Ex-City Priest Accused of Sexual Misconduct

By P.J. Reilly
Intelligencer Journal
April 16, 2002

The Rev. John G. Allen, who served St. Joseph's Catholic Church in 1986-92, abruptly resigned as pastor of a suburban Harrisburg church on April 5 after being confronted with a "credible allegation" stemming from an incident 23 years ago.

A former Lancaster city priest who resigned suddenly from a suburban Harrisburg parish following an allegation of sexual misconduct does not face any possible criminal charges.

Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico said Monday that a sexual misconduct allegation made about the Rev. John G. Allen stemmed from an incident 23 years ago, and too many years have passed for authorities to press charges.

"It exceeds the statute of limitations, so there's nothing we can do with this," Marsico said.

Allen, 58, who resigned as pastor of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque Catholic Church in Penbrook, served Lancaster's St. Joseph's Catholic Church in 1986-92.

Allen's successor at St. Joseph's, Monsignor Thomas Smith, and others who knew Allen when he worked in Lancaster, said they were shocked to learn of the allegation.

"He's the kind of priest you want to follow," Smith said. "When I came to St. Joe's, all I had to do was build on what he had done."

Holly Coccio, a teacher at St. Joseph's elementary school when Allen served the parish, said she has "good memories" of Allen.

"He was very kind," Coccio said.

Allen resigned April 5, immediately after he was confronted by diocesan officials with a "credible allegation" of sexual misconduct, according to Carol Houghton, spokesperson for the diocese.

The accusation stemmed from an alleged incident involving someone under the age of 18 about 23 years ago, officials said, declining to release more information.

"We take all allegations brought to us seriously," Houghton said. "We received this one April 5, and when we confronted Father Allen with it, he resigned."

Bishop Nicholas Dattilo notified parishioners at St. Margaret Mary Alacoque Catholic Church by letter of Allen's resignation.

"It is with a heavy heart, therefore, that I must inform you that on Friday, April 5, 2002, a credible allegation of sexual misconduct was made to diocesan officials concerning your pastor, Father John Allen," Dattilo's letter stated.

"Accordingly, on the same day the report was received, following our diocesan policy on clergy sexual misconduct, Father Allen was confronted with the allegation against him. That night, Father Allen resigned as pastor of this parish and withdrew from all active priestly ministry.

"I accepted his resignation."

The information received by the diocese was turned over to the Dauphin County District Attorney's Office, according to Houghton.

Under state law, Marsico said, charges involving sexual misconduct with a minor must be lodged within five years after the victim turns 18.

Houghton said Marsico's determination that criminal charges cannot be filed against Allen does not change the diocese's position concerning Allen.

"He will not function as a priest," she said.

The diocese has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to sexual misconduct with minors, she said.

Houghton said as long as the allegation is determined to be credible by the diocese, priests are not permitted to serve the diocese.

Originally from York, Allen attended York Catholic High School and earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy from St. Francis College, Loretto.

The priest received his theological training at Mount St. Mary's Seminary, Emmitsburg, Md.

He was ordained a priest in 1970 and served parishes in Lebanon, Gettysburg, Selinsgrove, New Cumberland and Steelton, as well as Lancaster and Harrisburg.

Monsignor Smith said Allen left St. Joseph's in 1992 after suffering a nervous breakdown, possibly as a result of the tumultuous closing of St. Joseph's school, which merged with schools at St. Anthony's and St. Mary's Catholic churches to form Resurrection School.

Allen spent some time at a Catholic priest retirement home in Downingtown before he was assigned to the church in Penbrook.

Houghton said the diocese knew of no allegations of sexual misconduct with a minor lodged against Allen other than the one made April 5.

She could not verify whether there were any other types of allegations that had been made about Allen in the past.


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