Jefferson City Diocese Settles Priest Abuse Case

By Christine Lesicko
August 14, 2009

COLUMBIA — Two members of an organization promoting disclosure of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and a lawyer who represented a victim of abuse spoke in Columbia Thursday to publicize the settlement of a case from Boonville.

A Virginia man, formerly of Boonville, will receive $600,000 in a settlement reached with the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J., the Diocese of Jefferson City and the Servants of the Paraclete, a congregation that works with religious men with personal difficulties. The Diocese of Jefferson City will pay $225,000 of the settlement plus mediation costs to the victim.

"The church officials agreed to mediate, and it was a long and very difficult process," said Bryan Bacon, the Columbia attorney who represented the victim. He also said the settlement was among the largest in the Jefferson City Diocese.

Carmine Sita, a priest at a New Jersey Catholic Church, was charged with sexually molesting a teenage boy and distributing marijuana, according to an Associated Press report from 1982.

Sita pleaded guilty to the charge, was sent to a treatment center in New Mexico run by the Servants of the Paraclete, legally changed his name to Gerald Howard and was placed at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Boonville in 1983 where he abused the victim in this settlement, according to a news release from the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

“This brave victim insisted the settlement not be secret,” said David Clohessy, the network's national director.

A provision of the settlement is that Howard be defrocked by the Catholic Church.

“We don’t know where Howard is now,” Clohessy said. “Apparently he is still a Catholic priest, maybe still collecting a paycheck.”

Clohessy also said it is likely that there are others who have been abused, and the network has asked people to come forward and break the silence to “help get (Howard) away from kids.”

As of 5:00 p.m. Thursday, The Diocese of Jefferson City and its attorneys had not returned messages.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.