ST. CATHARINES - With the help of a private investigator, a London, Ont., law firm has located and served Bishop James Wingle in connection with a civil suit against him and former priest Donald Grecco.
Wingle, the former leader of Niagara’s Catholic community, resigned and disappeared from the area in early 2010, giving very little explanation as to why.
Lawyers for three men who sued Grecco, Wingle, Wingle’s predecessor Bishop John O’Mara and the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Catharines have been searching for him since he left Niagara.
He was named as a defendant in three different lawsuits, which allege Wingle was negligent in failing to act appropriately once he became aware of the allegations against Grecco.
Grecco pleaded guilty in 2010 to gross indecency after sexually abusing three teenaged altar boys in Welland and Cayuga in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
The allegations against Wingle have not been proven in court.
Two of the cases have progressed to the point where Wingle is no longer required as a party to the litigation, said Rob Talach, of Ledroit Beckett Litigation Lawyers, the London, Ont., law firm.
One of the civil suits, filed by Michael Blum of Dunnville, remains before the courts.
Talach said a second lawsuit, filed by James Hennessy, a former Welland resident now living in England, was recently settled.
He wouldn’t provide details about the settlement.
“It’s settled to everyone’s satisfaction,” he said.
Wingle was served on April 27 in Montreal in connection with the third civil lawsuit, filed by a 49-year-old Norfolk man, whose identity is protected by a publication ban.
Talach said Wingle was located by a private investigator, with help from tips from the public.
He was served outside Cathedrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde in Montreal.
Photographs of Wingle were taken when he was served and provided to The Standard.
Talach said Wingle was not with the local diocese when Grecco’s offences took place.
But he alleges the bishop learned of Grecco’s crimes sometime after 2005.
“We allege he didn’t act effectively or appropriately when he learned of it after the fact,” Talach said. “Our burning questions: When he learned of it and what he did about it? His actions are under scrutiny, that’s why he’s in the lawsuit.”
Wingle couldn’t be reached for comment.
Talach said locating Wingle was difficult and time-consuming. He was finally found outside a church function in Montreal, in full priest garb.
“The Diocese of St. Catharines was of zero assistance in locating him,” Talach said.
Monseigneur Wayne Kirkpatrick, of the local diocese, made no apologies for not helping find Wingle.
“It’s not our job,” he said. “We had no contact information.”
He said Wingle being served has no bearing on the case.
“Bishop Wingle never met Donald Grecco,” Kirkpatrick said. “There is no connection.”
He blasted the law firm for publicly seeking Wingle.
“The lawyer for these clients is using the media for an infomercial,” he said.
When asked how the local Catholic community will react to news that Wingle was located, Kirkpatrick said it would have very little impact.
“It’s been two years and we’ve moved on,” he said. “There’s no ongoing concern.”
The monseigneur, who was appointed the Auxiliary Bishop of Toronto Friday, worked closely with Wingle when he was in St. Catharines.
“I think he needed a break and he took it. He had that right, just as he has a right to privacy,” Kirkpatrick said.
Wingle left the local diocese without warning in April 2010. In a short letter to the diocese, Wingle said he no longer had the stamina for the job and was resigning for a period of personal reflection and prayer.