McGrath: Father Des McGrath

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Desmond T. McGrath (Father Des McGrath)

McGrath cropped picture Our Lady of Lourdes webpage

From Our Lady of Lourdes webpage

priest Diocese St. George’s, Newfoundland.  Ordained 1961.  $250,000 settlement by diocese related to sex abuse allegations of Paul Vivian.  Charges related to allegations of sex abuse by a different complainant.  Father McGrath found dead, many say by suicide,  July 2009 the day he was scheduled to appear in court on the sex abuse charge.

McGrath Our Lady of Lourdes webpageAlthough he was two years Father Bernard Buckle‘s junior the two graduated from St. Francis University together, and attended St. Augustine’s seminary together; both wore ordained in 1961.  (Both worked at the Bowater’s Paper Mill before heading off to St. F. X. )



  Bishops of St. George’s Diocese from time of Father McGrath’s ordination to time of his death: Michael O’Reilly  (05 July 1941 – 22 December 1969) ;  Richard Thomas McGrath  01 June -1970 – 17 Jun2 1985 ) ; Raymond John Lahey (05 July 1986 — 5 Apr 2003 Appointed, Bishop of Antigonish, Nova Scotia)


The following dates and information are drawn from available Canadian Catholic Church Directories (CCCD), Our Lady of Lourdes webpage (OLL)  and media (M)

29 July 2009:  had failed to appear in court on sex abuse charges either 28 or 29 July.  Found dead in his garage 29 July. (M)

2004: NDP candidate in the Random-Burin-St. George’s riding for the 2004 Federal election

2003: Recipient of the Order of Canada

2002:  apartment on Surrey Lane, Burlington, Ontario (CCCD)

1997, 1998, 1999, 2000:  Pastor, St. Anne’s Church, Doyles, Newfoundland (Codroy Valley) (CCCD)

1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996:  “On leave” (CCCD)

late 80s: started setting up adult education centres across the province (M)

1985-1985: Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Lourdes, Newfoundland (CCCD)

15 December 1984:  appointed Pastor Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Lourdes, Newfoundland (OLL)

1981-1984:  LOA while assisting with formation of Newfoundland Fisherman’s Union (OLL)

1976 – 1981: “Parish Priest of Cathedral Parish”  – was he Rector of the Cathedral? or is there some other “Cathedral parish”? (OLL)

1968-1976:  Pastor, Holy Family Roman Catholic Church, Port Saunders, (OLL)

1973-1974:  Pastor Holy Family, Port Saunders Newfoundland (Missions in Bartletts’ Harbour Ferrole, Bird Cover, Castor River, Eddie’s Cove, Flower’s Cover, Port aux Choix, Cowhead, St. Paul’s, Parson’s Pond) Diocesan Consultor (CCCD)

1971-72:  Pastor Holy Family, Port Saunders Newfoundland (Missions in Bartletts’ Harbour Ferrole, Bird Cover, Castor River, Eddie’s Cove, Flower’s Cover, Port aux Choix, Cowhead, St. Paul’s, Parson’s Pond) Diocesan Consultor. (CCCD)

1970: Co-founder of the fisheries union.  (McGrath and St. John’s lawyer Richard Cashin created the Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union) (M)

1961-1968:  assisting at Holy Redeemer and Immaculate Conception Cathedral, Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Bishop Michael O’Reilly) (CCCD)

1968-69:  Holy Redeemer and Immaculate Conception Cathedral, Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Bishop Michael O’Reilly) (CCCD)


attended St. Augistine’s Seminary in Toronto Ontario

1957:  graduated from St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia (OLL)

worked as an electrician at Bowater’s Paper Mill before going to St. Frnacis University in Antigonish, NS

graduated from St. Bernard’s Academny (OLL)

1935:  Born in Corner Brook, Newfoundland (OLL)


Dec. 02, 2009_Father Des McGrath allegations – The St. John’s Morning Show from CBC Radio Nfld. and Labrador  (audio clip)

30 March 2010: Links to two podcasts on CBC Newfoundland and Labrador


Scarred for life (Part 1 of 2-part series)

Father Des McGrath

St. John’s Telegram

Published on November 28th, 2009

Steve Bartlett

Man describes how his youth was ruined at the hands of Father Des McGrath

A Toronto Star story on the 2004 federal election suggested if there was a man in Newfoundland who could be called a saint, it was Father Des McGrath.

