Accused Priest Didn't Stay Long

By Paul Legall
The Hamilton Spectator

October 2, 2008

Charged with '70s sex abuse in Cayuga

A former priest spent less than a year at the church where he is alleged to have sexually abused a young boy in the late 1970s.

In a history of St. Stephen's Roman Catholic Church, Donald Grecco's brief biography shows that he arrived in 1978 and was replaced by another pastor in 1979.

During his tenure, he initiated the sponsorship of a Vietnamese family, one of those who came to Canada as refugees known as "boat people."

There is no mention of where he went or the circumstances of his quick departure.

Last month, the 68-year-old St. Catharines native was charged with gross indecency and assault on a male in connection with incidents allegedly involving a child while he was at St. Stephen's.

Haldimand OPP Detective Constable Julie Lord said Grecco will remain out of custody until his first appearance in Cayuga court Oct. 15. In the meantime, he must keep out of Cayuga except to attend court, and is prohibited from having any contact with the complainant, who recently brought the allegations to the attention of the OPP.

However, Grecco didn't have to post bail to secure his release.

Grecco is now living in Picton, Ont., and registered with the Canadian Counselling Association as a private certified counsellor.

"I know he's not in the priesthood," Lord said in a telephone interview.

But she didn't know why or when he left the vocation.

After leaving Cayuga, Grecco spent time as a priest at St. Kevin's church in Welland and at St. Alexander church in Fonthill, where he was still living in the rectory in 2002 and 2003.

Some neighbours on Parker Street in Picton, where Grecco is living with a female realtor, were surprised to learn he'd been a priest.

A neighbour, who didn't want her name used, described him as intelligent and articulate and an excellent neighbour. She said he'd never told her he had been a priest, but he did mention that he had a brother in the priesthood.

Grecco actually has two brothers who are still in the priesthood. Richard Grecco, who was ordained in 1973, is now Auxiliary Bishop of Toronto and vice-president of the Ontario Conference of Bishops. He is also a theological scholar and professor.

Denis Grecco, who was ordained in 1983, studied at Cambridge University in England and is now a parish priest.

The Grecco boys had a strong connection to the church while they were growing up in Thorold, where their father was caretaker of Holy Rosary church.

Denise Manley, office manager for the counselling association, said Grecco was still a counsellor in good standing as of last week, when the association first learned he was facing criminal charges.

She said the association will keep track of the case but won't review his status unless he's convicted of the charges or somebody files a formal complaint.

To be certified as a counsellor, she said, Grecco would have needed a master's degree in counselling or a related field and counselling experience. As a member of the association, a self-governing body with about 3,000 members, he can get liability insurance and have his name listed on the association website.

Monsignor Wayne Kirkpatrick, chancellor of the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Catharines, wouldn't provide any background information about Grecco or confirm that he was no longer a priest.



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