‘This helps me to help oth­ers’

Protest to con­tinue in front of St. Kevin’s Catholic church in Wel­land

The Niagara Falls Review - - Front Page - DAVE JOHN­SON

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.”

DAVE JOHN­SON THE WEL­LAND TRI­BUNE

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.

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