OTTAWA — Rev. Dale Crampton, an Ottawa priest convicted in the 1980s of sexually assaulting seven altar boys, killed himself Tuesday morning in Ottawa at his highrise apartment building overlooking the Ottawa River.
When police were called to 30 McEwan Ave. near the Ottawa River Parkway — just blocks from his childhood home — it was 5 a.m. A neighbour who found him near the building’s parking lot called police.
Crampton was in his early 70s.
In 1986, Crampton pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting seven altar boys, between 10 and 14 years old, from 1973 to 1982.
Crampton was diagnosed with alcoholism and pedophilia — with a preference for boys — and was originally given a suspended sentence with no jail time, placed on probation, and ordered to undergo psychiatric counselling.
The sentence was appealed by the Crown, and was overturned in 1987. Crampton spent eight months in jail.
The assaults happened at Crampton’s West Carleton cottage and while he was at St. Philip’s Church, St. Elizabeth’s Church and St. Maurice’s Church in Nepean, where he served for nine years. He was also a school trustee in the late 1970s.
After serving his sentence, Crampton kept a low profile — so low that last year, when one of Crampton’s victims filed a $2-million lawsuit against him and the Archdiocese of Ottawa, the lawyer representing the victim said he had difficulty finding Crampton to serve him with the notice.
Robert Talach, based in London, Ont., said the papers were eventually served in June 2009 at 30 McEwan Ave., Apt. 2504.
The lawsuit was later settled, but the terms weren’t disclosed.
Since the settlement, five other people claiming to be victims of Crampton had come forward to Talach, and some had — as recently as the last 10 days — begun extensive interviews with police.
One of the five, a man now living in Calgary named “Chris,” spoke with the Citizen Wednesday.
Chris would not go into detail about the assaults, but said they occurred when he was an altar boy at St. Margaret Mary Church in Old Ottawa South in the early 1960s — a full decade before the assaults for which Crampton had pleaded guilty.
The now 60-year-old Chris said other altar boys, some of whom are lifelong friends, were also victimized by Crampton in the 1960s at the same church. He said that, at the time, he told his older brother, who complained to the church. Chris said his brother was told something would be done. But he said nothing happened.
Chris said his career helped him cope, but he eventually decided to come forward to Talach’s firm last year.
“Over time, I realized that some of the failures in my personal relationships, in my life were a result of a lack of trust on my part — some flaws that I subsequently realized went back to the fact that I was abused, no one listened, and action wasn’t taken,” Chris said.
“The right things didn’t happen. That was a different time, we know, but still, obviously the Rev. Crampton could have been stopped in 1962.
“It could have been over, but that’s not how the Catholic Church operates.”
Chris said he believes Crampton was “just getting started with me,” that the assaults against him were less serious than those he pleaded guilty to in 1986.
Despite the abuse he said he endured, Chris said he was saddened to hear of Crampton’s suicide.
“I hate to see anyone leave the world in that way. I consider that unfortunate, but I guess he couldn’t face going through this stuff again. I don’t know. Who knows? God knows why he did it.”
Talach said an Ottawa police officer made a courtesy call Tuesday to tell him about Crampton’s suicide, and that the investigation into the five new alleged victims has therefore ended.
He then called the five people who approached him to give them the news.
Some had already been called by police, and Talach said their reactions “ranged from ambivalence to sadness, just in the loss of any human life.
“It’s unfortunate that a life was lost, and it’s unfortunate in these circumstances that the victims whose lives were altered by Mr. Crampton won’t get the vindication of a criminal conviction against him.
“For Dale Crampton, who had already been through the meat grinder once, having been prosecuted in the ’80s and then exposed last year, it might have just been, at his age, just another situation he wanted to avoid.”
Talach said the five alleged victims still have the option of pursuing a civil case. Chris, for one, said he’s continuing to pursue options with Talach.
Until 2009, Talach said Crampton was listed in a Canadian Catholic Church directory with the offices of the Ottawa archdiocese listed as his address. Talach said other priests who have gotten into trouble are listed the same way.
In the 2010 directory, Crampton was not listed.
Talach added that, as far as he knew, Crampton, who was 50 when he was sentenced in 1987, was still receiving a pension from the Catholic Church. Talach said that after Crampton’s incarceration, he worked as a chaplain in London, Ont., for a time.
The Ottawa archdiocese would confirm only that Crampton died Tuesday, and did not return several calls to verify Crampton’s role with the diocese.
Ottawa’s archbishop, Terrence Prendergast, was in Rome.
Rev. Francis Morrisey, a professor emeritus with St. Paul’s University, was ordained around the same time as Crampton.
Morrisey was in Buffalo for a Canon Law conference when he heard the news of Crampton’s death, which he calls “an absolutely rare and exceptional case.
“We’re all so sad that he felt so depressed and couldn’t seek help,” Morrisey said in a phone interview. “He had his friends, but you can’t tell when something snaps like that.
“I have a feeling he was alone,” Morrisey said.
Morrisey said that as of 1983, suicide is no longer a cardinal sin under Canon Law. Because of that, suicide victims are allowed funerals in the Catholic Church.
“We can’t judge in what shape a person was in, what their functions were at a given moment,” Morrisey said.