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Priest Pleads Guilty To Abuse

Rev. John Harper gets three years probation for sex charges dating from 1959 to 1964 in Aylmer

Mar 27, 2003 | London Free Press

A 75-year-old priest pleaded guilty yesterday to sex charges stemming from incidents that occurred more than 40 years ago.

Rev. John Harper pleaded guilty to the charges laid after Peter Gahlinger claimed he was sexually abused by the Aylmer priest between 1959 and 1964.

Harper, at the time an assistant priest at Our Lady of Sorrows Church, was sentenced to three years probation.

"I've looked forward to this moment for a long time" said Gahlinger, 53, as he took the stand to read his victim-impact statement.

"(The abuse) is something I've carried in silence for almost 40 years."

Accompanied to court by his mother and sister, Gahlinger, who said he wants his story heard, described the confusion and humiliation he experienced as a child, when Harper filled a role left empty after Gahlinger's father died of leukemia.

"To me and my mother, Father Harper appeared to be a godsend," Gahlinger said.

"The attention was wonderful."

But the attention soon turned sexual and incidents of touching and indecent exposure lasted for five years.

Since the abuse, Gahlinger, who lives in Ottawa, has suffered from physical and psychological problems, including pre-epileptic auras, post-traumatic stress disorder and severe clinical depression.

"I'm sorry for what happened," Harper told the court.

"I didn't understand the consequences."

Harper was charged in 1987 with indecent assault on another male and given a suspended sentence.

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