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  Troubled Youth Was Targeted by Predator Priest

Concerned Catholics Courier
August 2005

William Hill is a tall, tanned, lanky guy who loves to go hunting, sports Dale Earnhardt tags on the front of his silver Ford Ranger, and brags about his three kids.

But his cheerful demeanor and ready grin belie a childhood beset with troubles that rendered him a vulnerable target for a serial priest predator.

Born in Harrisburg in 1961, Bill was one of six children in an unhappy family headed by an alcoholic father.

When he was 10, he, an older sister and a younger brother were taken from their parents by Dauphin County Child Care Services and placed in the Sylvan Heights Catholic Home in Harrisburg.

Located on a hill overlooking the Susquehanna River, the orphanage may have had a bucolic setting, but it was replete with Dickensian horrors with a sordidly modern twist.

Shortly after he began living there, on an orphanage bus trip, the 10-year-old boy had drowsed off to sleep covered by a blanket. He awoke to find himself being sexually molested by a 19-year-old female house parent.

To his bewildered protests, the young woman warned him, "Don't say nothing to nobody, or I'll deny it."

The following year, when Bill's grandfather passed away, the same young house parent told him, "We're going upstairs to play some games."

Bill followed her upstairs to a darkened room, lit by candles, where other house parents and adults, their faces covered by veils, were seated around a table.

"Do you want to speak to your grandfather?" the young woman asked the frightened boy.

The grown-ups proceeded to chant his grandfather's name in eerie voices. Suddenly, Bill felt strangely enveloped by waves of hot and cold air.

Terrified, he bolted from his chair, ran out of the room and down the stairs.

Supervision of the children at the orphanage was woefully lax. After his sexual encounter with his young house mother, Bill said, other female residents in the home, 15- and 16-year-old girls, came after him.

"I had sex with quite a few girls in that home," he recalled. "Down in the swimming pool, in the woods . . ."

Bill remembers a nun who was his dorm leader who kept a picture of swimmer Mark Spitz, with his crotch area circled, on the wall in her room.

With supervision so negligent, it was an easy matter for neighborhood kids, who came into the orphanage to play football and other sports, to bring in cigarettes, marijuana and alcohol.

When Bill was 14, he was returned to his parents.

One night, when he was about 15, he was hanging around with some kids on Second Street in downtown Harrisburg when he was approached by a man who, although a stranger to him, knew his name.

"He waited until I was by myself," Bill recalled. Then he said, "Hi, Bill, my name is John. I work with the diocese, trying to help kids that are on the street off drugs and alcohol."

"I think he knew who I was through the orphanage," Bill speculated. "He knew I was drinking and getting high on marijuana and LSD."

"John" was dressed in regular clothing Bill didn't learn until several months later, when he happened to see John Allen in his clericals, that he was a priest.

By that time, Father Allen had introduced the teenager to homosexual sex.

The priest began with hugging, progressed to fondling and then to full homosexual acts.

He told me, "Don't tell anybody, because nobody will believe you," said Hill.

"When I found out he was a priest, I started having sex with other men," he said. "Most of them were Catholic. I met them through him."

"The usual meeting place for these assignations was on State Street, right in front of the Cathedral," he said.

On August 30, 1977, Hill was attacked in downtown Harrisburg by an unknown assailant who stabbed him several times in the back.

He was in intensive care for several days.

He never saw Father Allen after his stay in the hospital until many years later.

Bill dropped out of school in the tenth grade, and supported himself with construction work.

When he was 19, he joined the Army Reserves. He remembers the date well: March 19, 1980.

"I wanted to get away from the things I was into," he explained. "And I love my country. The Army helped me out a lot."

Bill volunteered for two 3-week tours in Honduras in 1988.

"It was a hostile situation; Honduras was being threatened by Nicaragua," he explained.

During his first tour, in April, guarded by the Honduran military, Bill helped to install 60-inch diameter culvert storm pipes in record time, for which he received the Army Achievement Medal.

On his second Honduran tour, in June, he was off-loading lumber from a dump truck in the rain. While he was climbing down from the truck, the vehicle jerked, and he lost his balance.

"I landed on my butt — that hurt!" he said.

The next morning, when he stood up to leave the mess hall, the L-4 disc in his lower back "popped completely out of my backbone. It was really painful."

He spent two weeks at Kimbrough Army Medical Center in Ft. Meade, then, for four months, was encased in a cast from his chest to his waist.

By 1996 he was receiving full disability payments.

That same year he spent six weeks in a VA hospital for drug and alcohol treatment.

He credits his wife Robin, whom he met in junior high school, for standing by him through all his problems.

"I thank God for her. She has been through hell with me," he said. "If it wasn't for her, I'd probably be in the gutter."

He had not seen Father Allen since 1977.

But in the late 1980s, out drinking with friends, he spotted the priest across a horseshoe bar.

"Father Allen!" he exclaimed.

The startled priest angled up close to him and muttered, "I'm John, not Father Allen."

"So he was still cruising the bars," Hill concluded contemptuously.

In the spring of 2002, the Boston priest sex abuse scandal broke in the news. For Bill, it resurrected painful and disturbing memories.

The nurse at the VA clinic where he was going for back treatment could see that he was extremely upset about something.

He had never told anyone about the sexual abuse he had undergone as a boy. But now, under her concerned questioning, he revealed the cause of his agitation.

She urged him to go to the police and to an attorney.

"The district attorney's office said because of the statute of limitations, there was nothing they could do; they could not charge him criminally," he said.

A suit against the diocese for civil damages was another matter.

While the suit was proceeding, the diocese paid for Bill's outpatient psychological treatment. Six months of treatment enabled him to face the fact of his abuse courageously and employ effective means of coping with the distress and anxiety engendered by memories of the abuse.

Today, with the help of pain medication for his back injury, Bill employs his time in a number of rewarding activities.

He regularly attends Sunday services at the River of God Pentecostal Church in Enola, Pa., and mows their 16-acre property every week.

He also helps out a friend on his 600-acre farm. As a member of a private hunting club, he hunts deer, turkeys and bears on Duncannon Mountain.

Any mention of Fr. John Allen today brings a quick, angry reaction.

"I don't ever want to see that son-of-a-bitch," he snaps. "Father Allen is a lying, scheming man!"

"Our church tries to teach forgiveness, but I can't forgive him for what he done."

"I came from a broken home. He was supposed to help! Why did he want to make it worse?"

 
 

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