Oliver O'Grady: '20 to 25 victims was a ballpark figure'

I arrived in the United States on the 5th of August 1971, at Boston, that was my first port of entry. Then I received the official appointment to go to Lodi [in California]. That, I think, was the first month of September. Mainly I would be celebrating mass, taking care of pastoral administration at the parish itself, such as preparing people for baptism, preparing them to have their children baptised. As I look back on my life I realise that I had or have a very serious problem.

The problem seems to have been there for a long time. I often question myself of recent times, especially since my last therapy session, if I even should have been ordained a priest to begin with. Having said that, my intentions were good. I guess I could follow a certain category, befit a particular boy into a certain category.

Generally, a boy who was spontaneous, affectionate, playful, generally around the age of 10, 11, and who seemed to maybe need somebody to care for him. I'm not saying that he necessarily had family problems but seemed to identify with me as somebody who he could trust, who he could talk to, who was willing to take care of him.

Particularly the affectionate part is important because if they demonstrated affection, by hugging and that sort of stuff, it sort of awakened within me urges to be affectionate in return, and on many occasions after that to further. To molesting.

I would say more the affection of the hugging, would be the more predominant thing that I enjoyed. I would see him as somebody I could hug.

What initiated it? Maybe his behaviour and his openness that I would interpret as being open to me, and I would also interpret him to be inviting me to hug him. If I saw the boy, an altar boy, coming in that I had not seen for a week, I would say "hi", he would say, "hi, Father, how are you doing?", those words. I might go over and give him a hug and if he responded by allowing me to hug him and offered to hug me in return, that sort of gave me permission to continue at that point and that is what I looked for, and I was getting satisfaction out of that.

Just to say, that particular occasion might give me the okay or permission to do the same the next time.

If I got comfortable doing that and he felt he was comfortable with me hugging him and I had thoughts or feelings that I wanted to go further, I might at that time explore the possibility.

I might have to do a little planning to be sure the boy was there, to be sure the boy was alone, and that there was not any hurry on him leaving. Maybe just hugging – hugging starts off and then I might just drop my hands and start fondling the genital area and all the time sort of looking for an okay or permission. If I was not getting any resistance, that was allowing me to go further and further.

I said I had problems with molestation

It is hard to talk about this. Even as I spoke to you in the past few minutes there is an embarrassment there and there is another feeling I can't quite describe it. It has got to do with embarrassment, shame, shame I think is a good word.

Only now in this time of my life I am beginning to discover it as a very serious thing because of the consequences. I thought of hypnosis and I remember once, going to a counsellor friend of mine. He did a lot of counselling by hypnosis and I went to him for a few weeks. He eventually asked me "well, what are you trying to do". I said that I really have problems relating to molestation. I think he was very upset because we were also friends outside the counselling situation. We did not continue.

I remember Jim Kearns' book, The Sexual Addict, that was very helpful and as I read it, it was like, "wow, there is somebody that behaves like I do". The other said, "My God, am I that kind of person?" – it was very hard to admit that to myself.

My access to pornography during my priesthood was very limited and it would require either going to places or going to stores that had pornography. I think pornography that showed the naked body of men and women, pornography beyond which deals with violence as such, never attracted me. I never had actual child pornography at my areas of residence.

I would say I was attracted more to boys than girls. I did not like, how shall I put it, forward and aggressive. I liked them a little more submissive. Twenty to 25 victims was a ballpark figure, as we would say. I won't limit it to that. There might have been a few more that I wasn't successful with. I wish I had not become that person.

I tended to take boys that were rather slim built. Knowing that he was a boy, I tended to be attracted to the genital area and there was a part of me that would want to be in touch with that or discover that or to see that in this particular boy. I think that gave me a certain connection with him, a certain control, a certain insight into him that somehow pleased me or somehow satisfied me. That I could relate to this boy, but I could also relate to him in this way, by touching his genital area or examining it or seeing it.

