Part 1: Former Boonville Parish Attendee Discusses Priest Abuse Claims

By Nate Birt
Boonville Daily News
September 3, 2009

|Part 2| Part 3| Part 4|

McAllister: I don't want to be a victim

Mark McAllister, 39, of Roanoke, Va., wants one thing to be very clear: He doesn't want to be a victim.

It's true that the former Boonville resident claims he was abused by a priest at Ss. Peter and Paul for years during the 1980s. It's true that in July, he won a $600,000 settlement in connection with those claims.

But McAllister said he's made his share of mistakes and that some of them can't be attributed to his encounters with Gerald Howard. He said he isn't proud of those things.

But after two decades, McAllister said, he's taking control of his life and is working to restore his relationships with his family. And he said it's important that he talk about his experience now so that others who may have been sexually abused in Boonville feel comfortable coming forward.

McAllister was to go public with his story Aug. 24 in New Jersey in two news conferences, said David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. It was in that state that Howard got probation for sexual contact with a minor in January 1983, according to an article published Aug. 13 by the Jersey Journal.

Clohessy's group stated in a news release earlier this month that Howard was formerly known as Carmine Sita. A judgement of conviction and dismissals form for the Superior Court of New Jersey, Hudson County, states that Sita was convicted of second-degree sexual assault in January 1983 and sentenced to five years of probation. The BDN has found no documentation stating that an underage victim was involved.

A voicemail seeking comment from Charles Carella, identified in the anti-abuse group's Aug. 13 news release as an attorney for the Archdiocese of Newark had not been returned as of late morning on Aug. 24. Mark Saucier, a spokesman for the Diocese of Jefferson City, said Monday morning that it is the diocese's policy not to comment on individual cases.

The anti-abuse group stated in its Aug. 13 news release that Howard's whereabouts are unknown.

Already, Clohessy said, four more men have come forward to say that they, too, were abused by Howard.

"At least one of them was molested in Boonville," Clohessy said.

McAllister said that what happened to him is just a snapshot into a wider history of abuse by some members of the Catholic clergy.

"It would have been easy to take the money and go into hiding like many people before me have," McAllister said in an exclusive interview with the BDN on Friday, "but I can't live with myself doing that."

In the shadow of the church

McAllister said that in the years before he met Gerald Howard, growing up in Boonville "wasn't unusual in any respect."

He describes himself as the only child of two capable parents. They were Catholic, he said, and went to church every week. McAllister said his parents taught him good values: Right from wrong, the importance of a good work ethic.

McAllister said he grew up in the shadow of Ss. Peter and Paul. The family moved once - around the block - during its time in Boonville, he said, and he attended Ss. Peter and Paul grade school.

"I can't really say anything negative about my childhood up until adolescence," McAllister said.

It was in McAllister's early adolescence, in 1983, that he said he first met Howard. McAllister said he was 13, probably in the seventh grade.

"He showed up at our music class, and I distinctly remember him administering a fairly sophisticated psychological test," McAllister said. It was the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality inventory, he said. The Myers and Briggs Foundation's Web site describes the inventory as a way of understanding the personality theories of C.G. Jung, such that "much seemingly random variation in the behavior is actually quite orderly and consistent, being due to basic differences in the ways individuals prefer to use their perception and judgment."

Howard had each of the students take the test, which ultimately yields four letters that are said to reflect aspects of one's personality, McAllister said. At the end of the test, Howard handed out index cards that described what those letters meant. Howard told the class that McAllister's words - extraversion, intuition, feeling and perceiving - matched his own, and commented that those terms ordinarily applied just one in 100 times.

""Mark and I are very unusual people,'" McAllister remembers Howard telling the class.

An enviable position

Howard, McAllister said, was a smoking, swearing, rock music-listening priest who soon became a favorite among young males at Ss. Peter and Paul parish.

