Church board says charges against Boonville priest appear credible

Friday, May 28, 2010 | 3:19 p.m. CDT; updated 5:20 p.m. CDT, Friday, May 28, 2010

BOONVILLE — A central Missouri priest will remain on administrative leave after a church review board deemed allegations credible that he had inappropriate electronic communication with a minor.

The Rev. Thomas Seifner was placed on administrative leave in December after he was accused of inappropriate electronic contact that occurred in 2004 while he was at St. Joseph Parish in Pilot Grove.

The Boonville Daily News reported that a Diocesan Review Board concluded the allegation was credible and constituted sexual abuse of a minor.

Seifner has the right to appeal and his response was pending. He had been the pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Loose Creek and St. Louis Church in Bonnots Mill, which are both in Osage County east of the state Capitol.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said it is pleased Seifner will be suspended, but criticized church officials for taking too long and not better describing the allegations. The group urged people with information about Seifner's actions to talk to law officers and not church officials.

Cooper County Sheriff Jerry Wolfe said his department hasn't been asked to look into the allegations.

"We've never had anybody call us to make a complaint about this guy," Wolfe said. "At this point there is no investigation. We don't have a victim who has come forth and said, 'Hey, I need to tell you about what took place.' We would be more than willing to look into anything that did materialize."

Another former central Missouri priest from Boonville also is accused of sexual abuse.

Gerald Howard is suspected in multiple sexual assaults from more than two decades ago. He was the priest at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Boonville. He has been charged with multiple felonies for sodomy and kidnapping, and his next hearing is scheduled for June 14.

Howard changed his name from Carmen Sita after a 1982 conviction on sexually abusing a minor in Jersey City. A Virginia man who accused Howard of abuse received a $600,000 settlement last year from church dioceses in Jefferson City and Newark, N.J.

The Jefferson City Diocese said a new priest for Loose Creek and Bonnots Mill would be announced at Masses this weekend. The priest was recommended by a personnel board because of his pastoral experience and care. He will live at the rectory in Loose Creek.

Monsignor Greg Higley, the vicar general for the Jefferson City Diocese, and review board administrator Ron Vessell met Thursday with parishioners from the two parishes to discuss the review board's decisions and future plans for the parishes. Diocese spokesman Mark Saucier told The Boonville Daily News that the meeting was closed to the media to let people speak freely.


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Judy Jones May 28, 2010 | 7:53 p.m.

"Diocese spokesman Mark Saucier told The Boonville Daily News that the meeting was closed to the media to let people speak freely.".... WHY????

This does not appear to be open and transparent, that which the church officials claim to be.

Anyone who has been harmed by Seifner, Howard/Sita, or any clergy in this diocese, please contact law enforcement.

When victims and witnesses speak up, at least there's a chance for healing, justice and prevention. But when victims stay silent, kids keep getting hurt, predators keep assaulting others, and those who've been wounded stay trapped in shame, silence and self-blame.

Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, 636-433-2511,
SNAP "Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests"

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