For immediate release: Tuesday June 17, 2014
Statement by David Clohessy of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, 314 566 9790 cell, 314 645 5915 home, SNAPclohessy@aol.com
Years ago, a Catholic priest pled guilty to molesting a New Jersey boy, changed his name, and was sent to Missouri where he severely and repeatedly sexually assaulted at least four more boys. Now, he has finally pled guilty to a second set of crimes.
First, he was Fr. Carmine Sita. Then, he was Fr. Jerry (Gerry) Howard. Now, he's an admitted felon. And hopefully he will never be able to hurt another child.
We are grateful that Fr. Howard will remain behind bars for at least several more years. And we are glad he'll have to register as a sex offender if ever he is released.
The credit for this terrific outcome goes completely to the brave men who reported the horror they endured to law enforcement and to the determined prosecutors who pursued this case.
But at least a dozen of Fr. Howard's Catholic supervisors are criminals too, though they have not been convicted. They hid his New Jersey crimes and they enabled his Missouri crimes by quietly letting him change his name and by sending him to unsuspecting parishioners. Each one of them - in Jefferson City, Jersey City, and with the Servants of the Paraclete (which “treated” him) – are incredibly callous and immoral people who should – if real justice were possible – be locked up as well.
We strongly suspect that dozens of other Catholic clerics - mostly Howard's brother priests - knew of or suspected his crimes and stayed silent, also enabling him to keep severely hurting children.
Shame on all of them.
But there are heroes here too, especially Howard's victims, especially Mark McAllister and the others who were hurt in Missouri by this twisted cleric. Without their courage, Howard would almost certainly be molesting today.
Mark was the first of Howard's victims to pursue criminal charges. Again, he is an absolute hero. He also filed a civil lawsuit against Howard and his complicit Catholic supervisors. Because of that lawsuit, others who were suffering in shame, isolation and self- blame found the strength to step forward.
Mark's outstanding parents also stood with him through this ordeal. We commend them as well.
Howard went from a Boonville Catholic church (Sts. Peter & Paul) to a now-closed Columbia hospital (Charter Hillside) to living and working in the Fulton area. Every single person who attended this church or worked at this hospital or lived near Howard must speak up. They must not be fearful or complacent. They must call law enforcement and share anything they may know or have heard or seen about his crimes or misdeeds so that he might be prosecuted more and imprisoned longer.
Finally, it's worth noting that, as best we can tell, Fr. Howard still has not been defrocked by the Vatican. So he should NOT be called “Mr. Howard.” He is “Fr. Howard.” Even long after they are suspended, Catholic priests remain priests until formally kicked out by Catholic officials in Rome through a process called “defrocking” or “laicization.”
NOTE - After leaving Boonville, Howard worked as a counselor in Boone and in Callaway counties.
In civil suits, Howard's victims have been represented by attorney Bryan Bacon of Columbia (573-874-7777, Ken Chackes of St. Louis (314-369-3902) and Greg Gianforcaro of New Jersey.
A photo of Fr. Howard, and other information, is available at BishopAccountability.org.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 25 years and have more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)