Brothers Seek $7m in Sex-Abuse Suit
The Suit Names a Priest and the Area's Roman Catholic Diocese
By Jonathan Sher
London Free Press [Canada]
Downloaded June 9, 2003
Brothers whose childhood innocence was stolen at St. Peter's Seminary go to court in London today to seek retribution from the priest who molested them and the church that blames them for their fall from altar boys to prostitution. John, Ed and Guy Swales and their family are seeking more than $7 million from the Roman Catholic Diocese of London and Barry Glendinning, who in 1974 pleaded guilty to gross indecency.
While Catholic dioceses in the U.S. are embroiled in sex scandals, the London case, filed four years ago, is notable for the tactics the church has taken to defend itself, said the Swaleses' lawyer, Paul Ledroit.
"They've been playing hardball, not exactly the way Christ would act," he said.
The diocese denies the brothers were harmed by Glendinning and has filed a counterclaim against John Swales, saying if his younger brothers were harmed, it was because he abused them.
The diocese maintains it knew nothing of Glendinning's conduct and had no reason to suspect he was abusing children until his arrest.
"(The diocese) denied that it suppressed the facts (or) engaged in any activity of 'covering up.' "
Glendinning admits to having sex with two of the brothers in 1974, but contends many allegations are false.
"(The allegations) are, to a substantial degree, exaggerated and untrue," his statement of defence says.
The Swales allege much of the abuse by Glendinning took place in his quarters at the London seminary, a place where men are taught to become priests. Under his direction, it became a place where children as young as six were taught to act as sexual deviants, the suit contends.
The suit alleges the children were forced to perform sexual acts and masturbate and Glendinning took Polaroid pictures as he directed them.
Children visited Glendinning's room at least twice a month for five years, often overnight, a violation of seminary rules, Ledroit said.
The diocese knew or should have known about the abuse, the suit alleges.
"The noises that would emanate from his room, the soiled linen that this would have created -- they clearly failed in this duty of care," the plaintiffs argue.
The diocese failed the Swales even after Glendinning's arrest, the suit contends. While the diocese sent the convicted priest to a treatment centre, it stopped a seminarian who tried to help the Swales family, the suit alleges.
John Swales is 44, the oldest and most outspoken of the brothers, his voice so deep and resonant it might pass for that of Charlton Heston.
His arms are tattooed, his face lined and weathered by a life on the streets.
Four years ago, he took his 12-year-old nephew camping, an outing much like those arranged decades ago by Glendinning. As night fell, Swales tucked his nephew into bed as the boy said, "Good night, Uncle John. I love you.' "
But as he patted his nephew's head, Swales was overcome by painful emotions, he recalled.
"How in the (heck) can someone do something to this raw innocence? How could someone violate that?" he thought.
"I was that boy. I was that innocent when Glendinning stuck his hands down my pants and stole my life."
Years of abuse took its toll, the suit alleges. The brothers dropped out of school and turned to a life of drugs, crime and prostitution, a lifestyle that left two of them with hepatitis.
Their mother, a devout Catholic who grew up in a convent, can no longer stomach stepping into a church.
Officials with the diocese have expressed sympathy for the Swales, but in its statement of defence the church denies the brothers were harmed.
If the court finds otherwise, the blame for the harm rests on the Swales brothers because they had problems that pre-dated the abuse and failed to seek treatment afterward, the diocese contends.
The diocese maintains that after Glendinning's conviction, it had reason to believe the Swales didn't need treatment. The boys' mother, Donna Swales, said they were fine the only time she was phoned by the rector, James Carrigan.
The contents of that call are in dispute: The plaintiffs contend the rector only asked if Donna Swales was a good Catholic.
Donna Swales raised her children to be devout. They were christened, took their first communion and confession, attended Catholic schools and said grace before meals and prayers before sleep. Most of her sons, including John, became altar boys.
"She taught them about heaven and hell and how priests were God's representatives on Earth," a plaintiff's submission reads.
In the summer of 1969, the Swale brothers, ages six, eight and 10, were chosen by nuns at a Catholic school to attend a camp where they met Glendinning, a 35-year-old priest who taught at the seminary.
Glendinning became a "Big Brother" to John and forged such a tight bond with the Swales family that for the next five years, at least once a week, he visited their east London home, the suit alleges.
That fall, on one of their outings, Glendinning took John Swales to a dark, rural gravel road, then fondled and performed oral sex on him, the suit alleges. Soon, Glendinning started to take John to his quarters in the seminary. By the following year, his brothers were joining them.
Today's trial will be before a judge, not a jury, and is expected to last at least three weeks. Efforts to settle the suit have failed. Several years ago, the Swales rejected a settlement offer from the diocese of $425,000. More recently, according to Ledroit, the diocese rejected a request for $900,000.
The Swales recently settled their claim against the London District Catholic school board, which has been dropped as a defendant. Ledroit declined to say whether the settlement involved a payment, but said Glendinning was an employee of the diocese, not the board.
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