Harper: Father John Harper

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John B Harper

Priest Diocese of London, Ontario,  Ordained1958.  Parish priest and teacher at both Assumption Separate School (elementary) and Regina Mundi (later Regina Mundi College) in London, Ontario. 1988 GUILTY: suspended sentence.  2003 GUILTY: three years probation.  According to reports, Harper would hear the boys confessions immediately after each act of  sex abuse.  Harper was reported twice, once in the late 60s to Church officials, and once in the early to mid 70s  to school officials. No action was taken until a victim went to police and he was charged in 1987.

(According to information online, Regina Mundi was founded in 1963 as a junior seminary [Regina Mundi Junior Seminary].  In 1967 it became a boy’s boarding school and was renamed  Regina Mundi College.  Boys attended from around the world [Canada, the United States, South America, Central America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.]  In 1983 the college was incorporated into the London and Middlesex County Roman Catholic School Board and became co-ed..   The school continued to take boarders until 1988.)


Bishops of London from time of Father John Harper’s ordination: John Christopher Cody † (02 Jun 1950 Succeeded – 05 Dec 1963); Gerald Emmett Carter  (17 February 1964 – 29 April 1978 -Appointed, Archbishop of Toronto, Ontario)   John Michael Sherlock (7 July 1978 – 27 April 2002 ); Ronald Peter Fabbro, C.S.B. (27 Apr 2002 – – )

Auxiliary Bishops: John Michael Sherlock (25 June 1974 — Bishop: 7 Jul 1978); Marcel André J. Gervais (19 Apr 1980 – 3 May 1985); Frederick Bernard Henry (18 April 1986 -o 24 Mar 1995);  Richard John Grecco (5 December 1997 – 27 April 2002); Robert Anthony Daniels ( 21 September 2004 to 1 March 2011)


28 June 2018:  Accused priests. Millions in quiet payouts. And it was all kept on a list

23 March 2016:   The Roman Catholic Episcopal Corp v AXA Insurance Canada 2016 ONSC 4061


20 February 2018:  “Insurance firm demands London diocese return $10M in sex abuse payouts” & related article

18 February 2018:  Insurer seeking $10 million back from diocese that knew about predator priest


The following information is drawn from Canadian Catholic Church Directories(CCCD)  of that date, the 1980 Ontario Catholic Church Directory (OCD), and media (M)

2011, 2010:  not listed (CCCD)

March 2003:  CONVICTED again. GUILTY plea.  Three years probation (M)

From fifth Estate website:  “The Good Father” http://www.cbc.ca/fifth/goodfather/timeline.html

2002, 2000, 1999, 1997, 1996, 1995, 1994, 1993, 1992,1991:  Unit 1602 -1103 Jalna Blvd., London, ON, 519-649-4831 (CCCD)

1988: CONVICTED – suspended sentence (M)

1987: charged (M)

1985-86:  address for St. Justin/Regina Mundi College 519-681-6785 (CCCD)

1980:   Regina Mundi College (with Father J.H. Moss, Principal; Father E. Blackmore, Vice-Principal and Father E. Brerton fellow staff)  (there were at this time 10 lay teachers and 160 students at the school) (OCD)

1973-74: Regina Mundi College (CCCD)

1971-72:  Regina Mundi College (CCCD)

1969-71:  Regina Mundi College (M)

Sex abuse and sodomy of student at the school.  The abuse began when the boy was 14.  When the boy was in Grade 11 he complained to school officials: the boy was told to leave;   Harper was  Harper continued to teach at the school until he was reported to police and charged in 1987.

1968-69, 1967:  Regina Mundi (CCCD)

according to media reports, served in Stratford, Ontario prior to Regin Mundi.  It is alleged that Harper was moved from Stratford to Regina Mundi after the diocese was told that Harper was sexually abusing Stratford altar boys

1959-1964:  Our Lady of Sorrows Roman Catholic Church, Aylmer, Ontario (CCCD)

Teacher at Assumption Separate School.

