‘This helps me to help others’
Protest to continue in front of St. Kevin’s Catholic church in Welland
William O’Sullivan doesn’t want to let go of what happened to him at the hands of Roman Catholic priest Donald Grecco between the ages of nine and 12.
O’Sullivan was abused by the priest while at St. Kevin’s Catholic church, and for the past 12 weeks he’s been out front of the Welland church carrying a sign calling for an end to church secrets.
“People ask me why I just can’t let this go. I don’t want to let this go, this turned me into what I am today. This helps me to help others,” the 48-year-old said Sunday morning.
As a child, O’Sullivan lived on Locust Street, around the corner from the church, which sits at Niagara Street and Northcote Avenue.
“This was the rape factory for me. Many parishioners that come here knew me when I was here as a child. I’d say about 97 per cent of the people in this church support what I am doing … support opening up the files and allowing the secrets to come forward.”
Grecco was sentenced in October 2017 for sexually abusing three boys from 1975 to 1982. It was his second conviction for sexually abusing children. His total number of known victims is six.
“I’m hoping me be out here might help them. I’ve had three men pull over and cry while talking to me.”
When he initially came forward in 2010 to report what had happened to him, he wasn’t believed. He said it didn’t help that he was in the jail system at the time. Theft and break and enters earned him time in prison, and he was also a drug user.
“I’ve been sober eight years. I made some bad choices. I don’t blame what happened here on everything but this building was a contributing factor to what I
turned out to be.”
O’Sullivan said it took until 2015 before was finally believed. It was then that other survivors came forward and their stories mirrored his.
He wants files in the Vatican to be opened, to show what’s been going on in the Roman Catholic Church in relation to abuse of children over the years.
“There are people fighting to get those files open … we need those files,” O’Sullivan said, as he referenced abuse cases in Boston and more recently in Pennsylvania.
Back in September, after another protest, he sat down to talk with Bishop Gerard Paul Bergie of the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Catharines. The two planned to meet and talk again but that second meeting never happened.
“He called me back two months later and said he couldn’t talk to me because of the litigation I started with the diocese.”
O’Sullivan has a civil lawsuit against the diocese.
Reached Tuesday, the diocese office said there would be no comment on O’Sullivan’s protest, which it was aware of, due to the lawsuit.
“I called St. Kevin’s a couple of months back and asked for comprehensive reform when it comes to us survivors and what they do to deal with children now. No one got back to me.”
He plans to keep on marching up and down Niagara Street in front of the church from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. until at least Feb. 24. That’s the last day Pope Francis will be meeting with presidents of the Catholic bishops’ conferences of the world to discuss sexual abuse of minors. The meetings start on Feb. 21.
“The Pope has summoned all of the bishops to have an extensive meeting, they say, about child rape in the church. I don’t call it child abuse, I call a spade a spade. Rape is rape.”
While most people have been supportive of his protest, O’Sullivan said some people have spit in his direction and others have flipped him the middle finger as they have driven by.
O’Sullivan said he’s more than willing to talk if people have questions about why he is in front of the church.
“All they have to do is pull over and ask me … I’ll tell the truth and tell them the facts.”
William O’Sullivan holds a sign out in front of St. Kevin’s Catholic church in Welland this past Sunday. O’Sullivan, who was abused by former Roman Catholic priest Donald Grecco, has been protesting out front of the church on Niagara Street for the past 12 weeks.