened to him Theresa?

    Was your husband one of the many boys who were abused at one of reform schools run by the Christian Brothers schools in Ontario? Alfred? or Uxbridge?

  19. Lina says:

    Re: Post 17 from Arlene.

    I agree, just because someone questions authority or challenges authority does not make them unhappy or disloyal to their cause to seek help and justice.

    It is up to the victims/survivors (of the criminal acts) of abuse to pursue whatever way he or she sees fit.

    That road to justice is so difficult but if we can encourage one another by supporting the cause the journey maybe be less overwhelming. That is my hope & wish.

    My thoughts and prayers are with all who are in pain and suffering in the now.

    Lord help you all!


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