Father of abuse victim speaks, urges transparency by Catholic Church

Tuesday, August 25, 2009 | 7:36 p.m. CDT
From left, Don Manson, Don Asbee, Mary McAllister, Steve McAllister and David Clohessy discuss wanting to put the Rev. Gerald Howard behind bars after a news conference outside the St. Thomas More Newman Center on Tuesday. Steve McAllister confirmed that his son Mark McAllister was abused by Howard in the 1980s.

COLUMBIA — Since Monday, four new allegations of sexual abuse by a former Boonville priest have come to light, and the father of one victim called on the Catholic Church to be more transparent about possible abuse in its parishes.

Steve McAllister, father of Mark McAllister, addressed a crowd of fewer than 10 outside of the St. Thomas More Newman Center on Tuesday to talk about what happened to his son and encourage others to come forward. 


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The news conference came just a day after Mark McAllister of Roanoke, Va., formerly of Boonville, released information about the sexual abuse he said he suffered under the Rev. Gerald Howard in Boonville in the 1980s. Mark McAllister recently received a $600,000 settlement from the Newark, N.J., Archdiocese, the Jefferson City Diocese and Servants of the Paraclete.

As previously reported in the Missourian, Carmine Sita, before legally changing his name to Gerald Howard, pleaded guilty to a charge of molesting a teenage boy and distributing marijuana while serving as a priest in New Jersey. After spending time at a Servants of the Paraclete treatment center, Howard was placed at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Boonville in 1983.

Steve McAllister was clearly heard above the din of city buses and students walking by and chatting on their cell phones. "His career has been jeopardized, if not destroyed," McAllister said of son Mark, who has suffered emotional problems in recent years. Mark McAllister graduated from medical school but never completed his medical residency and now has a suspended medical license. During the news conference, Mary McAllister, the victim's mother, stood by silently with a white handkerchief in hand.

According to Steve McAllister, the abuse began when his son was 12 or 13 years old and continued through high school. Mark McAllister was a star athlete at Boonville High School and shared the highest academic rank there with another student, his father said. At the time there was no indication of the abuse.

Howard was a "very charismatic, impressive individual," Steve McAllister said. "I remember feeling at the time it was so great to have Father Gerry take Mark under his wing."

Steve McAllister, who used to teach psychology at Kemper Military School and College, said that when his son was in his 30s he began having night sweats and traumatic nightmares and performed acts of self-mutilation. Mark McAllister went through extensive rehabilitation, and "the Jefferson City Diocese did underwrite the cost of treatment," Steve McAllister said.

David Clohessy, executive director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said the purpose of the conference was threefold: to hear from Steve McAllister; to announce that at least four new victims — two from mid-Missouri — have come forward since Monday; and to appeal to every adult in mid-Missouri for any information about Howard. The names of the latest victims have not been released.

We are here to "heal the wounded and protect the vulnerable," Clohessy said. "Don't assume that you are powerless."

"Just the act of coming forward" has been therapeutic for Don Asbee, who is an abuse survivor and a co-founder of SNAP's mid-Missouri chapter.

"When victims and witnesses stay silent, nothing changes," Clohessy said.


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SISTER MAUREEN PAUL TURLISH August 26, 2009 | 6:23 a.m.

"Church officials here assumed that the Servants made that information available to the Jefferson City Diocese."

Why would you say that, Jim Goodness,spokesman for the Archdiocese of Newark, when Sita was incardinated in the archdiocese? It was Newark's responsibility and they failed in that responsibility.

Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Excuses but no reasons that hold merit.

It may never be known how many individuals may have been sexually abused by Sita due to church leaders' failure to act the way they were legally obliged to.

I am so sorry, Dr. Mark McAllister, that you were subjected to sexual abuse in the church to which I belong by this narcissistic sociopath, Carmine Sita.

It is a disgrace that only now is there talk of "defrocking" him and I hope that means laicizing him.

I do not for one minute believe Goodness' words when he says that while Sita "is still registered as a priest of the Newark archdiocese," he is not paid. If he still a priest in the diocese one can be sure he is being paid.

When are some of these ENABLERS going to be arrested for conspiracy, collusion, cover-ups, reckless endangerment, facilitation, etc., etc., etc?

No wonder they have lost all credibility.

Sister Maureen Paul Turlish
Victims' Advocate
New Castle, Delaware

(Report Comment)
Kay Goodnow August 26, 2009 | 8:55 a.m.

By this time next week, even more survivors will be coming forward in both Boonville and Newark. Rightfully so.
McAllister, his family and friends have had their lives thrust into turmoil by this "priest" known as Carmine Sita/Gerald Howard. As a survivor of priest abuse in Kansas City, MO in 1952, I know full well what it means to be kept in a prison of silence because of the arrogant attitude of church officials. Passing the buck (trash) became their norm. Their credibility has waned, they are losing their members and have few vocations. Rightfully so.

McAllister, your courage in coming forward is magnificent! Along with SNAP, I encourage other victims of this crime to come forward. There is much hope in knowing that "I am not alone."

Kay Goodnow
8938 Cottonwood, Unit 1
Lenexa, KS 66215
(913) 851-1702

(Report Comment)
sharon ryan August 26, 2009 | 9:01 a.m.

Reading this story makes me grateful for the tireless work of SNAP. They have probably done more to prevent child abuse than any other organization, including and especially the Church. This story illustrates where the Church's concerns were - protecting and enabling a sexual predator - over the safety of children.

Sharon Ryan

(Report Comment)
Patricia Andra August 26, 2009 | 10:44 a.m.

Our family too has been affected by clergy sexual abuse.
It is so disheartening to me to realize that our church does not want to release the names of the predators that are
destroying the lives of our precious children and adults.
What would it take for our church leaders to reach out to the
people who feel that they have been abandoned by the church they loved?
I feel that an act of true repentance would be a
big step toward healing the wounds of the people they have been called to serve.

Patricia Andra
347 S Erie St
Wichita Ks 67211

(Report Comment)
Courtney Shove August 26, 2009 | 1:25 p.m.

Thanks for all the comments. I'll be following up with Jefferson City Diocese representatives today to see if they has any comments or new information. Please send me any suggestions you may have for a potential follow-up story.

—Courtney Shove

(Report Comment)
Courtney Shove August 26, 2009 | 1:27 p.m.

Correction: "if they have any comments ..."

(Report Comment)

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