“Former Windsor priest sentenced for sex crimes” & related article

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The Windsor Star

May 14, 2014 – 12:38 PM EDT
Last Updated: May 14, 2014 – 6:56 PM EDT

Trevor Wilhelm

Father Gabriele Del Bianco is seen in this handout photo.Father Gabriele Del Bianco is seen in this handout photo.

SARNIA — Deliverance from decades of guilt, anger and anguish came with the barely audible “click” of handcuffs.

Gabriele Del Bianco, 57, a sex offender and former Windsor priest, was sentenced Wednesday to four years in prison. He will also be on the federal sex offender registry for the rest of his days.

One survivor of Del Bianco’s abuse clasped her hands over her face and cried – for once, tears of joy – as her former tormentor was shuffled out of a Sarnia courtroom in cuffs. She said later that watching Del Bianco in his last moments of freedom allowed her to feel something she hasn’t experienced in a long time.

“I feel free,” said the woman, whose identity is under a court-ordered publication ban. “I’ve been saying since the beginning that each step of the process was humiliating and hard, but the weight on my shoulders kept getting less as I went and now I’m done. I did everything within my power to take care of him and he’s been taken care of. So, I’m happy.

“To be able to watch him and clear that click, that was good. He’s in jail and he can’t hurt me, so I’m done.”

The former priest served in Windsor as associate pastor at St. John Vianney church and part-time chaplain at Brennan high school from 1985 to 1987. He was administrator at St. Rose of Lima in 1987 and 1988. After that he was associate pastor at St. Gregory in St. Clair Beach and part-time chaplain at St. Anne high school from 1988 to 1990.

He was also pastor at the former Sacred Heart church in Windsor from 1990 until 1994, before leaving the priesthood in 1995. Several years later, allegations of sexual abuse began to surface. He fathered a child – now in his 20s – with one of his victims during his time in the Windsor area. Testimony during the recent trial indicated Del Bianco reached a settlement for a one-time $10,000 child-support payment.

Del Bianco’s trial began last October in Sarnia for 18 sex charges involving four girls in the 1980s and early 1990s. He was acquitted of sexual misconduct charges involving two women but convicted of abusing the other two. He was found guilty in February of gross indecency and two counts of sexual assault.

Del Bianco abused girls on church property and in the basements of their own homes while their parents were upstairs making the priest dinner.

“I feel that we have all been robbed of so much joy,” the victim said Wednesday in court before sentencing. “Uncomplicated joy that comes from a world that makes sense. What Gabe has done doesn’t make sense. And, even more importantly, what God has allowed Gabe to do has left so many of us without faith.”

In handing down the four-year sentence, Superior Court Justice Joseph Donohue said he needed to send a strong message to others in positions of authority over children. He said parents take their children to church for “moral edification, not degradation.”

He also pointed to passages in scripture condemning people who mistreat children.

“This is not a new thing, to take a severe view of breaches of trust with children,” Donohue said.

Defence lawyer Andrew Bradie, who asked for a sentence of two years less a day, said he was “disappointed” with the judge’s decision.

“I’m hopeful that, to some extent, this puts behind some of the pain that the complainants have suffered,” Bradie said. “I know my client is prepared to deal with it. He is glad that this part of his ordeal is over. He will get through this, I’m confident.”

Before his sentencing, Del Bianco apologized to the two victims he was convicted of abusing and said he hoped the trial brought them closure.

“I regret deeply the pain that I have caused,” he said.

“I apologize to them for my immaturity, for disappointing them and breaking their trust in me.”

Del Bianco said he went to counselling and has left behind his “childish sense of self” and parts of himself that he “detested.” But he added that he doesn’t expect to be forgiven.

“I can’t expect that from you, but I do hope your future will be less and less overshadowed by the pain that I have caused,” he said.

The victim who spoke out Wednesday – about lost faith, emotional overeating, suicidal thoughts, paranoia and the shame and guilt that consumes her parents – said she wants to forgive him. But that is a long way off.

“I need time to feel safe and heal too,” she said in her victim impact statement. “I am hopeful that with time and support he will ask for forgiveness. I would be willing to listen. Perhaps when all is said and done, we can all find peace.”

