"It's Their Word against His': Priest Accused of Sexually Abusing Boys Goes to Court
By Candy Woodall
York Daily Record
April 24, 2019
Their stories are strikingly similar, recorded three months apart by a Dauphin County detective.
They have names, but they're known now as Victim 1 and Victim 2. Both men say John G. Allen sexually abused them from 1997 to 2002 while they were altar boys at St. Margaret Mary's Alacoque Church in Harrisburg.
Allen, a 75-year-old defrocked priest who lives in York County, molested them in the rectory and the area where altar boys and priests put on their robes for mass, according to Detective John O'Connor.
As he faced the four counts of indecent assault and two counts of corruption of minors against him, Allen was unrecognizable as a priest in district court on Wednesday. He wasn't wearing a white collar or black robe, and hasn't since the Diocese of Harrisburg removed him from ministry in 2002.
During his preliminary hearing before District Judge Joseph S. Lindsey in Lower Paxton Township, Allen was wearing khaki pants, a short-sleeve blue checkered shirt and a smile as he walked from a private conference room to a seat next to his defense attorney, Brian Perry.
Allegations of abuse
By 2002, the diocese had received multiple allegations of abuse about Allen. None of them were punishable according to Pennsylvania's statute of limitations on child sex abuse. None of the criminal allegations were reported by the diocese.
Allen was one of 301 "predator priests" identified by a Pennsylvania grand jury report and 71 named by the diocese in August. State laws ensured he was immune to punishment until October and February when two victims called Childline and reported abuse that fell within the statute of limitations.
Victim 1, who is now 28 years old, said he was abused when he was 10, 11 and 12 years old by Allen. He said the former priest used to stand side-by-side with him, grab his buttocks and "leer down at him," according to O'Connor. The victim couldn't give the detective an exact number, but said it happened "more than 10 times."
The stories from Victim 1 and Victim 2 "almost exactly mirror each other," O'Connor said. But with Victim 2, Allen also laughed and said the boy's name while he grabbed his buttocks. He also placed one hand on the victim's buttocks and another on the victim's crotch at the same time, the detective testified. Victim 2 was also abused "more than 10 times" while he was 12, 13 and 14 years old.
Allen tried to pass it off with the victims as "playing around" or as, "This is what guys do," the detective said.
Perry, the defense attorney, said, "What if it was?"
"Even if it was, it's still illegal," O'Connor said.
Perry also questioned why it took 16 years for Victim 1 and Victim 2 to come forward.
"Embarrassment," O'Connor said.
They also saw Allen's name listed in the grand jury report in August and eventually thought they should come forward.
| John G. Allen is charged with four counts of indecent assault and two counts of corruption of minors. Allen, 75 of York County, a former priest in the Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg, is accused of molesting two altar boys at St. Margaret Mary’s Alacoque Church in Harrisburg. (Photo: Submitted)|
The victims had also been canoeing with Allen and at other events with him. Allen dunked them in the water during canoeing and swimming trips, but they didn't recall sexual abuse on those outings. On those trips, there were multiple people around.
"It was always when they were alone. The defendant waiting for moments alone," O'Connor said.
The defense attorney countered and asked, "Did John ever say don't tell? Was there any threatening behavior?"
"They took his position of authority as threatening...it's their word against his," O'Connor said.
Lindsey sent Allen's case from the lower court to trial court. Allen's formal arraignment is 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, June 11, in Courtroom 3 in the Dauphin County Courthouse.
Allen remains released on bail.
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More: Former Catholic priest from York County arrested, accused of molesting two altar boys
Earlier abuse alleged by grand jury
The allegations against Allen from earlier than those of Victim 1 and Victim 2 will never see a courtroom because of Pennsylvania's statute of limitations.
The Harrisburg diocese first learned about Allen's sexual behavior in January 1970, but did not intervene for two decades.
In those 20 years, Allen sexually abused multiple young boys, according to the grand jury report, and, in 1992, he was arrested in Lancaster for soliciting an undercover officer for sex.
The diocese sent him for a mental health evaluation in 1991. Two years later, Bishop Nicholas Dattilo was told Allen went to a Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous meeting, where the priest "gave the impression to members that he was a pedophile and had an obsession with young boys," according to diocese records shared in the grand jury report.
More: Here's what we know about priests assigned to York County in the Pa. grand jury report
Dattilo didn't remove him from practice. Instead, Allen took a leave of absence from St. Joseph in Lancaster in November 1992 and was reinstated eight months later at St. Theresa in New Cumberland, where he served from 1993 to 1995.
After a man came forward in April 2002 and reported he was abused by Allen for four years, from age 14 to 18, the Harrisburg diocese removed him as a priest.
Two months later, the diocese received a call to verify his employment for a new job. The caller didn't want any additional information or a reference.
And Father M. McFadden said, "I did not volunteer any additional information," according to the Pennsylvania grand jury report.
Allen was officially dismissed from the Catholic church by Pope Benedict XVI on Feb. 17, 2006.
When Allen was arrested last month, the diocese said, "We condemn John Allen’s actions and we fully support law enforcement and we cooperated with them on this case.
Allen is not now, and has not been for over a decade, a priest of the Catholic Church. Bishop Ronald Gainer, on behalf of the Church, extends our prayers, heartfelt sorrow and apologies to all survivors of clergy sexual abuse."