There are so many articles about the current antics of the Catholic hierarchy that it is tough to choose what to comment on these days. I have what I call my “You have to be kidding me file”. This file, mostly in the memo program of my iTouch, contains some random comments on things that I hear in the media or read in one of the many blogs that I visit on a regular basis. It is usually something so out there that it defies logic. Today I am dipping into the file to comment on the behavior of two separate dioceses in different parts of the country and a Catholic order that has cared for and tried to rehabilitate pedophiles before they release them back into the world.
Recently, Dr. Mark McAllister reached a settlement with the Archdiocese of Newark (New Jersey), the Diocese of Jefferson City (Missouri) and the Servants of the Paracletes in a civil action over abuse he suffered at the hands of Father Gerry Howard in Missouri. The abuse began in 1983 when Dr. McAllister was 13 and continued through 1988. Reports I have read indicate that this priest had a history of sexual battery long before arriving at the parish in Booneville Missouri. That is where our story really begins.
Father Carmen Sita of the Archdiocese of Newark, more specifically of St. Aloysius parish in Jersey City was charged in 1982 with “an act of penetration with a male juvenile on diverse dates” and distribution of a controlled dangerous substance to a minor”. Sita pleads guilty in January 1983 to sexual assault, is given five years probation and is packed off to Foundation House, a facility run by the Paracletes in New Mexico.
Let’s stop and analyze this mess. The priest is using illegal drugs to get his victims addicted and make them easier targets for his perverse actions. When he gets caught he pleads out and serves no jail time. I would love to know what parish the judge and the district attorney attend. Then he is off to the Paracletes in New Mexico. As soon as the flight to New Mexico goes “wheels up’ from Newark International Airport, the Chancery in Newark lets out a collective sigh of relief and washes its hands of this priest. He is now someone else’s problem.
He arrives at the treatment facility in New Mexico grateful that he is not the boy toy of some hardened (pun intended) criminal at Rahway State Prison back in Jersey. The Paracletes essentially run the Pedophile Protection/Relocation Program for the Catholic Hierarchy in the United States. After he completes his “program” he legally changes his name to Gerald (Gerry) Howard.
Stop! A convicted felon on probation in New Jersey in a cushy “renewal center” in New Mexico legally changes his name? I am not a lawyer, but something is not right here. Did the probation officer supervising Carmen Sita sign off on the name change? Did the Catholic Church sign off on the name change? It may just be me, but when you change your name, you have to get all kinds of records updated so that you can go on with your life. Everything from a drivers license to bank accounts to academic records and professional certifications have to be modified to reflect the new identity of the person who initially established them under his original given name. Did his probation records reflect the name change? Did the probation officer follow along with this or does he/she lose track of Carmen at this point?
He departs New Mexico and lands, somehow, in Boonville Missouri. He gets a priestly gig at a parish in the Jefferson City Diocese. Was this a collaborative assignment cooked up between the Archdiocese of Newark, the Diocese of Jefferson City and the Paracletes? Or did Carmen, now presenting himself as Father “Gerry” Howard land the job at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church all on his own? My question here is why did the Diocese not do a background check on Father Howard? If all of his credentials were in the name of Carmen Sita, how could they have not checked into why a Catholic priest would legally change his name?
There can be only two reasons for a priest to change his name. The first would be that he is in some sort of witness relocation program after testifying against some crime organization. With a name like Carmen Sita that seems plausible. Or, he has committed some heinous crime and is hiding from his past. In the former case, the feds would probably want the priest who testified against the bad guys to find a new line of work. In the latter case, the receiving Diocese should have had all kinds of bells (church or warning, take your pick) going off on why the “good father” changed his name. The obvious answer here is that the Archdiocese, the Paracletes in their role as the pedophile relocation specialists, and the Diocese of Jefferson City made a deal to hide the priest in the Midwest.
Any protest that these parties to the conspiracy thought he was “cured” would be specious.
And what about the supervising probation officer? All of these events are taking place as Gerry Howard, aka Carmen Sita is still on probation with New Jersey. Has he fallen off the grid? Did he violate his probation?
These organizations put this priest on a collision course with Mark McAllister and others like him. Although his tenure in the parish in Missouri was short lived, he had access to children and he exploited that access for his own perverse, criminal pleasure.
Father Howard was dismissed for “reasons other than abuse”. Exactly what were the circumstances of his departure. Did they catch him stealing? Did they catch him distributing drugs? Did they catch him abusing children? Did someone find out about his past and decide he was too much of a risk? We don’t know, the Jefferson City Diocese needs to answer that question. No really, they need to answer the damn question.
What we do know is that this monster used his position to get vulnerable boys into a compromising situation. He plied them with drugs and he committed sexual acts on them. He damaged them physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. He addicted his victims to drugs, as if it wasn’t bad enough that he sexually abused them.
Father Howard is still out there. He is still technically a priest because the Archdiocese of Newark failed to take action to defrock him and decided to trade him away to another diocese. I wonder if they had to offer up a couple of seminarians to be named later to get him into the Diocese of Jefferson City. Father Howard is still out there because the Diocese of Jefferson City failed to take action. Whatever the cause for his dismissal, the diocese failed to take appropriate action against this priest. This man should be serving a very long term in a very unpleasant penitentiary. There are probably some members of the dioceses and the Paracletes that should be sharing a cell with him for the deceit and fraud perpetuated on parishioners and specifically on this monster’s victims.
He is still out there. Perhaps he is still functioning as a priest either in the United States or somewhere in the world where he has easy access children. He is most likely still offending. The Catholic Hierarchy insist that they do not know where he is. I am not sure that they can be believed. After all, they did condone his behavior by reassigning a convicted sex offender who changed his name to avoid detection.
The respective dioceses report that they have had no new reports of abuse by other victims. SNAP has publicly announced more victims have come forward but do not want to do so publicly, at least not at this time. Can you blame them? I suspect that the victims know that going to the dioceses that protected and relocated this monster would be an exercise in futility. It is better that they notify civilian authorities outside of the diocese if they seek any chance of an honest and impartial investigation into their allegations. They will not get one from the Catholic Church.
Mark McAllister showed great strength in coming forward and bringing this monster back into the light. I want to acknowledge the courage it took for him to come forward and fight the good fight. By doing so, I have no doubt that others will come forward and tell their stories. He is a hero in every sense of the word.
If you have any information on where this monster may be located, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.