Defrocked Ottawa priest, 85, on trial for historic sex abuse

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Ottawa Citizen

Updated: May 22, 2019

Barry McGrory – a defrocked Catholic priest who is alleged to have abused children in the 1970s before being quietly shipped to another diocese – leaves the Elgin Street courthouse Tuesday (May 21, 2019). Julie Oliver/Postmedia Julie Oliver / Postmedia

Two men have told court that they were sexually assaulted by a Catholic priest as teenagers in the same bed at a church rectory in Richmond.

Barry McGrory, 85, a former Ottawa priest, faces four charges based on two historic sex abuse complaints dating to the late 1960s.

Charges in connection with a third complainant were withdrawn last year after the man died of cancer.

McGrory, who was officially removed from the priesthood last year by the Vatican, has pleaded not guilty.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Michelle O’Bonsawin ruled Tuesday that Crown attorney John Semenoff will be allowed to use similar fact evidence as part of the case against McGrory.

In making her ruling, O’Bonsawin said the complainants both alleged they were assaulted in the same bed at St. Philip Parish in Richmond after being plied with alcohol or medication.

In both cases, she noted, McGrory is alleged to have entered the bedroom of the church rectory where the complainants were sleeping to commit the assaults.

One case involved a single incident of sexual touching, O’Bonsawin said, while the second involved a series of alleged sex assaults.

Despite those differences, the judge concluded, “there’s a high degree of connectedness between the two incidents in question.”

The ruling means O’Bonsawin will be able, when assessing evidence in the case, to use the testimony of one complainant to corroborate elements of the other’s account.

McGory’s defence lawyer, Leo Russomanno, told court Tuesday that his client has elected not testify. As a result, the trial will proceed to closing arguments Wednesday.

McGrory did speak with police after his arrest in November 2016.

In a transcript of that interview, entered as a court exhibit, McGrory is asked by Det. Steve Cashen if he had sexual relations with one of the complainants, who was 15 at the time of the allegations.

“I could have had, yeah,” McGrory told Cashen, according to a vetted transcript of the interview.

The complainant told police that he met McGrory in 1968 after he started to play touch football. He said McGrory would provide him and other boys with alcohol, and that the priest on several occasions invited him back to St. Philip Church under the pretext that he needed help with some work at the rectory.

The complainant also told police that McGrory became good friends with his guardian, who gave the priest access to their home.

The complainant told police McGrory would let himself into the house late at night, and that he would often awake to the priest fondling his penis.

The complainant said he didn’t cry out because he was afraid of being labelled a homosexual. What’s more, he told police, McGrory warned him that no one would take the word of a troubled youth over a priest.

In his police interview, McGrory told Cashen that he met the boy while playing Saturday morning touch football in New Edinburgh.

“I felt great compassion for him,” McGrory said. “I think he was often depressed.”

McGrory admitted to drinking with the youth, but he refused to explain what he meant when he said that he “could have” had sexual relations with him.

“I’ll have to leave it at that,” said McGrory, who later told Cashen that his defence lawyer would “bawl the hell out of me” if he went further.

He flat-out denied having oral sex with the youth, saying he had “an antipathy” to that sex act.

The man lodged a complaint with Ottawa police in September 2016 — three months after the Citizen revealed the story of McGrory’s disturbing sexual misdeeds while pastor of Holy Cross Parish in the 1970s and ’80s.

The Archdiocese of Ottawa has settled out of court with two women who said they were abused as adolescents while McGrory led the parish.

One of the victims was paid $300,000 in the largest known settlement of its kind in the Ottawa diocese.

In an interview published at that time, in May 2016, McGrory said that he was a sex addict as a young priest, and suffered from a powerful attraction to male and female adolescents.

McGrory said he told then-archbishop Joseph-Aurèle Plourde about his sexual problems in the mid-1980s, and asked for treatment.

Instead of receiving help, McGrory said, he was transferred to a Toronto organization dedicated to assisting remote Catholic missions, many of them in Canada’s North.

Four years after leaving Ottawa, in 1991, McGrory was charged with sexually assaulting a 17-year-old Indigenous youth. He was convicted of the crime and given a suspended sentence.

McGrory said he was healed of his attraction to adolescents after “surrendering” himself to God, and has remained celibate with the help of a group called Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, which employs a 12-step program similar to that pioneered by Alcoholics Anonymous.

Ottawa born and raised, McGrory holds a PhD in theology from Thomas Aquinas University in Rome. In 1974, he was named pastor of the Holy Cross Parish, where he became a high-profile peace and social justice activist.

He was dismissed from the priesthood last year by the Vatican through a process known as “laicization.” His official removal from the priesthood followed a determined campaign by one of his acknowledged victims, Colleen Passard, who reached an out-of-court settlement with the diocese for the abuse she suffered after meeting McGrory at Ottawa’s Holy Cross Parish in the 1970s.

1 Response to Defrocked Ottawa priest, 85, on trial for historic sex abuse

  1. Sylvia says:

    Please keep the McGrory complainants and victims in your prayers.

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