Published on: December 2, 2016 | Last Updated: December 2, 2016 5:35 PM EST
The Archdiocese of Ottawa has launched the process required to officially remove Rev. Barry McGrory from the priesthood. It’s the strongest penalty that can be imposed by the Catholic Church against a wayward cleric.
“We have reported the case of Barry McGrory to the Holy See and are waiting to hear from them,” Deacon Gilles Ouellette wrote this week in response to a question from abuse victim Colleen Passard, who has been calling since May for the priest to be defrocked.
A diocese can initiate the process to remove a priest, but only the Vatican has the power to impose such a penalty.
Ouellette, a spokesman for the Ottawa diocese, said Friday the Vatican will now have to review the facts of the case and decide whether to remove McGrory from the priesthood, a process known as laicization.
The news comes one week after McGrory was charged by Ottawa police in connection with the alleged sexual assault of a 15-year-old boy in the late 1960s. McGrory was then working at the Major Seminary of Ottawa and at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish. He was released on $10,000 bail.
This week, the Ottawa police spoke with a number of other alleged victims, including one who said he was molested after a Grey Cup party in the late 1960s.
In an interview with the Citizen earlier this year, McGrory admitted he had sexually abused several young parishioners in Ottawa, but he refused to put an exact number on how many he had victimized during his clerical career.
McGrory said he then had a strong sex drive and suffered from a powerful attraction to adolescents, both male and female, which he attributed to a mental illness, hebephillia.
Hebephillia does not have official status in DSM-5, the American Psychiatric Association’s authoritative guide of mental disorders. McGrory said he was healed of the illness in the 1990s and has remained celibate for more than two decades.
Earlier this year, Colleen Passard met in person with Rev. Christian Riesbeck, auxiliary bishop of Ottawa, and prepared a victim impact statement at his request as the diocese built its file against McGrory. Passard was victimized by McGrory in the 1970s when he was pastor of Ottawa’s Holy Cross Parish.
In an interview Friday, Passard said she was relieved McGrory might finally be defrocked, but disappointed that the diocese waited until he was charged to announce it had filed the necessary paperwork.
“McGrory’s many victims welcome the news; however, it is decades too late,” she said. “Time and time again, the Ottawa diocese made the choice to turn a blind eye to McGrory’s sexual abuse of children.”
McGrory, 82, lives in Toronto as a retired priest.
In May, he admitted in an interview that he had sexually abused three young parishioners, including Passard, at Ottawa’s Holy Cross Parish in the 1970s and ’80s. He said then-archbishop Joseph-Aurèle Plourde knew he was powerfully attracted to adolescents, but did not send him for treatment.
Instead, he was appointed president of an organization that aided remote Catholic missions in Canada. In 1991, McGrory was charged with sexually assaulting a 17-year-old native boy, and later convicted of that crime. He was given a suspended sentence and three years’ probation.
The Ottawa diocese subsequently settled out of court with two of McGrory’s victims, including Passard. A third Ottawa victim who was abused by McGrory as a boy is now suing for $1.5 million.
As part of her settlement with the diocese, Passard said she was assured in 1997 that McGrory had been removed from the priesthood. In fact, he had been ordered not to present himself as a Catholic priest or perform its ministries.