– Harper consoled a woman after the death of her husband, a former Swiss Guard. He then befriended the 9-year-old son who was attending both the Church and the school.  Harper molested the boy until the child graduated and started high school.

1959: Our Lady of Sorrows Roman Catholic Church, Aylmer, Ontario (CCCD)



22 July 2011: 22 priests, hundreds of victims: Sex abuse cases haunt church’s London diocese

07 November 2006:  Excerpt from “Ledroit Beckett Litigation Lawyers issued lawsuits on behalf of victims of sexual abuse at the hands of two former London Diocese priests”

It is also now known that Father John B. Harper a convicted sexual predator spent the majority of his career serving at Regina Mundi College in London. His posting there was made shortly after parishioners from Stratford alerted the Diocese of his sexual abuse of Stratford altar boys. Father Charles Sylvestre was also posted to both Mount St. Joseph’s and to Regina Mundi College, both Catholic educational facilities at the time. Both postings were made after parishioners had reported Sylvestre sexual abuse of minors.


Victims demand priests be defrocked

National Post

19 August 2006

LONDON, Ont. – In an unprecedented move, the London Diocese in Ontario will consider asking the Vatican to defrock all eight of its convicted pedophile priests.

The statement came yesterday on the heels of a news conference by London law firm Ledroit Beckett demanding the diocese defrock priests Barry Glendinning, Konnie Przybylski and John Harper, the latter having taken boys on weekend getaways to his parents’ Windsor home.

In the past two decades, eight London Diocese priests have been convicted of sex crimes against children. The others are Charles Sylvestre, Gary Roy, Cameron MacLean, Robert Morrisey and Richard Boll.

“Bishop Fabbro is already reviewing other cases to see whether he should seek the laicization of other convicted priests,” the diocese said in a written statement. “This action does not require a request from the individuals harmed by these men, but such a request would be appropriate.”

Bishop Ronald Fabbro said this month he would ask the Vatican to laicize, or defrock, Sylvestre, 83, who was wearing his collar this month when he confessed to sexually abusing 47 young girls over four decades.

Ledroit Beckett lawyer Rob Talach said that when the victims of other priests heard that, they demanded the same fate for the priests who had attacked them.

“A priest is a priest for life,” Mr. Talach said. “Whether retired or relegated to [an] administrative post, these men still operate within an environment where they have great authority, unquestioned respect and potential access to vulnerable young people. There is no rational reason why convicted sex offenders should be able to retain the prestige, authority and powers which the vocation of priesthood provides.”

Four victims, all clients of Ledroit Beckett, spoke out against their abusers yesterday.

Glendinning was convicted in 1974 of six counts of gross indecency against six children. He was put on probation and within the same year was sent to St. Claire of Assisi in Windsor as an assistant pastor. Complaints about him there led to his transfer to Edmonton, where further complaints resulted in his transfer to Toronto.

Przybylski was convicted two months ago of sexual assault and sexual exploitation of two altar boys in Port Dover from the mid-1990s until 2000. Mr. Talach said that after a complaint was made about him in 2000, he was moved to a London parish.

Harper was convicted in 1988, and again in 2003, of sexually abusing boys at an Aylmer parish and at Regina Mundi College in London.

Harper took boys to his parents’ house in Windsor and abused them there, said victim Don Bannon.

“It was just sexual abuse,” said Mr. Bannon, 57. “We slept in the same bed. The defrocking is a starting point. They’re finally starting to do something. They’ve done nothing in the last 40 or 50 years. What Bishop Fabbro is doing now should have been done back then. It’s a start.”

Diocese spokesman Ron Pickersgill pointed out the diocese is only examining the other cases and isn’t actually requesting that any priest but Sylvestre be defrocked.

But even that is unheard of in Canada, he said. Mr. Pickersgill said there have been some “notorious” cases in the United States, but this will be the first time a Canadian diocese has sought to defrock a priest convicted of sex crimes.

