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No new abuse allegations received, diocese says

Sunday, August 30, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — In the week since Mark McAllister and his family spoke out about his clergy abuse settlement, the Catholic Diocese of Jefferson City said it has not received any new allegations of abuse.

At a news conference Tuesday, members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said at least four more victims have come forward to report abuse by a former Boonville priest.

"We have not received any new allegations (since the recent settlement)," Ron Vessell, allegations review administrator for the diocese, said Wednesday.

The Rev. Gerald Howard, who was previously known as Carmine Sita, pleaded guilty in 1982 to one charge of sexual misconduct with a minor in New Jersey. After serving probation and changing his name, Howard served in Boonville from 1983 to 1984.

Howard "was not sent anywhere by us," diocese communications director Mark Saucier said. "He was dismissed from the parish and the diocese."

In 1984, at the time of Howard's dismissal, there were no known allegations of sexual abuse by him in the Boonville parish.

Little information exists about Howard. The diocese doesn't know whether Howard was transferred after he left Missouri. The current bishop and diocese staff weren't involved in Howard's dismissal, and the bishop during Howard's time in Boonville is now deceased.

In March 2008, the McAllisters began talking to the diocese about their allegations of abuse. They settled with the Archdiocese of Newark (N.J.), the Diocese of Jefferson City and Servants of the Paraclete, where Howard was sent for treatment after his 1982 conviction. McAllister was awarded $600,000.

Steve McAllister, father of Mark McAllister, said the Diocese of Jefferson City was "not hostile or dismissive" when he and his wife, Mary, brought forth their son's allegations.

Unlike in the 1980s when McAllister was allegedly abused, the diocese now has an official process of vetting and educating all church employees and volunteers who work with children. Policies are now in place for handling any future allegations.

If there is a credible allegation of clergy sex abuse in the diocese, the offending priest is automatically removed from all public ministry activities.

The diocese runs background checks on all parish employees and volunteers who work with youth and has since 2002. "We also have mandatory training on the nature and scope of child sexual abuse," Vessell said. The awareness and prevention curriculum enforces the church's pastoral code of conduct when working with children.

Each diocese has a lay review board that investigates all allegations of abuse. The board consists of church members from various occupational disciplines such as law, education and psychology.

In 2002, in response to the clergy sex abuse scandal, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops passed the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People." According to Vessell, the charter begins with an apology from the bishops for mishandling past sex abuse allegations and includes various changes in the way priests and other church employees are screened.

Vessell said the diocese is audited annually by Boston's Gavin Group, Inc. on its adherence to the charter's procedures.


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Comments

John Brown August 30, 2009 | 2:06 a.m.

Now that after 2000 years the catholic church has begun to acknowledge the harm it has inflicted upon society. Would it be too much to ask of the leading light of Christianity to be able to provide us with the same type of universal policy in regards the safety and protection of children as the "The Decree CRIMEN SOLLICITATIONIS" which it deployed to ensure the secrecy of the sexual and other abuses carried out by its clergy. Links to this document and an appropriate response can be found at http://www.september12009.com/

(Report Comment)
Mark Crawford August 30, 2009 | 7:55 a.m.

When will church leadership and thier spokes people tell us the whole truth? To say he was dismissed from thier parish and diocese and to not know to which diocese he returned cannot be the whole truth. the statement "in 1984, at the time of Howard's dismissal, there were no known allegations of sexual abuse by him in the Booneville parish" is very misleading. Did they not know about his previous charges and conviction in NJ? Did they know if he abused others not from the Booneville parish at that time? And now that then former bishop has passed, they want us to believe no other person who dealt with Father Howard is still living or knows what happened in this case? What about the records they keep? Can't the diocese release those records?

The spokesperson for the diocese reminds us that at 1 time the bishops apologized in Dallas, well did they know about this case then, did they know about the thousands of others which have come to light since? Who will apologize to these victims publicly today?

The diocese again reminds us about all the new policies in place to protect our children, now that they understand, unlike the 80's.

The diocese has put in place a review board, again what we are not told, these review boards have no real authority and only make recommendations to the bishop who is still free to do whatever he sees fit. They are quick to remind us, since 2002 the diocese now requires and have done fingerprint and background checks on church employees and volunteers who work with children. What they did not say, if this includes every bishop, priest, deacon, brother or nun. In other diocese it has not.

No, only half truths do we get at best, Release all the records, publicly apologize for the damage done to these children and tell us about ALL those credibly accused and all that are still ministering in the Church. Then and only then will this ugly festering wound in our church body called, "clergy sexual abuse", can begin to heal. We are still waiting for The Whole Truth.