Paul Vivian read the article and became physically ill.

“I just projectile vomited across the table,” recalls the Corner Brook native, who was living in Toronto at the time.

“My partner, who knew what I was going through, looked at the article and said, ‘Paul, you have to do something about this. You have to confront this. You’ve been receiving psychiatric care for years.

You’re still waking up screaming in the middle of the night. If you don’t confront this man, it will ruin the rest of your life.’ ”

Within a month of reading the story, Vivian attempted suicide.

He tried again about a month later.

“And it was close,” he says. “I was (unconscious) for three days.”

McGrath – lauded for helping to create the Fish Food and Allied Workers’ union in 1970 – was found dead in his Stephenville garage July 28.

It was one day after he failed to appear in court to face sex charges, including three counts of indecent assault.

The incidents were alleged to have taken place in Lourdes on the west coast between Jan. 1, 1981, and Dec. 31, 1982, and are said to have involved a boy who was around 11 at the time.

McGrath was an Order of Canada recipient and was honoured for being a humanitarian. Many who knew and worked closely with him were shocked by the allegations.

Vivian wasn’t.

While McGrath was never found guilty of abusing him, Vivian, now 44, reached a $250,000 settlement with the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of St. George’s in late 2007 because of what he said the priest had done to him in the late ’70s and early ’80s. (Due to the church’s bankruptcy, only $214,804 was paid out.)

He says the church offered to settle with him because his description of the sexual abuse was so compelling.

Vivian says during the alternative dispute resolution hearing, he was able to draw pictures of rooms in the church and new parish manse where some of the abuse happened. He was also able to describe McGrath’s body in detail.

The agreement between Vivian and the church stipulates that the settlement is not an admission of liability, but represents a compromise of disputed claims.

Vivian, who is gay and has known it since he was a young man, told The Telegram the sexual abuse started about a year after McGrath recruited him to serve as an altar boy at Holy Redeemer Parish in Corner Brook.

He figures he was in Grade 7 at the time of the first encounters – mutual masturbation and oral sex in the altar boys’ change room and bathroom, as well as in the vestry.

“I didn’t like it,” Vivian says on the phone from Toronto.

“There was no question in my mind about that.”

He says he’s sure he did not enjoy the experience because he told a family member, who didn’t believe him.

The abuse escalated to anal intercourse, he says, adding that a lot of the incidents happened in McGrath’s black Crown Victoria or the priests’ residence.

When intercourse would take place at the new parish manse, Vivian says McGrath would often initiate it by reading from a book called “The Persian Boy,” by Mary Renault, which is about Alexander the Great’s boy lover.

Vivian says their encounters continued even after McGrath left the Corner Brook parish, and the priest would rent a hotel room when he visited the west coast city.

“There were certainly people that I knew and that McGrath knew who saw us in the lobby, clearly going downstairs (to a room),” he said.

“And that used to frighten me to pieces. McGrath was cool as a cucumber.”

He said encounters involving oral sex and mutual masturbation would often happen after he had helped McGrath serve mass, and McGrath regularly gave him cigarettes and often offered booze.

After sex, Vivian said McGrath would observe, “Anything that feels that good, couldn’t be bad” or, on occasion, “That was fine now, tell your mudder.”

“And then he’d laugh. I’ll never forget that,” Vivian said, adding the priest would also tell him they were doing what gay people do.

Despite the smokes, the liquor, occasional gifts and the time they spent together, Vivian said McGrath’s exploitation of him remained hidden in the guise of a family friend guiding a troubled teen.

