Priest's Abuse Civil Trial Opens
A London Mother's Family and Sons Seek $7m in Damages from the Priest and Diocese
By Peter Geigen-Miller
London Free Press [Canada]
June 10, 2003
A London mother told yesterday how she went from total trust in a Roman Catholic priest to utter disbelief when told the man had been sexually abusing her children. Donna Swales was testifying during the first day of a civil trial in which her family and sons, John, Ed and Guy, are seeking $7 million in damages from the Roman Catholic Diocese of London and Barry Glendinning because of sexual abuse inflicted by the priest.
The diocese denies negligence.
Glendinning pleaded guilty in 1974 to gross indecency.
Donna Swales said she was delighted in 1969 when Glendinning began taking an interest in her oldest son, John, after meeting him at a summer camp.
During the next five years, he took John and other siblings on outings that included movies, camping and fishing trips.
They also stayed overnight in Glendinning's quarters at St. Peter's Seminary in London.
Swales said she'd been raised a devout Catholic and had total trust in priests, believing them to be God's representatives on Earth.
Although her husband, Bob, was not a Catholic, he agreed their children would be raised in the faith and the children grew up in a highly religious household.
Because of her trust in priests, Swales said she had no hesitation about sending her children to a summer camp in which the church was involved.
"I figured if priests were involved, it was the safest camp they could go to," she said.
Later, she had no concerns about sending the children for overnight stays at the seminary, trusting Glendinning to supervise them.
She said she was gratified Glendinning took a special interest in her son, John, when the boy had behavioural problems.
Over the years, Glendinning became a family friend, sometimes sitting down to supper with the family when he brought the children back from an outing.
Donna Swales was especially impressed Glendinning had travelled widely and had sat down to a meal with the pope in Rome.
She thought it was "unbelievable, miraculous" that anyone could dine with the pope.
She said she reacted with disbelief in March 1974, when two London police detectives came to her home and told her her children had been abused by Glendinning.
"I said it wasn't true, it was a lie, he'd never do anything to hurt my children."
Later, when the children came home from school, she accepted that the abuse had occurred.
"I knew if my kids said it was true, it was true."
The trial continues.
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