"It was an enviable position to be liked by him, and he definitely favored the boys, the adolescent boys," McAllister said. Those who saw Howard passing by in his car, or walked by his living quarters at the rectory, might hear Led Zeppelin or another popular rock band blasting out of his speakers, McAllister said.

Initially, he said, Howard hung out with the boys in groups of two or three. He took them to rock concerts, and to music stores to buy tapes or CDs. But "very quickly," McAllister said, "that sort of went away and became very exclusive to me."

McAllister had to walk past the rectory every day to get home, and Howard began appearing regularly at a nearby corner, he said. Howard would call him over, and the two would converse, McAllister said.

McAllister said his peers envied him because of the attention Howard showed him.

"Even my parents today tell me that they were proud that this well-liked, well-spoken, popular priest had picked out their son to take under his wing," McAllister said. The priest became a family friend, coming over for dinner at the house and spending holidays with them. Eventually, McAllister said, it came to the point where Howard came and went as he pleased. McAllister said he and his peers had never seen a priest do that before.

"Few would even acknowledge us, as young as we were," McAllister said.

Sermons and philosophy

McAllister said he remembers Howard's sermons as being short and compelling. Howard always told what appeared to be a real-life story and wove it into the message of that day's Mass, he said.

"He had you glued to him," McAllister said.

Howard was from the East Coast, had a New York accent and wore civilian clothes when he wasn't performing church duties, McAllister said. He didn't walk around with a holier-than-thou attitude. He was on the short side, pudgy, wore glasses and had male-pattern baldness, McAllister said, noting that remembering how he looked "gives me the creeps now."

When the two were together, McAllister said, Howard talked a lot about philosophy, particularly

topics explored by Sigmund Freud and Jung. McAllister said Howard told him that the reason they could talk was because intellectually, the two could communicate on the same level. The conversations always related back to something sexual, McAllister said.

"To be honest, I don't remember keeping up with most of it," McAllister said.

Howard's basic premise, McAllister said, was that everyone is bisexual by nature but that only a few intelligent and insightful people could acknowledge that about themselves and experiment with it. Howard thought of both himself and McAllister as that type of person, McAllister said.

Howard supported this theory by making reference to a boy he had known in New Jersey,

McAllister said.

Howard was hired as an associate pastor at Ss. Peter and Paul parish in Boonville in 1983, according to an Aug. 13 news release from the Diocese of Jefferson City.

Howard told McAllister that he had given things to the New Jersey boy in exchange for favors, McAllister said. Howard explained everything that had happened to him in New Jersey, how he'd received probation, and "often kidded that that was his punishment, being stuck in Boonville, Missouri, where nobody could keep up with his futuristic thinking," McAllister said.

"I lost some part of me'

McAllister said he lost his virginity to Howard in the priest's rectory residence in Boonville.

"It wasn't uncommon to be over there hanging out in his living quarters," McAllister said. He and Howard would talk, listen to music and smoke marijuana, he said.

Howard had been in Boonville for only a few months, McAllister said, and he was visiting the priest in his rectory area.

"For some reason," McAllister said, "he offered to give me a massage." It didn't seem all that unusual, McAllister said, given that Howard had always stressed the value of physical touch.

Howard took him into his bedroom, McAllister said, and began to massage him. McAllister said he can't recall whether he had been using drugs, though he said "it's a very likely possibility."

At some point in the massage, McAllister said, Howard had him flip over onto his back, and he "ended up masturbating me."

The windows of the room were open, and the shades weren't closed, McAllister said. Outside of them, he said, he could see a church.

"I lost some part of me in that moment," McAllister said. He said he felt confused and terrified. At some point, McAllister said, Howard asked him whether he was OK. McAllister said he told Howard he was all right, even though he said he distinctly remembers thinking, ""No, I'm not OK.'"

It is a moment that illustrates the power Howard held over him, McAllister said. It was the kind of power that never once led McAllister to think that such behavior could be considered abusive, he said.


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