$600G Settlement Puts Spotlight on Sex-abuse Priest

By Ron Zeitlinger
The Jersey Journal
August 14, 2009

A Catholic priest who pleaded guilty to molesting a teenage boy while at a Jersey City parish more than 25 years ago is at the center of a $600,000 settlement in the molestation of a boy a year later in Missouri.

The Rev. Carmine Sita pleaded guilty in 1982 to sexually assaulting a 17-year-old boy at some point during the seven years (1976-1982) he was at the St. Aloysius Parish here. In January 1983, he was sentenced to five years probation and ordered to undergo treatment.

By August of that year, Sita had joined the Boonville, Mo., parish, a spokesman there said, after a short stay at the Foundation House, a treatment center in Albuquerque, N.M.

In May 2008, a Roanoke, Va. man told church leaders at Ss. Peter and Paul in Boonville, that he was sexually abused by Sita in 1983, when he was a teenager and he and his family were parishioners there.

"He was clearly molesting again at his earliest opportunity," David Clohessy, the national director of the Survivors Network of Abusive Priests (SNAP), said of the allegations in Missouri. "It is extremely callous, reckless and deceitful on the part of the churches that kept (Sita's guilty plea) silent."

Sita, who legally changed his name to Gerald Howard before joining the Boonville parish, has not been charged in the case because the statute of limitations has run out, said Clohessy.

The Archdiocese of Newark and the Jefferson City, Mo., diocese each paid $225,000, and the Servants of Paracletes, which operated the facility where Sita was treated after his guilty plea, paid $150,000, lawyers for the victim said yesterday.

"The defendants were willing to negotiate a settlement without a lawsuit being filed," said Ken Chackes, one of the victim's lawyers. "You could take that as a sign that they knew there was a good chance we would prevail in court."

Spokesman Jim Goodness said the Archdiocese of Newark is "taking the legal steps" in order to remove Sita from the priesthood. Sita has not been a practicing priest since 1984, Goodness said.

Ronald Vessell, associate to the chancellor of the Diocese of Jefferson City, said in a statement that the diocese is unaware if the bishop in 1983, Michael McAuliffe, knew about Sita's guilty plea when he arrived from the Paracletes' treatment center.

"We told Paracletes everything concerning the (Sita) situation," Goodness said. "The information we had was made available to them."

Sita served as associate pastor at the church in Boonville until October 1984, when he was removed, Vessell said in the statement. He would not say the reason for Sita's removal, but did say that that there were no allegations of abuse when he was removed.

Goodness refused to comment on speculation that the Newark Archdiocese should have alerted the Missouri parish to Sita's past.

In the Jersey City case, Sita was charged with "an act of penetration with a male juvenile on diverse dates" and "distribution of a controlled dangerous substance to a minor," on Sept. 15, 1982, according to the criminal complaint.


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