- Victims write 9 local pastors
- They by-pass local Catholic bishop
- Group seeks help about jailed priest
- Convicted once, he may soon be freed
- Cleric spent time in 3 mid-Missouri counties
- And he worked at now-closed Columbia hospital
- Self help group begs people to call police, not church officials
Holding signs and childhood photos at a sidewalk news conference, clergy sex abuse victims will announce that they are writing
--nine Catholic pastors in three mid-Missouri counties about a now-jailed predator priest, urging the clerics to help them find others who he molested, and
--Jefferson City’s Catholic bishop asking him to divulge whether any other current or former church employees have legally changed their names after having been accused or proven guilty of crimes.
They will also urge law enforcement officials in Boone, Cooper and Callaway counties to do “everything possible” to seek out other victims, witnesses and whistleblowers.
TODAY, Monday, Nov. 26 at 1 p.m.
Outside the Columbia Police Department headquarters, 600 East Walnut, Columbia, MO (573-874-7652)
Two-three child sex abuse victims who belong to a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAPnetwork.org), including a Columbia man and a St. Louis man (who is the organization’s long time director)
Earlier this month, Boone County prosecutors disclosed that they are investigating a Catholic priest and former local counselor who molested kids but may soon walk out of jail. http://www.abc17news.com/news.php?id=8181
He is Fr. Jerry Howard of the Jefferson City diocese. For more than two years, he has been jailed in Cooper County, facing charges of molesting three boys there. Within weeks, a judge will decide whether the statute of limitations on Howard’s alleged crimes has expired. If so, he will be released.
SNAP wants anyone who has information or suspicions about the cleric to contact secular authorities, not church staff.
SNAP has repeatedly asked Jeff City Bishop John Gaydos to use his staff and bulletins and websites to help find others who may have been hurt by Howard, so they too can either help file charges against him or get him convicted on the pending charges. Gaydos, however, has ignored SNAP’s requests. So SNAP is now writing directly to the nine local pastors, urging them to make outreach announcements in their churches.
As a priest, Howard worked at St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Boonville. As a counselor, he later worked at Columbia’s now-closed Charter Hospital. After that, he reportedly worked in Callaway County.
According to sworn testimony last month by three of Howard’s victims in Cooper County, Howard molested children several places, including at his Boonville home.
In 1983, Howard was convicted of abusing a New Jersey boy. (He was sentenced to five years on probation.) Less than a year later, however, Catholic officials let him legally change his name – from Fr. Carmine Sita to Fr. Jerry Howard - and quietly sent him to Boonville, without warning parishioners or telling them of Howard’s crimes. In Boonville, Howard sexually assaulted several boys from 1983-1988, eventually being ousted from the parish. SNAP believes he has never been defrocked.
SNAP is also writing to Gaydos, asking him to disclose whether there are or were other sexually troubled clerics in the diocese who have changed their names.
There are four Catholic churches in Boone County (Holy Spirit in Centralia and Our Lady of Lourdes, Sacred Heart, and St. Thomas More Newman Center, all in Columbia), three in Callaway County (St. Jude in Mokane, St. Andrew’s in Holts Summit and St. Peter’s in Fulton), and two in Cooper County (Sts. Peter and Paul in Boonville and St. Joseph in Pilot Grove).
A photo of Howard is available at BishopAccountability.org