Jefferson City Diocese Didn't Know about Boonville Abuse for 25 Years

By Bob Priddy
August 13, 2009

The Jefferson City Catholic Diocese says it was not aware that a former Boonville priest abused one of his young parishioners until 25 years had passed..

The diocese of Jefferson City and Newark New Jersey, and a St. Louis-based counseling service for priest pedophiles are paying a 600-thousand dollar settlement to the man who claims he was victimized.

And the diocese says the process of laicizing the Reverend Gerald Howard--defrocking him--has begun.

Spokesman Ron Vessel says the diocese had heard no complaints of abuse by Howard until March, last year, when the parents of the victim made contact. He says the victim refused to meet with representatives until his lawyer asked for mediation earlier this year. Vessel says a meeting in June confirmed the allegation of abuse. The $600,000 settlement was agreed to last month.

Vessell says Howard used another name in New Jersey, where he was convicted of abusing a young parishioner. After going through the counseling program, he applied for a job in the Jefferson City diocese and was assigned to Boonville. He was removed after a year, but not for any abuse issues.

Vessel says an Archbishop who has since died approved Howard's service in Boonville. Vessel says the diocese does not know why the Archbishop approved Howard or what he knew about Howard's past.


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