(Report Comment)
barbara dorris August 31, 2009 | 7:00 a.m.

The church's so-called reforms are little more than window dressing. It wasn't "inadequate policies" that caused bishop after bishop after bishop to ignore or conceal child sex abuse allegations or cases. It was callousness and timidity and selfishness.

What makes our system of government one of the best? Checks and balances, so there's no dictator who has too much power and can abuse that power without consequences. But the church is a dictatorship, with each bishop essentially a king, answerable to no one. Thus, bishops make and break promises, but are virtually never disciplined. So, they continue to put their selfish needs over the safety of their flocks, even now.

Barbara Dorris, Outreach Coordinator, SNAP-Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests,
6245 Westminster, St. Louis MO 63130 (314 503 0003), SNAPdorris@gmail.com, SNAPnetwork.org

(Report Comment)
Judy Jones August 31, 2009 | 10:16 a.m.

quoted:
"We have not received any new allegations (since the recent settlement)," Ron Vessell, allegations review administrator for the diocese, said Wednesday."

So what does this comment have to do with whether there are any other victims of this two name child predator?

Also, just because the diocese claims to be doing all of these grand and good new procedures, does that mean they are reaching out to other victims of the priest?

If ANYONE has been harmed by Sita/Howard, please contact law enforcement, and for support and compassion contact "SNAP" 314-566-9790

Judy Block Jones, SNAP Ohio Valley Regional Director,
snapsteubenville@gmail.com

(Report Comment)
Buddy Cotton August 31, 2009 | 3:37 p.m.

reader Mark Crawford commented "the statement 'in 1984, at the time of Howard's dismissal, there were no known allegations of sexual abuse by him in the Booneville parish' is very misleading"

INDEED IT IS MARK!

There is only *one* relevant question that reporter Courtney Shove *must* follow up with:

Yes or NO Mr Saucier: in 1984, at the time of Howard's dismissal, were there *ANY* known allegations of sexual abuse by him *ANYWHERE*?

You think it was by accident that the diocese added the phrase "... in the Boonville parish?"

Please Courtney Shove ask this question.

History will show that the Roman Catholic Church, the most powerful insitution in Western Civilization, aided and abetted SERIAL child rapists. And did so on a MASSIVE scale, for at least decades, likely centuries.

(Report Comment)
MaryAnn Bucco August 31, 2009 | 3:43 p.m.

I too want someone from the diocese to answer this one question.

Yes or NO Mr Saucier: in 1984, at the time of Howard's dismissal, were there *ANY* known allegations of sexual abuse by him *ANYWHERE*?

(Report Comment)
Dominic Gagliano August 31, 2009 | 4:28 p.m.

I agree. Please have the diocese answer this question exactly like asked:

"Yes or NO Mr Saucier: in 1984, at the time of Howard's dismissal, were there *ANY* known allegations of sexual abuse by him *ANYWHERE*?"

(Report Comment)
Eileen Flannery August 31, 2009 | 7:19 p.m.

More equally important question to have answered: is this pedophile priest now registered nationally as a convicted sex offender? Can the diocese please confirm that they proactively took specific action w/ state and federal law enforcement agencies to make sure that this is now the case? Can the diocese please confirm that they proactively let law enforcement know that this pedophile priest they employed operates under multiple aliases?

(Report Comment)
Deanna Leonti September 2, 2009 | 5:44 a.m.

1st.) this the only church by their authority claims to be the one & only true church of a Universal Creator, who has dominion over "all" men, to guide them in salvation, and anyone who doesn't come to the foot or adhere to all of the doctrines of this church is damning their soul to hell? IOW not subject to any laws made by men, only "Divine Laws?".
2nd). this is only church by "their authority" to be "holy", meaning sacred & devoted to the service of God?
3rd). this is only church by their eccalastical authority said to be guided by a higher power.

When the US courts continue to tip toe around 1st. amendment from this bullying church it puts every child, woman & man in a mass jeopardy of crisis for their protection inwhich justice is to uphold the U.S. Laws to "Protect" for the "Safety" of its people.

What makes the human kind race differ from our kin the primates? is the human tongue & this church wants to silence that.

When voices of discontent are heard,
Justice is served!

Ace serving Love!

(Report Comment)
John Hesemann September 13, 2009 | 11:35 a.m.

I feel that Archdiocese should resolve the differences between their record of abuses and those mentioned by SNAP. The Catholic church has a great deal of work to do to repair past injustices. The current direction is encouraging but a more proactive approach on reconciling differences and grievences is in order.

(Report Comment)

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