“It is an extremely rare, extremely serious move,” he said.

Mr. Pickersgill said the bishop hasn’t officially set a new direction for the Church, but added Bishop Fabbro seems to be meeting the issues more directly than others have in the past.

“We are experiencing things are being done differently,” Mr. Pickersgill said. “He’s letting his statements and actions speak for themselves.”

Irene Deschenes, 44, one of Sylvestre’s victims from Chatham was not optimistic.

She said the Church is only asking that Sylvestre lose his collar because he had so many victims and his crimes have grabbed such a public spotlight.

“How many victims are enough?” she asked. “What is the diocese standard? The only reason Bishop Fabbro is starting the process to defrock Sylvestre is because his back is up against the wall. After 47 guilty pleas, I’m sure there has been pressure put on him to say, ‘Whoa, look at all these women. This is wrong. We can’t have him in our ranks.’ ”


London RC diocese facing new lawsuits

London Free Press

16 July 2004

By Joe Belanger

CANADA: Two men who allege they were sexually abused by a Roman Catholic priest and teacher filed separate multimillion-dollar lawsuits yesterday against the diocese of London [Canada]. And the men are urging other victims of retired Rev. John Harper, twice convicted of sexual abuse, to come forward.

Peter John Gahlinger, 54, of Ottawa and a 50-year-old London man using the pseudonym Tony Devlin filed statements of claim yesterday amounting to $6 million, plus interest and costs.

They claim they were sexually abused by Harper, who still lives in London and was their teacher between 1960 and the early 1970s.

Harper and the diocese are named in both lawsuits. Gahlinger’s suit also names Bishop Ronald Fabbro.

Devlin also names the London District Catholic school board, retired Bishop John Michael Sherlock and Rev. Tony Daniels in his statement of claim.

“Both Peter and Tony suffered significantly over the past three decades as a result of the abuse,” lawyer Paul Ledroit said yesterday at a news conference. “The abuse has destroyed their lives,” Ledroit said. The statements of claim contain allegations not yet proven in court.

The action comes on the heels of a $2.7-million judgment last February against the diocese in the case of retired priest Barry Glendinning, who abused brothers John, Ed and Guy Swales. John Swales attended the news conference at the offices of the law firm Ledroit Beckett.

The diocese said in a statement it will file a defence, noting Harper is retired and not involved in parish work. “It is unfortunate . . . that there was no initial attempt to resolve the allegations without (court action),” Rev. Tony Daniels said in the statement.
That angered the men. “I have compassion for John Harper, but no compassion for the Catholic church,” Gahlinger said. “I have absolute rage for the Catholic church. Their attempts to hide things, their lack of action. They have done absolutely nothing.”
Gahlinger said the church’s inaction sparked his lawsuit. “If the church wanted to do something, they should have come out to help (Harper’s) victims in 1987, or even last year, but they didn’t,” Gahlinger said. “I’m not in it for vengeance, I’m in it for justice.”
Harper was Gahlinger’s priest at Our Lady of Sorrows church and teacher at Assumption separate school in Aylmer from 1959 to 1964. Gahlinger’s family were devout Catholics. His father, Anton, a captain in the Swiss Pontifical Guard at the Vatican before the family emigrated to Canada, died shortly after they arrived. Harper consoled Gahlinger’s mother, then befriended the nine-year-old boy, who became an altar server.

The assaults occurred at the church, in Harper’s car, at the home of Harper’s parents and the homes of other friends, Gahlinger’s lawsuit alleges. The abuse ended when Gahlinger went to high school, but in 2001 he filed a complaint with police.

In March 2003, Harper pleaded guilty in a St. Thomas court to sex charges involving Gahlinger. Harper was placed on probation for three years.

Devlin was a 14-year-old Grade 9 student in residence at Regina Mundi College who aspired to become a priest when he was befriended by Harper between 1969 and 1971. In his statement, Devlin says Harper plied him with booze, cigarettes, candy, soda pop and money to go to movie theatres and shopping.

