Choirmaster’s presence troubles bishops

Published June 1, 2004

Bishop George Bruce of Ontario has expressed his concern to Bishop Peter Coffin of Ottawa that a well-known convicted pedophile is now performing choir and other duties at a downtown Ottawa church.

Bishop Coffin said he is still “mulling over” what to do with John Gallienne’s involvement at St. John the Evangelist church, where he is also a lay minister and member of other church committees. Mr. Gallienne, who sexually abused more than a dozen boys during his stint as choirmaster and organist at St. George’s Cathedral in Kingston, Ont., was sentenced in 1992 to six years in prison for various sex charges involving minors. He was released in 1994.

“I talked to the bishop of Ottawa and I expressed my concern that he (Mr. Gallienne) is involved in music ministry,” Bishop Bruce said in an interview. “My real concern is that it’s taken 15 years for the victims and the community to get over what John Gallienne has done and it revictimizes them.”

When Peter Mason, Bishop Bruce’s predecessor, became bishop of Ontario in 1992, he made a public apology to the victims, their families and the congregation, and issued guidelines barring Mr. Gallienne from music ministry and other events where there are minors in any Anglican church in the Kingston-based diocese. He said that the neighbouring diocese of Ottawa had also adopted the guidelines. Bishop Bruce said the guidelines remain in effect in the diocese of Ontario.

Bishop Coffin acknowledged that the guidelines had been breached. He said that he had not given the church permission to allow Mr. Gallienne to become part of the choir but had later acquiesced. He said that when he visited the church, he found Mr. Gallienne at the church organ. The Kingston Whig Standard newspaper reported, however, that on occasion, Mr. Gallienne had performed duties of a choirmaster.

Canon Garth Bulmer, rector of St. John the Evangelist, said Bishop Coffin had been aware of Mr. Gallienne’s church activities.

“Most of the congregation” is aware of Mr. Gallienne’s past, said Mr. Bulmer, including his membership in the church’s Circle of Support and Accountability, a ministry that helps high-risk sex offenders re-integrate into the community. He said that the church has exercised “due diligence” in ensuring the safety of church members who are minors.


  • Marites N. Sison

    Marites (Tess) Sison was editor of the Anglican Journal from August 2014 to July 2018, and senior staff writer from December 2003 to July 2014. An award-winning journalist, she has more that three decades of professional journalism experience in Canada and overseas. She has contributed to The Toronto Star and CBC Radio, and worked as a stringer for The New York Times.

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