“My parents were thrilled with his interest in me. They just thought it was great,” he says.

Vivian says he never lashed out at McGrath because he was too scared.

It was also made very clear that he couldn’t say anything because it would ruin both of their lives, he adds.

Vivian says he was afraid someone would find out and think he was responsible.

He says he was having nightmares and praying to God for forgiveness.

“I had worked myself into quite a spot. … I felt hollow, that’s how I felt … and I was more and more interested in just being drunk.”

Five years of abuse

Vivian says the abuse continued for five years, until he was about 17.

While attending Dalhousie University a year or so later, he says, everything spiralled out of control and the abuse he suffered was seriously affecting his life.

He moved to Toronto and managed to put a good face on his problems for a while before things went off the rails for a long time (see Part 2 of this story in Monday’s Telegram).

Vivian says after he read The Toronto Star article – which was prompted by McGrath’s bid to win a federal seat for the NDP – he endured weeks of intense rage.

He says he even called the priest to tell him he had destroyed his life.

McGrath, Vivian says, responded by sending him money. He doesn’t remember the amount, and says the cheque was destroyed and never cashed.

The newspaper story and encouragement from family eventually spurred him to pursue legal action against McGrath.

“It was certainly not money-motivated. I wanted him removed from active service, because I was so angry he was still running around, running for the NDP, being called a saint in the newspaper. It was just an indignity that I just decided I wasn’t going to live with.”

He says he gave McGrath the option to avoid the legal proceeding by resigning from service and providing the names of any other victims.

“He laughed in my face,” Vivian says.

By the time he was offered a settlement, Vivian says he was cracking up and his life was in shambles.

But at least he knew the agreement reached with the church meant McGrath would have been censured.

Still, he says, the settlement gave him little solace.

“There was nothing satisfying about it. I never felt a sense of justice,” Vivian says.

He says he is telling his story because of his dissatisfaction with how the church handled the matter, and in case there are other victims.

He believes there are, based on things McGrath told him.

“McGrath told me about his encounters with other kids my age, although he was very cagey about the details,” Vivian says.

He hopes going public helps anyone who didn’t get a chance to see justice served because of McGrath’s death, which is believed to have been a suicide.

If there are victims out there, Vivian wants them to know at least one person believes them – him.

“My life became hell because of this. One of the only things that pulled me out of this was being believed in and having proved that it happened. And I said to myself, what would it be like if I was one of these men and I had to live now without any verification? … One of the most important things in my life was that I was believed, that this happened to me.”

Vivian has advice for anyone who may have been abused by McGrath, and it comes from his own experience – get help.

“Otherwise, it will rip your life apart.”

In Part 2, Monday: Paul Vivian describes how sexual abuse ruined much of his



‘I knew I was safe’ (Part 2 of 2 part series)

St. John’s Telegram

Published on November 30th, 2009

Steve Bartlett

Man blames part of troubled life on Father Des McGrath
Paul Vivian says his nightmares stopped after Father Des McGrath died this summer.

“(I felt) an enormous sense of relief,” the Corner Brook native says. “And I went for a walk by myself outside of my house around the block for the first time in 10 years. I knew I was safe.”

Vivian, who has lived in Toronto since the mid-’80s, says he was sexually abused by the priest as a teenager in the late 1970s and early ’80s on the west coast of Newfoundland.

Paul Vivian says his nightmares stopped after Father Des McGrath died this summer.

“(I felt) an enormous sense of relief,” the Corner Brook native says. “And I went for a walk by myself outside of my house around the block for the first time in 10 years. I knew I was safe.”

Vivian, who has lived in Toronto since the mid-’80s, says he was sexually abused by the priest as a teenager in the late 1970s and early ’80s on the west coast of Newfoundland.

McGrath was found dead in his Stephenville garage at the end of July. His body was discovered a day after he failed to appear in court to answer to sex-related charges.

