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  Penbrook Pastor Resigns after Sexual Misconduct Allegation

Associated Press State & Local Wire
April 14, 2002

The pastor at St. Margaret Mary Alacoque Catholic Church in Penbrook has resigned following a "credible" allegation of sexual misconduct nearly 23 years ago, the Diocese of Harrisburg said.

Rev. John G. Allen, pastor of the church since 1995, resigned April 5, the same day diocese officials confronted him with the allegation, and has moved out of the parish and withdrawn from all active church ministry, the diocese said.

"It is with heavy heart, that I must inform you that on Friday, April 5, 2002, a credible allegation of sexual misconduct was made to diocesan officials concerning your pastor, Father John Allen," Bishop Nicholas Dattilo, who oversees the 15-county diocese, said in a letter to parishioners.

The accusation stemmed from an alleged incident involving a juvenile nearly 23 years ago, officials said, declining to release more information. The allegation was reported to the Dauphin County district attorney's office.

"We all responded the same - shock and sadness," said Rev. Wesley Mash, who will serve as pastor until a successor is appointed. "I think it's going to take some time to process for some people."

Announcements across the country of priests' being removed came in response to a case in the Archdiocese of Boston in which Cardinal Bernard Law was criticized for protecting a priest known to have been a longtime sexual predator of young boys.

Last month, diocese chancellor Carol Houghton said officials were confident that no serving priests had credible accusations against them because of a review in the mid-1990s and a zero-tolerance policy.

Since 1989, when Dattilo became bishop, the diocese has handled 16 reports accusing 14 priests of sexual abuse of minors, dating back to 1950, Houghton said. Eleven cases were confirmed by the diocese, and five were referred to other dioceses or religious orders where the priests were assigned. Another five allegations had turned out to be false, she said.

Attempts to reach Allen on Sunday were unsuccessful. No one answered the phone at the church Sunday and no listed phone number could be found for him.

 
 

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