Church Called 'Sinful' in Sexual Abuse Case
The Priest Testified in the Swales Brothers' Lawsuit against the Diocese of London
By Peter Geigen-Miller
Free Press [Canada]
October 23, 2003
The Roman Catholic church was sinful in its handling of a sexual abuse case involving three London brothers and their family, a priest testified yesterday. Rev. Michael Prieur, who teaches moral theology at St. Peter's Seminary in London, was asked about the role of the church in the case of Rev. Barry Glendinning, a priest at the centre of a sexual abuse lawsuit.
"In this specific case, it was a sinful church," said Prieur. "The church must bear some responsibility. It was a terrible thing that happened."
Prieur was testifying at the civil suit in which John, Guy and Ed Swales and their family are suing Glendinning and the Roman Catholic Diocese of London for damages they say resulted from sexual abuse by the priest between 1969 and 1974 when he taught liturgy at the seminary.
The diocese has counter-sued John Swales, claiming he was partly responsible for damage inflicted on his family when he sexually abused his siblings.
Prieur made the comments about the responsibility of the church during cross-examination by London lawyer Gordon Cudmore, representing John Swales in the countersuit.
Prieur and Glendinning were contemporaries at the seminary in the 1960s and 1970s, first as students and later as teachers.
As a student, Prieur was a year ahead of Glendinning.
Prieur recalled five or six times when children came to visit Glendinning at the seminary and went to his rooms.
He remembered Glendinning and children heading out on camping trips five additional times.
The court has heard Glendinning sexually abused children during visits to his seminary rooms and on camping trips.
He pleaded guilty to sexually abusing six children in 1974 and was placed on probation for three years.
Prieur said he saw nothing "untoward" in Glendinning's relationship with the children, who seemed to enjoy themselves.
He thought Glendinning was playing a big brother kind of role, he said.
Prieur told how he first learned of the sexual abuse when Glendinning came to visit him one night in the winter of 1974 and said he'd been charged by London police.
Glendinning was ordered to leave the seminary immediately and did, Prieur said.
Earlier yesterday, Dr. George Gort, a former London psychiatrist, downplayed sexual abuse by Glendinning as the reason Guy Swales turned to substance abuse and male prostitution, as testimony has shown he did.
Gort, who works as a consultant to adult mental health services in Simcoe and Hagersville, interviewed Guy Swales in 1998 and wrote two reports that were read into the court record yesterday.
During cross-examination by London lawyer Paul Ledroit, representing the Swales, Gort said sexual abuse was responsible for 20 per cent of Swales's troubles, "bad parenting" 60 per cent and genetics 10 per cent.
Asked by Justice John Kerr how he came up with these numbers when no genetic problems were disclosed to him, Gort said he was giving an opinion.
Asked if he knew of any parenting factors to explain Guy's behaviour, Gort responded: "I know we don't have perfect parents."
Asked if he thought family difficulties were responsible, he said, "No family is perfect."
Ledroit pointed out three other experts on sexual abuse, including London psychologist Peter Jaffe, have concluded sexual abuse was responsible for the devastated lives experienced by the Swales brothers.
Gort insisted sexual abuse was only partly responsible.
The trial was supposed to continue today, but will take a break until Monday.
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