Catholic Church protestor and sex abuse victim William O’Sullivan marching to Parliament
By Kris Dubé
January 18, 2021
William O’Sullivan wants give a “voice to the voiceless” by walking across a large portion of the province to raise awareness about child abuse within the Catholic Church.
The 50-year-old St. Catharines resident who grew up in Welland has spent more than two years in front of Parish Community of St. Kevin on Niagara Street in Welland to talk about what happened to him between the ages of nine and 12 at the hands of former priest Donald Grecco.
In October 2017, Grecco received an 18-month sentence for sexually abusing three boys between 1975 and 1982. It was his second conviction for sexually abusing children; his total number of known victims is six.
Six months later, Grecco was granted an early release from the Central North Correctional Centre.
Previously in 2010, he pleaded guilty to sexually molesting three former altar boys between 1978 and 1986 while a parish priest in Cayuga and later in Welland.
He was handed an 18-month sentence and two years of probation for three counts of gross indecency.
O’Sullivan in early May will embark on a tour that will lead him to Parliament. He will walk about 15 kilometres a day.
Along the way, joined by a support driver and another person who will gather footage for a documentary, he will stop and chat with survivors and hold small protests in front of churches where there are allegations of misconduct, as well as at courts and offices of judges who have handed out “jokes of sentences,” he said.
Last Sunday would’ve been week 124 in front of St. Kevin’s church, but O’Sullivan opted to take a break due to the provincial lockdown. He will keep an eye on the pandemic and its restrictions in deciding when he will return.
O’Sullivan said he wants a third-party inquiry into the Catholic Church in Canada pertaining to child abuse.
“There are 393 convicted, guilty priests in our country, and there’s never been an investigation,” he said.
O’Sullivan estimated he has encountered at least one new survivor every week since he started protesting, whether it’s in person in Welland or through social media.
He hopes to hear from more on his trek to Ottawa.
“I’ve got no paperwork, I’m not a psychologist or anything like that,” said O’Sullivan. “But when people can talk to somebody and relate with them about how they were raped as a child, you don’t need that paperwork.”
O’Sullivan said he is “very saddened about having to stay out there that long,” referring to his more than 120 weeks at St. Kevin’s.
The only reaction he has received from the St. Catharines diocese is a letter to parishioners in late 2019 apologizing for his weekly protests.
“That breaks my heart. It doesn’t piss me off, it breaks my heart is what it does.”
O’Sullivan said a GoFundMe account will be launched in the coming weeks to support his tour.