It’s alleged Harper first raped Devlin in a small room on the upper floors of the school, then continued abusing him for two years. Devlin says he eventually complained about the abuse in Grade 11 and was told to leave the school.

Harper continued teaching at Regina Mundi until the mid-1980s when he was charged, convicted and sentenced to a year’s probation for sexually abusing a student.

Devlin said he confronted Bishop Sherlock about the abuse in the spring of 1998 and was given more than $50,000 over three months with the understanding he’d receive a settlement similar to other victims. The payments stopped in June that year.

Both men said that during the years of abuse, Harper would hear their confession immediately after the alleged attacks. “There was no guilt back then when it happened because I could confess to him,” Devlin said. Both men also claim their lives were shattered after the alleged abuse, with drug and alcohol addiction and failed relationships (both are divorced) and careers


Priest Pleads Guilty To Abuse

London Free Press

Mar 27, 2003 | London Free Press

A 75-year-old priest pleaded guilty yesterday to sex charges stemming from incidents that occurred more than 40 years ago.

Rev. John Harper pleaded guilty to the charges laid after Peter Gahlinger claimed he was sexually abused by the Aylmer priest between 1959 and 1964.

Harper, at the time an assistant priest at Our Lady of Sorrows Church, was sentenced to three years probation.

“I’ve looked forward to this moment for a long time” said Gahlinger, 53, as he took the stand to read his victim-impact statement.

“(The abuse) is something I’ve carried in silence for almost 40 years.”

Accompanied to court by his mother and sister, Gahlinger, who said he wants his story heard, described the confusion and humiliation he experienced as a child, when Harper filled a role left empty after Gahlinger’s father died of leukemia.

“To me and my mother, Father Harper appeared to be a godsend,” Gahlinger said.

“The attention was wonderful.”

But the attention soon turned sexual and incidents of touching and indecent exposure lasted for five years.

Since the abuse, Gahlinger, who lives in Ottawa, has suffered from physical and psychological problems, including pre-epileptic auras, post-traumatic stress disorder and severe clinical depression.

“I’m sorry for what happened,” Harper told the court.

“I didn’t understand the consequences.”

Harper was charged in 1987 with indecent assault on another male and given a suspended sentence.

4 Responses to Harper: Father John Harper

  1. Mary Verge says:

    My four brothers and I went to school with Peter Gahlinger and my brothers were also molested by John Harper. The confusion and turmoil caused by this man’s abuse and the fact that my parents could not believe that John Harper, a Catholic priest, would do such a thing is still wreaking havoc to this day in all of our lives.
    I know that there are many other young boys that were molested but were unable to come forward including 3 of my brothers.
    Just wondering if John Harper is still alive or has he gone to live with Satan?

    • Graham Stratford says:

      One of my classmates (1977-1981) was definitely groomed by Fr. Harper and I would not be at all surprised if he was another victim. He died earlier this year after what his family described as “a difficult” life. I am sure that there is a connection.

  2. Rita Matton Breede says:

    I worked as a secretary at Regina Mundi College when Father Harper was there. He was a miserable man with a foul mouth. It was obvious he hated women by the way he treated the women staff. I have never encountered such a terrible man. Now its obvious why he was so miserable. He is a pedifile who preyed on helpless, innocent children! To think that the Catholic church placed him at an all boys school is criminal! It blows one’s mind.

  3. Fred Knight says:

    I was a student at Assumption Separate School from 1959-1961 at Aylmer, Ontario and knew Father John Harper who was one of the parish Priests at Our Lady Of Sorrows Catholic Church. Father Fleming as I remember, was the other parish Priest and an older man at the time. I believe I know who Tony Devlin really is as he was a friend and former altar boy at the parish, at the same time that I was. I will not reveal his name but admit that Tony called me several years ago to tell me that he remembered a conversation we had many years previous about this priest. I know the exact modus operendi used by Father Harper because I know what he did with me. Please I need help with this!

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