'I keep asking why,' victim tells court during Barry McGrory sentencing hearing

By Andrew Duffy
Ottawa Citizen
March 3, 2020

Barry McGrory — a defrocked Catholic priest who abused children in the 1960s before being quietly shipped to another diocese — leaves the Elgin Street courthouse last May.
Photo by Julie Oliver

The victim of a Catholic priest’s sexual abuse says the incident caused him to lose his desire to be a priest, his faith in God, and his trust in the church.

In a victim impact statement read at the sentencing hearing of defrocked priest Barry McGrory, the man, now an adult, said the betrayal has affected every aspect of his life.

“The worst thing is I lost my faith for a long time: I felt so terrible without God in my life,” he said in the written statement, read in court.

The victim, whose identity is protected by court order, said McGrory became a trusted mentor after his father died. “You are told you can always talk to your priest,” he said. “To be betrayed was devastating to me. It has been a daily struggle. Alcohol, drugs, nothing helped the pain I was in. I keep asking why?”

The man said he went to then Archbishop Joseph-Aurèle Plourde with his account of McGrory’s sexual abuse, which took place in a bedroom in the rectory of St. Philip Church in Richmond in the late 1960s. Based on the archbishop’s promise to remove McGrory, the man signed a settlement with the church that included a gag order.

In 1987, Plourde moved McGrory to a Toronto organization dedicated to assisting remote Catholic missions. McGrory was charged in 1991 with sexually abusing an Indigenous youth and later convicted of that crime.

“The lies from the church and the archbishop made me very angry,” the man said in his victim impact statement, adding: “The gag order made me feel like I was in jail.”

The man told court that he still loves Jesus, prays every day, but cannot enter a church.

McGrory’s second victim said the abuse left him “messed up about God and life.” His adult life, he told court, has been marked by shame, booze and drugs. “My biggest fear is no heaven for me,” he said.

Crown attorney John Semenoff asked the judge to impose a six- or seven-year prison term in the case given its many aggravating factors, including the age of the victims and McGrory’s position of trust.

Defence lawyer Matthew McGarvey asked the court for mercy on McGrory’s behalf. “Put quite plainly, he’s an old man: He’s on the decline both physically and mentally,” he said.

McGrory has been in custody since Dec. 7 for failing to appear at a November sentencing hearing. He appeared in court Monday more dishevelled than normal.

McGarvey presented court with medical records that show McGrory, 85, suffers from cognitive decline, possibly associated with the early stages of Alzheimer’s, along with heart issues and seizures.

One of McGrory’s former parishioners, Beverley Olivastri, appeared as a character witness on his behalf. Olivastri said McGrory welcomed her into Holy Cross Parish in 1979 and has remained a friend ever since.

“The church was packed when he gave his sermons,” she said. “People wanted to be part of this community he was building … He really ran a wonderful parish.”

Olivastri said she wasn’t aware of McGrory’s demons at the time. Asked how she reacted when McGrory was charged, Olivastri said she was “absolutely shocked. “I think I cried for six weeks: I didn’t want to believe it. Later, I had to say, ‘Well, maybe it’s true.’ We all have good and bad in us.

“He’s a very complex person. He had this, what he called his dark side, that none of us knew about. He was has been very honest with me. He realizes now he was very sick.”

Superior Court Justice Michelle O’Bonsawin is to deliver a sentence in the case next month.

Last year, O’Bonsawin found McGrory guilty on two counts of gross indecency and two counts of indecent assault in the crimes dating to the late 1960s. O’Bonsawin said McGrory used his position as a priest “to exploit vulnerable and naïve young men for his own satisfaction.”

A third criminal complainant died of cancer in July 2018 before the case could reach trial.

All three criminal complainants came forward in 2016 after the Citizen published a series of stories that revealed details of McGrory’s sordid clerical career. In an interview at the time, McGrory admitted to abusing three young parishioners at Holy Cross Parish in the 1970s and ’80s. 

He told said he was healed of his attraction to adolescents after “surrendering” himself to God and seeking addictions treatment.


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