Victims want abusive ex-priest jailed

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Age, ill health and apology shouldn’t keep Grecco from doing hard time, they say

The incidents followed a similar pattern.

Don Grecco would offer the altar boys odd jobs or take them on trips. Once alone with them, he would initiate “play-fights” that would escalate into the parish priest sexually grinding against the victim.

All three victims, all strangers, said the memories of the abuse have left them emotionally scarred. They have all become withdrawn, angry, depressed, self-loathing.

And today, in a Hamilton courtroom, they are expected to hear how Grecco will be punished for the three crimes of gross indecency to which he pleaded guilty last month. Crown counsel has asked for a prison term of between 2 ½ and four years. His defence lawyer has asked for two years less a day of house arrest.

Grecco, 70, was born in St. Catharines on March 6, 1940 to a movie projectionist/janitor father and a stay-at-home mother.

He was the second of four sons, all of whom would become priests. His parents were devout Roman Catholics who were active in Thorold, where Grecco was raised.

His brother Patrick left the priesthood about 10 years ago. His brother Richard became a bishop. Another brother, Dennis, is a professor of theology at a university.

Grecco attended Notre Dame High School in Welland. He was ordained on June 4, 1966 in St. Catharines.

After serving at St. Mary’s in Welland from 1966 to 1970, Grecco moved to St. Thomas More Roman Catholic Church in Niagara Falls, where he stayed from 1970 to 1978.

In 1978, Grecco served at St. Stephen’s in Cayuga, where he came into contact with Mike Blum who has said there were 12 occasions when the priest had simulated sex with him.

In the summer of 1979, Grecco also drove a second complainant to a cottage up north where he was molested in similar fashion.

Grecco’s next stop was St. Kevin’s in Welland, where he served from 1979 to 1985. It was here that Grecco abused James Hennessy, who has said there were 10 occurrences of abuse occurring in 1984 and 1985.

Hennessy, who lives in England and has not attended the court sessions because of financial concerns, believes there are more Grecco victims who have not come forward. Hennessy said he knows for certain there is a fourth, a friend from his childhood days growing up in Welland.

Hennessy and Blum asked that the publication ban shielding their identity be lifted.

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.”

From 1986 to 1996, Grecco served at St. Vincent de Paul church in Niagara-on-the-Lake. It was here he would meet his future wife, Colleen, a Picton real estate agent.

From 1996 to 1998, Grecco was the parish priest at St. Alexander’s in Fonthill.

In 1998, Grecco attended Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore and obtained his bachelor of science degree in pastoral counselling.

Grecco returned to Canada in 2000 and officially left the priesthood on March 21, 2001.

From 2000 to 2008, Grecco operated a counselling service and worked for insurance companies to provide grief, marriage and family counselling, first in St. Catharines and later in Belleville and Picton.

In 2002, Grecco married Colleen, a divorcée with two grown children. In 2008, he retired from counselling and assisted his wife in her business until his arrest in September 2008.

A month after the arrest, his stepson, who suffered from depression, reportedly committed suicide at the age of 23.

Publicity from the arrest made life difficult for the couple, according to defence lawyer Brian Donnelly.

After Grecco’s guilty plea to three counts of gross indecency, a letter went out to a local Picton school making sure school authorities were aware of Grecco’s proximity to the school.

Donnelly said the publicity has caused the couple to be shunned and has impacted their relationship, and that Grecco has accumulated “substantial debt.”

“He is essentially facing financial ruin,” he said. Blum and Hennessy are both suing Grecco for $3 million each.

Donnelly said the couple have separated and appear on their way to divorce. Grecco’s stepdaughter has had no contact with him since June.

Beyond family and financial woes, Donnelly said, Grecco has major health concerns and suffers from chronic bowel disease, a degenerative disc disease, hypertension and had surgery for colon cancer in July.

Grecco also has legal problems. He was arrested Oct. 6 with breaching his bail conditions by not disclosing a change of address. But his lawyer said the breach is in connection with the two weeks Grecco spent recuperating at Quinte Gardens Retirement Residence. .

But Grecco could not find a new surety, meaning he spent more than three weeks in custody at the Quinte Detention Centre waiting for the new charges to be dealt with.

On the three counts of gross indecency to which Grecco pleaded guilty in March, Donnelly sought a conditional, non-custodial sentence to be served in the community along with a period of probation and community service “that would essentially tie him up” for the next six years.

Donnelly said the fallback position would be a sentence of two years less a day in a provincial reformatory.

He cited a number of mitigating factors, including Grecco’s health and age. He said his client had no previous record, had accepted responsibility for his actions and pleaded guilty, and that a considerable length of time had passed since the crimes. He also argued that there was no penetration and that there was no grooming with alcohol, drugs or pornography.

“In my submission there was a lower level of violation and invasiveness,” the lawyer said.”

Donnelly said Blum called Grecco before choosing to go to the police. On Aug. 27, 2008, Blum called again with a police wiretap in place.

“He asked Grecco if he remembered what happened. ‘I don’t know why I did it. I wish I could take it back. It was dumb and I was dumb,’” Donnelly quoted his client as saying.

Grecco also wrote a letter of apology that was filed with the court.

Still, Hennessy told the Spectator he wants to see Grecco serve time for his crimes.

And Blum said recently that the defence proposal for a form of house arrest for Grecco is not satisfactory.

“I think he deserves some time in jail,” the Dunnville man said.

Blum was also unimpressed with Donnelly’s submissions about the number of mitigating factors.

“I’ve been dealing with this 30 years and if he just gets a house arrest or whatever they are going to call that, I don’t agree with it,” said Blum, who would like to see Grecco receive a sentence of more than two years in a federal penitentiary.


1 Response to Victims want abusive ex-priest jailed

  1. dark secret says:

    I attended many of the crt hearings and the sentencing ,what a waste of tax dollars and time.Grecco is a wolf in sheeps clothing. He lied to his wife,claiming his innocence and all the victims were after was money from the church. He lied to himself, the courts and his counsel.He showed no emotion like father confessor, as men in his position are trained to be.He has been preying,not praying for people all his life ,the smooth talking charleton sucking in all his victims .If the justice does not prevail no wonder this keeps going on ,and again what is the point of victims coming forward when lies and deceit are not dealt with by our judidical system.Everyone has the right to fair hearing with all the facts coming forward,which did not in this case.
    The final court is that of God and he will answer fully.
    Personally I no longer have faith in our Justice system it is waste of taxpayers money ,but then again what alternative do we have.The rule of law must prevail.
    It would be interesting how a jury would have dealt with this emotionaly charged Trial.For the unforseen victims God Bless you all.

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