Rev. Barry Glendinning's Sexual Abuse Plunged John, Guy and Ed Swales into an Abyss of Substance Abuse and Prostitution and Devastated Their Family. Now That Glendinning and the Roman Catholic Diocese of London Have Been Found Liable for Damages, the Swales Hope to Get Their Lives Back on Track
By Peter Geigen-Mille
London Free Press [Canada]
February 4, 2004
It began in the most innocent of settings, a summer camp for children from lower-income families. There, in the early summer of 1969, 10-year-old Londoner John Swales, his brothers, Guy, 8, and Ed, 6, were introduced to Rev. Barry Glendinning, an ordained Roman Catholic priest, a teacher of liturgy at St. Peter's Seminary in London and a volunteer at the camp.
It began a liaison that would leave the Swales family emotionally shattered and result -- 30 years later -- in the family winning a $1,392,415 civil settlement against the Roman Catholic Diocese of London and Glendinning.
The damages were awarded in a judgment released this week by Superior Court Justice John Kerr, who presided over the civil trial that began in June and continued in stages in September, October and December.
The suit was brought by John, Ed and Guy Swales, their sister, Melody, and parents, Bob and Donna Swales, who sought compensation for the impact of Glendinning's sexual abuse of the brothers.
Defence lawyers agreed Glendinning sexually abused the Swales brothers, but denied the diocese was liable since the activities occurred during his free time, not as part of his parish duties.
The judge disagreed.
The sordid story of abuse is detailed in Kerr's 72-page judgment, trial testimony and court documents.
It begins with Glendinning befriending John Swales following the summer camp and gradually drawing in other members of the Swales family and children from other families.
The Swales were described during the trial as a loving, close-knit and devoutly Catholic family.
But their family life was not trouble-free. John Swales was born prematurely and had behavioural problems before Glendinning arrived on the scene.
Ed suffered serious heart problems that restricted his childhood activities.
Guy had asthma serious enough to require long stays in hospital.
Because the family budget always was tight and the children did not enjoy the advantages of children from more affluent families, Glendinning's attention and the money he spent on the Swales children was welcomed by Bob and Donna Swales.
Donna Swales was delighted by the friendship with the outgoing and worldly priest, a man who'd been to Rome and told them he'd dined with the Pope.
The devoutly religious Donna Swales was in awe.
"I thought it was miraculous, unbelievable that anyone could dine with the Pope," she testified at the trial.
She had grown up believing priests were God's representatives on Earth. She had complete respect and trust of priests and believed her children were completely safe in Glendinning's company.
Glendinning became an honoured visitor to the Swales home, sometimes sharing meals with the family.
Donna Swales looked to him for advice on raising her children.
She'd send him back to the seminary with gifts of canning and baking from her kitchen.
Only much later did Donna and Bob Swales and other parents learn that Glendinning's outwardly friendly manner and the apparent "big brother" role he played with young people hid a dark and dangerous secret.
The terrible truth, hidden by the silence of his victims, was Glendinning was a pedophile, a man who hid behind the priesthood to prey sexually on children.
Between 1969 and 1974, his victims included the Swales brothers and other children.
Trial testimony showed Glendinning introduced the Swales boys to alcohol and tobacco.
He shared pizzas and took them to movies, on camping trips, hikes and visits to his quarters in St. Peter's Seminary.
During those frequent camping trips and seminary visits, he introduced them to sexual activities -- skinny dipping, nude body oiling and painting, masturbation, genital fondling and oral sex.
Photographs were taken during many of these sessions.
Glendinning's abuse came to light early in 1974, when he was arrested by London police and charged with sexually abusing the Swales brothers and other children.
In May of that year, he pleaded guilty in London to six charges of gross indecency involving five boys and a girl and was placed on probation for three years.
He was ousted from his teaching job at the seminary and sent to Southdown, a treatment centre for priests with addiction and psychological problems.
The man at the centre of this scandal was born in 1933 in Wallaceburg and raised a Catholic.
Barry Glendinning gave every appearance of being an exemplary young man. He did well at school, went to church regularly, was an altar boy and sang in the church choir.
He loved music and excelled at piano. He honed his outdoor skills through Scouting.
For five years after graduating from high school, Glendinning worked in his father's clothing store.
Then came the decision, at age 24, to become a priest.
Glendinning enrolled at St. Peter's Seminary in 1957.
Seven years later, Glendinning completed his studies and was ordained a priest by Bishop Emmett Carter in May 1964.
He worked briefly as an assistant priest in two Windsor parishes before being sent to Rome to study liturgy.
Glendinning returned to London in 1967 to become a professor of liturgy at St. Peter's Seminary.
Two years later came the fateful summer camp meeting with the Swales brothers.
Donna and Bob Swales testified they raised their six children in a traditional lifestyle.
The two were married in 1958 and agreed to raise their children as Catholics, even though Bob was Protestant.
Donna's faith ran deep. She had been raised a Catholic and lived in a convent during her youth. She was determined to raise her children as good Catholics.
The children were baptized and confirmed in the church and attended Catholic schools.
Donna made sure the children attended church, said their nightly prayers and grace before meals. She believed if the children were not brought up Catholic, they would go to hell.
Into this atmosphere of total trust for the church and its priests came Glendinning, a man who testimony showed already had begun to prey on young victims.
John Swales testified his first sexual encounter with the priest occurred during a drive on a country road near Dorchester in the early fall of 1969.
Glendinning had allowed the 11-year-old Swales to sit on his lap and steer the car along the gravel road.
John testified he was sliding back into the passenger seat when the priest fondled him.
Minutes later, the priest performed oral sex on him, he said.
His trust in the priest made the sexual encounter all the more shocking, he said.
"I though it was bloody weird. It was a mind-blowing experience."
In time, John began to sexually abuse his brothers and sister.
The 1974 discovery of Glendinning's activities and his arrest by London police had a devastating impact on the Swales family.
Donna Swales testified she cried for months. Bob Swales felt angry and deeply betrayed.
Ed Swales described how the once-bustling home took on the air of a funeral parlour.
Shortly after the arrest, the rector of the seminary came to visit the family and apologize for Glendinning's activities.
Accounts differ on whether the rector offered help to the family during this visit, but family members did not ask for or receive any help. They ended up feeling isolated and adrift.
The lives of John, Ed and Guy Swales plunged off the rails.
Trial testimony showed the brothers dropped out of school and turned to lives of drug and alcohol addiction and prostitution in what were described as their lost years.
The three, angry and confused, had varying degrees of trouble with the law. Guy was jailed four or five times in subsequent years for a total of about two years.
All three experienced broken relationships.
For John and Guy, the life of illicit drug use had dire consequences for their long-term health. Both contracted hepatitis from injecting drugs.
The brothers long since have left that troubled life behind and John has mended his fractured relationship with Melody.
But as testimony showed, the brothers have not come close to the earnings they might have enjoyed if their lives had been more normal.
Despite the blemished lives, Donna Swales expressed hope after the judgment this week that her children can get on with their lives.
"Now my kids can relax and start to enjoy their lives," she said. "They can have some peace of mind."
John Swales said he hopes his family's experience will create awareness of sexual abuse and help others come forward with complaints.
"Validation and self-awareness only come with the price of disclosure," he said.
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