The offences were alleged to have taken place in the early ’80s and to have involved an 11-year-old boy.

The priest – renowned in the province for having helped create the fishermen’s union, and for his humanitarianism – was never found guilty of abusing Vivian.

However, in late 2007, Vivian and the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corp. of St. George’s reached a $250,000 settlement on the matter.

Vivian maintains the money wasn’t important to him, that he just wanted to stop his abuser from harming anyone else.

Listening to him, there’s no doubt he’s suffered.

A psychiatrist’s note prepared for Vivian’s resolution hearing with the church outlines his many problems.

The now 44-year-old has a number of mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress syndrome, depression, agoraphobia (afraid to leave his house) and possibly multiple personality disorder.

He also has a history of drug and alcohol abuse, and has been unable to work for a number of years.

While he doesn’t hold McGrath responsible for all that has gone wrong – people have to take some responsibility for their lot in life, he notes – Vivian says the priest and abuse greatly intensified his issues and problems.

He says his life was somewhat troubled after the abuse ended, but it really started unravelling in Toronto, where he moved after a couple of years of university studies.

Vivian says he and an old friend from home went to meet McGrath at a hotel room when the priest was visiting the Ontario city.

He recalls panicking when he got there and then fleeing the hotel.

He says he kept on running.

Unfortunately, it was the start of regular run-ins with something else – illusions of his abuser.

McGrath, he says, began haunting him in nightmares and almost everywhere he went.

“That’s when I would see him on street corners,” Vivian says. “It’s when I stopped going out. It’s when I developed a fear of leaving my apartment. It’s when my drug and alcohol abuse hit high gear.”

Vivian says his main vices were booze and cocaine.

“I’m sure I would have tried anything,” he says. “Those were the two I had access to.”

He says he also became involved in harmful and physically abusive relationships.

Looking back now, Vivian has a simple explanation for his recklessness.

“I wanted to be hurt,” he says.

At times, it appears he didn’t only want to harm himself, he wanted to die.

He says he tried taking his life a couple of times and came very close at least once.

He says the ghosts of the abuse crept into every aspect of his life, especially relationships.

Vivian says he would be despondent to others and had an inability to feel affection.

For the first nine years he was with his husband, he says he “would wake up screaming and often punch him the face before I realized where I was.”

Vivian says the blackouts, related to his multiple personality disorder, would last hours, sometimes days. He would find himself in his car at different places with no memory of going there.

“And I would come home with bloody knuckles like I had been in a fight, even though I had no recollection of how I had gotten them,” Vivian says, adding he started to seizure if he talked about McGrath.

He says he saw grief counsellors and psychologists for years, but made little progress.

“My life was miserable,” Vivian says. “It was. It was just miserable.”

But that misery loved company.

In 2004, The Toronto Star ran a story during the federal election campaign that lauded McGrath, who was running in Burin-St. George’s for the New Democrats.

He says the article resulted in two suicide attempts and spun him way out of control.

“I liked to believe up until that point that (McGrath) was dead,” Vivian said last week.

“When I read the article and realized he was still out there going, things got much worse very quickly. … Everything escalated. I would disappear for three days at a time and have no memory of where I was.”

Concerned loved ones encouraged Vivian to get closure by pursuing legal action against McGrath.

He did, and says his testimony and the evidence he presented resulted in the 2007 deal.

He says the settlement achieved his goal of getting McGrath removed from active service, but it did little to slay his demons (although he says he started being able to feel affection and also began seeing results from counselling).

The priest’s death, Vivian says, has done a lot more to ease his pain.

Optimistic sharing his story will help the healing – as well as others who’ve been abused – he says his physical and mental health have improved since July.

Vivian says he owes a lot to his husband and in-laws.

They’ve stood by him throughout his lengthy and dangerous ordeal, he says, showing him strength, support and love.

Besides there being no more nightmares, Vivian says he no longer sees the priest on street corners and his fear of going outside has dissipated.