I tried to be more playful with girls

In doing that, it would be part of maybe an expectation that I would repeat that, if I could next time, and that would be part of the affection that I would get from the boy. Perhaps I tried to be a little more playful with girls, like "Hi Sally, how are you doing? Come here I want to give you a hug, you are a sweetheart you know that, you are very special to me, I like you a lot". She might respond "I like you too", and that would allow me to give a better hug. If she had a short dress or something like that I might have been tempted to, and often did, raise her dress in a subconscious way, or should I say that in a way that she is not aware that I'm doing that, checking her out at the same time, you get a glimpse of her underwear. There might not be any touching of the genitals at that time, again it would be to gain a knowledge of this person, it gave me control over this person again. I would be more anxious to molest a boy by touching his private area than I would actually touch the girl's area.

Viewing the child's underwear, if that was possible, was more the attraction there or more the compulsion there. I think I would say three-quarters boys, one-quarter girls – that is just a rough estimate.

I don't think I ever bought [ladies' undergarments] but there were opportunities to find or get those around the parish – people would often leave off things like clothes for sales and for other reasons. Most times, I think I just threw them away after I used them once.

I had [victim] visit me for approximately two or three stays and she stayed over two nights. The second night she had a room of her own. I went to my own room to bed. In the middle of the night I woke up and visited her in her room. I remember going into her bed and I tried to caress her and fondle her and I sensed her objections to that non-verbally and I stayed for a little while more and then decided not to continue.

After [victim] left that weekend and her parents came to pick her up, approximately a month later I had contacted her mother, I believe, and asked if [victim] would like to come and visit me again. The mother seemed pleased about the situation and I think she indicated that she might have been willing to come and I was to pick her up on a Sunday afternoon. When the mother on Sunday morning said, "you know, Father O'Grady will be out to pick you up this afternoon", [victim] began to express an emotional state, which indicated to her mother that something was wrong and I believe she began to cry and express to her mother the events that happened the previous month when she was visiting with me.

The mother was very distraught

The mother I think at that point was very distraught. She did contact the rectory at Lodi. I think her first contact was to the housekeeper, and the housekeeper either took some basic information or relayed the information to the pastor at the time.

A lot of it was handled by the diocesan attorney, my appointed attorney at the time, Bishop Mahoney and the police department. I think I mentioned that it was Mr Shepard who gave me the outcome that no criminal charges would be filed, but that following the event I would be moved to another parish. Mr Shepard indicated to me that I would be needed to be transferred to another parish.

I understood from Mr Shepard that was part of the package deal. I would no longer be in that county. Part of this package deal was that I would be sent out of San Joaquin County – no specific area was probably mentioned.

I remember a little later talking to Mr Shepard and telling him I was still at Presentation and he was very upset at that. He said "you were supposed to be out of there two weeks ago".

There was some discussion about my being deported at the time I was sentenced. I don't think I paid that much attention to it, but I began to become aware that might have been a strong possibility at the end of my term in prison. I did not envisage that.

What I envisaged was perhaps being a priest who was inactive and maybe being allowed to function with some basic rights, such as to celebrate mass, possibly hear confessions and to be able to function in that way.

I talked to my canon lawyer, the first time back in 1994. I had indicated that he asked me if I would voluntarily be laicised and I said no, I would like to keep my priesthood if possible. As the years went on, he brought up the matter, this time he was a little more forceful about it, to say it was probably going to be an inevitable thing.

He indicated to me that if I was willing to voluntarily laicise myself that they might be able to come up with, again, a package deal after my time in prison. So with his help and some soul-searching and thoughts I began to realise that this is not going to go anywhere, I'm not going to remain a priest, and I had to recognise that.

I figured with the offers that they had made to give me counselling and to give me some sort of annuity around my retirement age for a limited period of years following, I figured that would be a good deal and I chose to voluntarily accept laicisation at that point.

** Under the deal reached with the Catholic Church, Oliver O'Grady will start to receive monthly payments of $800 for a period of 10 years beginning on 5 June. His total pension package is worth just under $100,000