_______________________________________

Gabriele DelBianco served parishes in Wallaceburg and Windsor

By Neil Bowen, Sarnia Observer

A dated picture shows Gabriele DelBianco, convicted Feb. 24, 2014 of sexual misconduct involving underage female parishioners from his time as a Catholic priest in Wallaceburg, Ont. and Windsor, Ont. DelBianco was a resident of Kincardine before his conviction. (theinquiry.ca)

A dated picture shows Gabriele DelBianco, convicted Feb. 24, 2014 of sexual misconduct involving underage female parishioners from his time as a Catholic priest in Wallaceburg, Ont. and Windsor, Ont. DelBianco was a resident of Kincardine before his conviction. (theinquiry.ca)

SARNIA  – Former Catholic priest Gabriele DelBianco, 57, was sentenced to four years in prison for sexual misconduct against two teenage girls in the 1980s.

The victims are now both in their 40s.

On Feb. 24, Superior Court Justice Joseph Donohue found DelBianco guilty of one count of gross indecency against one victim and sexually assaulting the other woman twice.

Sentencing had been delayed until Wednesday.

One of the victims was weeping and nodding as DelBianco left the courtroom in handcuffs.

The balding grey-haired DelBianco was described during the trial as having been like a rock star when he was a young priest.

Such breaches of trust have always been regarded very seriously by society, said Donohue.

In his sentencing, Donohue quoted Matthew 18:6 that states it would be better for those who offend against little ones to have a millstone hung around their neck and drowned in the sea.

Donohue also referred to an appeal court decision stating sexual offences against children during a prolonged time should bring penitentiary time.

The offences by DelBianco covered several years.

In a statement read to the court, one of the victims said she wondered how many years had been shaved off her life as a result of dealing with depression.

“We have all been robbed of so much joy,” said the victim.

DelBianco’s comments in a pre-sentence report make him appear to be the victim, said assistant Crown attorney Aniko Coughlan, who called for prison time of three to five years.

Defence lawyer Andrew Bradie reasoned that a two-year sentence composed of two 90-day sentences to be served intermittently, followed by 18 months of house arrest would be just.

There is no indication DelBianco poses a risk to the community, said Bradie.

“I can’t expect forgiveness,” said DelBianco, who called his crimes “inappropriateness” that he deeply regretted.

The woman who was sexually assaulted testified the activity was consensual but Donohue had ruled the evidence showed the consent was obtained due to DelBianco’s position of authority.

At the time of the offences DelBianco was a trusted friend of the victim’s family.

At one point the victim’s family was upstairs preparing a meal for DelBianco while he was downstairs molesting their daughter, said Donohue.

The relationship had progressed from a surprising kiss when she was 14 to sexual intercourse years later. At one point she travelled for overnight visits at churches where he was the priest. During these visits oral sex was part of the established routine when she was staying in his room.

The gross indecency was also a case where DelBianco exercised his authority to obtain the victim’s consent.

This victim was doing her homework in the church rectory when she was in Grade 8. During one of these sessions DelBianco asked her to remove ingrown pubic hairs with tweezers while he was naked on the bed in his room. She did.

Donohue had said he was satisfied by the victim’s testimony that the “bizarre” act had occurred.

DelBianco left the priesthood in 1996 after serving at churches in Wallaceburg and Windsor.

DelBianco will be on the sexual offender registry for life and must give police a DNA sample.

neil.bowen@sunmedia.ca

19 Responses to “Former Windsor priest sentenced for sex crimes” & related article

  1. Sylvia says:

    “In his sentencing, Donohue quoted Matthew 18:6 that states it would be better for those who offend against little ones to have a millstone hung around their neck and drowned in the sea.”

    Amen!

  2. Melissa says:

    Given the information he had, combined with the fast talking Bradie and incompetent Crown, Donahue was fair and just.

  3. Amber says:

    I have mixed feelings, but I agree with Melissa – just and fair under the circumstances. Mixed feelings because there weren’t more convictions which could have, potentially, resulted in more prison time, although I know more time wouldn’t ever return to his victims what he took from them.
    I’m also glad the trial is over. What a long and arduous process.

  4. Melissa says:

    The good news is that it is never too late for more victims to come forward.
    On another note, I contacted Bishop Fabbro, Father Blonde and Rev. Sharp at the London diocese repeatedly over the course of this trial. I invited them to come to the courtroom to show support. They paid off 11 women and released a public letter of apology regarding Gabe’s actions. Yet,. they continue to shun and shame the victims – acting as if they had done something wrong. Anyone who thinks there have been improvements in the handling of these cases is sadly mistaken. The good ole boys will never care or even try to understand what this type of abuse does to a person. They won’t even respond! And, I heard at the courthouse from a reliable source that they foot the bill for the lawyer! I wish this information could be more public. The remaining catholics need to ask themselves if this is the type of behavior they want to be associated with. Do they realize how the money they put in the basket each week is being used?