McGrath can’t hurt him now, he says.


N.L. priest facing sex charges found dead

CBC News

Last Updated: Wednesday, July 29, 2009 | 9:57 PM NT

Rev. Des McGrath, one of the founders of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union (FFAW), has been found dead, just a day after failing to appear in a Newfoundland and Labrador court to face sex charges.

RCMP said the body of McGrath, 74, was found in his garage in the western Newfoundland community of Stephenville on Tuesday. The Mounties did not release further details.

The well-known Roman Catholic priest also ran as a candidate for the NDP in the district of Random-Burin-St. Georges in the 2004 federal election, coming in second.

FFAW president Earle McCurdy said his friend and mentor was inspired by the centuries-old oppression of fishers and the grinding poverty of rural communities.

McCurdy said McGrath gave dignity to ordinary people and “had a vision for how outport society could be better than what it had been for the people who lived there.”

“His whole life was dedicated to that,” McCurdy said.

While tributes poured in for the work McGrath did, his friends and supporters expressed shock over the revelation that McGrath was charged last month with sexually assaulting an 11-year-old boy in 1982. The allegations stem from when McGrath was the parish priest in Lourdes on the Port au Port Peninsula on Newfoundland’s west coast.

There is a publication ban on the name of the alleged victim, who is now an adult.

McGrath’s funeral will be held in Corner Brook on Friday.


Canadian Catholic Priest Running for Politics Promises Not to Vote against Abortion

10 June 2004

ST. JOHN’S, June 10, 2004 ( – Rev. Des McGrath, a retired Catholic priest is running for the New Democratic Party in the current election despite the fact that the Catholic Church forbids priests to run for political office. However the situation is further complicated by the Catholic priest’s promise not to vote against abortion.

McGrath, the NDP candidate in the Random–Burin–St. George’s riding of Newfoundland and Labrador, was featured in the Toronto Star recently as a “pro-life” candidate of the NDP attempting to show the diversity within the party. The point was made starkly with another NDP candidate in the same province being a founder of a local abortuary. McGrath even stated to the Star: “I’ve told the NDP that I’m pro-life and that if anything comes up in that regard, I would vote pro-life.”

However, with the abortion issue central to the election, the NDP which is officially pro-abortion and pro-homosexual ‘marriage’ said it would not tolerate dissent on the issue. Rather than put the right to life for all human beings above his political aspirations, Rev. McGrath betrayed his faith convictions.

In a recent CBC radio report, the CBC announcer led, “The Catholic priest says he hasn’t made up his mind yet on same sex marriage.” That was followed by a reference to abortion and a clip from Rev. McGrath stating, “I would abstain from voting on that issue, which would be to say to the world that I’m against abortion but I won’t embarrass the party.” could not reach Rev. McGrath’s bishop for comment. Calls to Rev. McGrath were not returned.

See the Toronto Star coverage:…

3 Responses to McGrath: Father Des McGrath

  1. MikeMc says:

    It saddens me to read and find this here. I had referred to Fr.Des McGrath at one point earlier in this site. Although it is suposedly just one case, it is one case of abuse too many. To read this page tonight and to think about Fr Des at our school & parish, who people practically called a saint or a priest who actually did something for the fishermen of Newfoundland, deeply saddens me. And to see that the RC Church settled the issue with money…even though the Church called it anything but abuse, bothers me. I have purposely stayed away from this site for a while until tonight. Then I read a few new horror items and for some reason began to wonder what Fr Des actually died from. And then to find this….in all its horrendous detail. Wow… makes me just want to give up totally with the church.
    I sincerely hope the victim of abuse mentioned in here is getting the help he needs. Bravo to you for having the guts to tell your story.

  2. Esperanza says:

    Fr. Des McGrath was a dissenter and very bold about it. His bishops turned a blind eye and who were they? Check it out.

  3. Ex Catholic says:

    Rot in Hell you Pig. And there are many more doing what he did and nothing is being done about it.

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