An Ottawa-area priest preyed on vulnerable teens, luring them with sports and alcohol as he gratified his sexual desires, an Ontario court said in finding him guilty of sexual assault-related charges linked to incidents in the 1960s and 70s.
William McGrory was charged with indecent assault and gross indecency — outdated offences that no longer exist in the Criminal Code — in connection with three complainants, but court documents say one of them died, prompting two counts of the offences to be dropped.
McGrory pleaded not guilty and his lawyers argued that his accusers, identified only as J.B. and R.G., were not credible because there were inconsistencies in their accounts.
Court heard the boys, now in their 60s, had difficult family situations and grew close to McGrory, who was involved in church youth groups. The priest would play football and hockey with them, then drink alcohol with them afterwards, court heard.
He would also invite boys to visit him at his rectory in Richmond, Ont., to do chores or watch sports, court heard. It was there that McGrory sexually abused them, though one of the complainants said it also happened at his home, court heard.
“It is clear that both of the complainants were deeply affected by Mr. McGrory’s actions,” Ontario Superior Court Justice Michelle O’Bonsawin wrote in a recent decision. “Both hid what had happened to them from their loved ones for a long period of time.”
McGrory’s crimes were all the more serious due to his trusted position in the community, she wrote.
“He used alcohol to groom J.B. and medication to destabilize R.G.,” the judge wrote. “He infiltrated their families and used their faith in him to take advantage of the complainants. Mr. McGrory used his position as the parish priest to exploit vulnerable and naive young men for his own sexual satisfaction.”
J.B., an Indigenous man who grew up on reserve and moved to Ottawa in his early teens, testified he met McGrory while playing sports. The priest would join local boys and then get drunk with them after, he told the court.
McGrory befriended J.B.’s aunt and uncle, with whom the boy lived, and often came over for dinner, court heard.
The priest would invite boys to his rectory to do chores like cutting the grass and then gave them beer, J.B. testified. McGrory also drank, then told the boys they should sleep over because he was too drunk to drive them home.
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On one of those occasions, J.B. was passed out drunk in a bedroom when McGrory joined him, the man testified. He told the court he felt scared as the priest touched his genitals and performed oral sex on him. J.B. estimated he was sexually assaulted at the rectory more than five times, and several more times at his aunt and uncle’s home.
The sexual abuse stopped after J.B. met a girl, court heard. The couple had a baby when J.B. was 17 and married a year later. J.B. testified his wife wanted to baptize their children but he refused because he didn’t want to expose them to McGrory.
He reported the incidents to police in 2016, court heard.
The other complainant, R.G., said he met McGrory when the priest transferred to his church.
When R.G.’s father died, it was McGrory who helped him, he testified. After McGrory moved to the Richmond parish, R.G. and his brother sometimes went to visit him, court heard.
Once, six or seven young men went up to the rectory to watch a football game, he said. R.G. said he had one beer and started to get a migraine, so he went to lie down.
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McGrory later came in and offered to give him an aspirin, he said. But when he took the medication, it “made him very cloudy and gave him a disorienting kind of feeling,” the decision said.
At some point, R.G. felt his hand being moved onto someone’s genitals and someone touching his, he testified. He said he knew it was McGrory but in his state felt he could do nothing.
R.G. said he hesitated in telling his mother what happened because he felt it would add to her burden, noting she had cancer. But he told her a day later.
Soon after, R.G. met the woman who would become his wife. Relatives expected McGrory to perform the wedding and R.G. couldn’t think of a way to request another priest without having to explain his reasons, he testified.
Years later, R.G. decided to report the abuse to the archbishop, thinking he was the only one it had happened to, court heard. The church told him McGrory was going to be removed from his position and got him to sign an agreement that prevented him from speaking about it further, he said.
He later realized it was a gag order and felt even more violated, R.G. testified.
In 2016, he heard a news story about McGrory on the radio and realized the priest had never been removed, he said. That’s when he went to the police, he said.
A detective interviewed McGrory shortly afterwards. During the statement, McGrory confirmed that he had played football on Saturdays and that sometimes J.B. joined him. He also acknowledged they would sometimes drink after.
“I could have had, yeah … yeah. But I better … I’m …I’m told not to,” McGrory replied, the document said.
McGrory was found guilty of all charges but under a legal principle that says a person should not face several convictions for the same offence, the charges of gross indecency were stayed.