Defrocked Catholic priest Barry McGrory has been found guilty of sexually abusing two teenage boys in a church rectory during the early years of his long and sordid clerical career.
McGrory, 85, showed no emotion as Superior Court Justice Michelle O’Bonsawin delivered her verdict Monday.
“I find that Mr. McGrory preyed on the vulnerability of these complainants,” O’Bonsawin said in finding McGrory guilty on two counts of indecent assault and two counts of gross indecency.
“Mr. McGrory used his position as a parish priest,” she said, “to exploit vulnerable and naïve young men for his own sexual satisfaction.”
Based on evidence in the case, O’Bonsawin found that McGrory used alcohol to groom one troubled young victim, and medication to “destabilize” another.
“Mr. McGrory’s crimes were all the more serious because of his trusted position in the community,” the judge said. “He infiltrated their families and used their faith in him to take advantage of the complainants.”
McGrory had pleaded not guilty to the charges, which were laid in connection with two historic sex abuse complaints dating to the late 1960s.
A third complainant died before the case could reach trial.
All three complainants came forward to Ottawa police in 2016 after the Citizen published a story in which McGrory admitted to sexually abusing three young parishioners at Holy Cross Parish in the 1970s and 80s.
McGrory is to be sentenced in late August.
Court heard that McGrory, then pastor at St. Philip Parish in Richmond, met one of the complainants, an indigenous youth identified as J.B., at a touch football game in 1968.
Then 15, J.B. said he initially liked McGrory because he was impressed that a priest would play football with them.
McGrory gave the boys beer and invited them back to St. Philip Parish under the pretext that he needed help with some yard work. He rewarded them with more beer, and then told the boys he was too drunk to drive them back to Ottawa, J.B. said.
J.B. testified that he passed out, drunk, in a bedroom at the rectory and woke up with McGrory in his bed, fondling him. He later performed oral sex.
He didn’t cry out for help, the complainant said, because he was afraid of what others might say. “What if they came? What if they knew?” he testified.
J.B. told court that McGrory formed a trusting relationship with his guardians, who gave him a key to their house. He used it, J.B. said, to let himself into the house at night and molest him in his second-floor bedroom.
The abuse continued for more than a year. He didn’t tell anyone at the time, J.B. said, because he knew no one would believe him over a priest.
After reading the Citizen’s article about McGrory in April 2016, the complainant, now 66, said the past “got into his head and would not leave.” He felt he had to tell someone about what had happened, and he contacted police four months later.
The second complainant, R.G., told a similar story. He said McGrory ran a youth group and organized football games at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, where R.G. was an altar boy.
In 1969, he said, his father died and his mother was diagnosed with cancer. McGrory briefly moved into their house to help look after the family. At that time, he considered McGrory a close friend and trusted him “with all that he had,” R.G. said.
After McGrory was transferred to St. Philip Church in Richmond, R.G. and his friends would sometimes visit. Once, they went to the rectory to watch a football game. R.G. said he had one beer and suffered a migraine headache so he retreated to a darkened room on the second floor of the rectory. McGrory offered him an Aspirin.
The medicine left him “cloudy” and disoriented, he said. Some time later, R.G. said, he felt someone whom he believed was McGrory move into bed with him and molest him.
Years later, still deeply troubled by the incident, he went to then Archbishop Joseph-Aurèle Plourde and described McGrory’s sexual abuse. Told McGrory would be removed, he reached a settlement with the church that committed him to silence.
But in 2016, he heard a radio news report based on the Citizen’s story about McGrory, and was infuriated. “It killed me,” R.G. testified. He subsequently approached the Ottawa police with his story.
Justice O’Bonsawin said she found both complainants to be credible and reliable witnesses.
In May 2016, McGrory told the Citizen that as a young priest, he was a sex addict who suffered from a powerful attraction to adolescents. McGrory said he told Archbishop Plourde about his 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.
McGory told the newspaper he was healed of his attraction to adolescents after “surrendering” himself to God, and has remained celibate thanks to a self-help 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. He was formally dismissed from the priesthood last year.