(Apr 10, 2010)
A former Roman Catholic priest who once served at a Hamilton-area church has pleaded guilty to sex-related charges involving former altar boys.
Donald Grecco, who was a parish priest at St. Stephen’s in Cayuga for about a year in the late 1970s, pleaded guilty to three counts of gross indecency March 25 in Hamilton.
Grecco, now 70, also spent time as a priest at St. Kevin’s church in Welland and St. Alexander’s in Fonthill.
He was originally charged with four counts of indecent assault on a male, six counts of gross indecency and two counts of sexual assault. The first four charges were laid on Sept. 11, 2008. Further charges were laid Dec. 1, 2008.
Grecco will return before Ontario Court Justice Kathryn Hawke June 3 for sentencing.
Grecco’s crimes involve three former altar boys who served at churches in the St. Catharines diocese. The incidents occurred between 1979 and 1985.
Crown counsel Gregory Smith, who is based in the Crown’s Cayuga office, prosecuted the case. Grecco was defended by Brian Donnelly.
The incidents followed a similar pattern and involved Grecco lying clothed on top of the complainants and performing a “humping motion” before ejaculating.
None of the victims can be identified because of a publication ban protecting their identities, confirmed Brendan Crawley, a spokesperson with the Ministry of the Ontario Attorney General.
Crawley said the court case originated in Cayuga, but was moved to Hamilton in February “as it was convenient for the parties.”
Smith told court that in 1979 Grecco befriended a 15-year-old altar boy and had him complete odd jobs.
At one point, Grecco got permission from the youth’s mother to take him to a cottage “up north for a fishing trip.”
During the trip, the two took part in a word game. The victim was a poor speller and was advised that as a result of his unsatisfactory game performance, he would be disciplined when the two reached the cottage.
Once there, Grecco pushed the victim onto the bed and lay on top of him.
Another complainant, who also served as an altar boy, told authorities about 12 instances that began with Grecco “roughhousing” with him. This would lead to the priest “humping” the 15-year-old victim.
Court was told the second complainant took his concerns to the diocese Sept. 23, 2005.
“He was interviewed by a Monsignor Dominic Pizzacalla and essentially that went nowhere, Your Honour,” Smith told Hawke. “There was nothing done at that point in time.”
Court heard about some 10 incidents involving a third altar boy in 1984 and 1985.
In these incidents, Grecco started a “play fight” with the victim to the point where the former priest would lie on top of the complainant, who was also 15 at the time.
Grecco would rub his groin across the boy’s thigh, Smith told court.
He also asked the youth if he wanted to perform oral sex. While no such sex act occurred, Smith said, “he would often ask (for it) and seemed to get more excited by asking the question.”
On another occasion the complainant was advised he would be punished for stuttering during a church reading.
“The discipline involved play wrestling as I’ve indicated until ejaculation,” Smith said.
Monsignor Wayne Kirkpatrick, chancellor of the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Catharines, declined all comment on the Grecco matter, noting the case is still before the courts.