    • 1 abandoned sheep says:

      Melissa, I give ONLY 2 cents every Sunday, and have for more than 18 months. It is my 2-cents worth about the abuse of people and money within the Church.

    • Sylvia says:

      I was wondering who was footing the bill – thought probably the diocese, particularly with Andrew Bradie defending Gabe. I doubt that Gabe would have migrated to Bradie on his own, and, while I know nothing of Gabe’s finances, wondered how he could afford Bradie.

  5. Leona says:

    I have followed this case through Sylvia’s site over the past few years because this story was so similar to what had happened to me in my pursuit of justice over 25 years ago. I agree with Melissa, that “Anyone who thinks there have been improvements in the handling of these cases is sadly mistaken.” at least as far as the Church is concerned.
    There has been some improvement on how the Crown deals with the abuse. I think that 5 years is a much more reasonable sentence than the 2 years less a day that was formerly given. That he will have to be an offenders registry is also important. Consider that anyone convicted before the registry came into play, has likely received a pardon and no one need ever know of their past convictions.
    All of the survivors of the Del Bianco case are to be commended for their courage and strength throughout this process. Thank you for making the world a safer place for children.

  6. Amber says:

    Somewhere someone asked what happens next. Gabe will be held in Sarnia jail in protective custody until he’s shipped to Kingston for an assessment – likely Tuesday or Wednesday (not Monday because of the holiday). This will determine his level of risk and where he will serve his sentence (ie, minimum or medium security). My speculation is Joyceville or Collins Bay.

    • Sylvia says:

      Thanks Amber, I heard that he is off to Kingston and would be “in segregation with one of his peers
      – Paul Bernardo.” Sometimes it takes a few days to sort out the where. Please, anyone who knows for sure wher he ends up, pass on the word.

      • BC says:

        Bernardo is not in Kingston.
        Kingston Penitentiary closed last year.
        Bernardo is at Millhaven Institution in Bath Ontario

  7. Amber says:

    Kingston is where the assessment will happen, but the Kingston Penitentiary is closed. It is a museum now. At least three of the remaining facilities for federal offenders in Ontario are basically in Kingston or very close by (except for the prison in Gravenhurst; the name of which escapes me – Beaver Creek?). Anyway, I understand that the church did not pay Bradie to defend Gabe. The diocese had no obligation to cover Gabe’s legal costs as he hasn’t been a priest for a number of years. I also understand that Gabe sold his property in Auburn, which had been long paid for, and on which he realized a handsome profit, and that is how he paid his lawyer. Bradie was likely recommended by the church, though, as he is quite experienced with defending sex offenders.

  8. Robert says:

    Gabe was living in the Kincardine area until sentencing. He was doing odd jobs and on the Monday prior to the sentencing date he said to one of his clients ” See you next week “. I guess he was believing the lawyer was going to get him probation. He will have plenty of time to practice weed pulling before he returns to finish her job.

  9. Amber says:

    I am not surprised that Gabe thought he wouldn’t get any jail time. He sees himself as the victim. I wonder what his wife is thinking? I understand that she didn’t go to the trial.

  10. Amber says:

    Turns out Gabe is still in the Sarnia jail. He’s being shipped to Kingston on Monday for a 30 day assessment. That will determine where he will spend his sentence. I’ve also heard that he has no plans to appeal. Any of Gabe’s victims are encouraged to contact the Sarnia sexual assault centre for support.

  11. Amber says:

    Apparently, Gabe will be meeting with the parole board next month. I think we all knew he could be out in as few as 18 months, but this seems awfully quick.

  12. Mike Mc says:

    Hello..it’s been a while. I’m amazed at three things. 1) Sylvia is still doing this site. God love her. 2) The priest mentioned above is already meeting the parole board. Somethings never change. And 3)The Catholic Church has never really owned up to the whole abuse thing. The victims seem to be left in the cold quite often. Sylvia, keep up the good work.

  13. Amber says:

    Apparently Gabe was eligible for a parole hearing last month. Did anyone hear what happened?

  14. Amber says:

    Yes, “Father Gabe” is out and working in Kincardine. He’s doing landscaping and garden maintenance with his partner Patricia. Does anyone know if there was a sex offender release notice issued by local police?

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