York-area defrocked priest accused of molesting altar boys in Harrisburg church

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch
Sex-abuse survivors and members of ECA (Ending Clergy Abuse), hold signs Sunday in front of St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. The pope vowed to end cover-ups by Catholic Church officials and to make victims a priority, but some survivors were disappointed that no firm action plan was presented during the first-ever global summit.

A 75-year-old defrocked Catholic priest who lives in West Manchester Township is accused of sexually assaulting two young altar boys when he served at a Harrisburg church, according to charging documents.

Dauphin County detectives arrested John G. Allen the morning of Thursday, March 14, according to a news release from Dauphin County District Attorney Fran Chardo.

Allen, of the 1600 block of Kenneth Road, was arraigned Thursday afternoon on his misdemeanor charges — four counts of indecent assault and two counts of corruption of minors, according to court records. He is free on $25,000 unsecured bail, meaning he didn't have to post any cash to remain free but could forfeit that amount if he misses court proceedings.

Allen allegedly molested the altar boys from 1997 to 2002 while he served as a priest at St. Margaret Mary's Alacoque Church on Herr Street, charging documents state.

In October, alleged Victim 1 reported to police that Allen would come up behind him, grab his buttocks and look down on him, documents allege.

"These occurred inside the church. ... The defendant did this to him over 10 times," documents state. "The defendant assaulted him from (the time) he was 10 years old to 13 years old."

Removed from church: The assaults stopped in 2002 when Allen was removed from the parish by the Harrisburg Catholic Diocese, according to charging documents, which state he was later defrocked by the Catholic Church.

Defrocked Catholic priest John G. Allen, of West Manchester Twp., is accused of molesting two altar boys at a Harrisburg church in the late 1990s and early 2000s, according to the Dauphin County DA's Office.

On March 2, alleged Victim 2 told Dauphin County detectives that Allen "repeatedly grabbed his buttocks on different occasions" inside the church when the boy was serving as an altar boy, documents allege.

He also told detectives that he was 12 years old when Allen first indecently assaulted him and that the assaults continued until he was 14 years old, which was in 1999, documents state.

Allen also allegedly touched the boy's genitals when the boy was 12, according to detectives.

County detectives began investigating after speaking with alleged Victim 1, according to the DA's news release.

"Allen's name appeared on the Harrisburg Diocese list of priests accused of past molestations and was named as an abuser in the (Pennsylvania) Attorney General's grand jury report," the news release states. "In February 2002, Allen was removed as pastor of St. Margaret Mary's Church after a man reported to the Diocese that Allen had abused him as a boy."

More:Naming names: A reckoning is underway in U.S. Catholic Church

More:Diocese: More than 20 accused clergymen served in York County

Defrocked in 2006: At the request of the Harrisburg Diocese, the Catholic Church removed Allen from the priesthood in February 2006, according to the news release.

Sean McCormack, chief deputy district attorney in Dauphin County, noted in the news release that there is "a lot of confusion" about the statute of limitations for sexual abuse crimes.

He urged victims of abuse to contact police, even if they think too much time has passed.

In some cases, abuse cases that are more than two decades old can still be prosecuted, according to McCormack.

According to the Diocese of Harrisburg's online list of accused priests, Allen served at churches in the Gettysburg, Harrisburg, Lancaster, New Cumberland, Steelton, Lebanon and Selinsgrove areas between 1970 and 2002.

Diocese reacts: The Diocese of Harrisburg released a written statement Thursday morning about Allen's arrest. It states:

"The Diocese of Harrisburg removed John Allen from ministry 17 years ago immediately upon receiving a credible allegation of child sexual abuse against him. That allegation was also turned over to law enforcement and publicly announced by the Diocese at that time.

"Every allegation of child sexual abuse concerning Allen has been reported by the Diocese to multiple law enforcement authorities. Allen’s name was released by the Diocese of Harrisburg in our list of clergy, deacons and seminarians with allegations of child sexual abuse on August 1, 2018, and he was included in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report.

"As the District Attorney’s office acknowledged, today’s charges were the result of reports made to their office by the Diocese.

'Heartfelt sorrow': "We condemn John Allen’s actions and we fully support law enforcement and we cooperated with them on this case.

"Allen is not now, and has not been for over a decade, a priest of the Catholic Church. Bishop Ronald Gainer, on behalf of the Church, extends our prayers, heartfelt sorrow and apologies to all survivors of clergy sexual abuse."

Allen could not be reached for comment; his home phone number repeatedly rang busy Thursday afternoon. It is unclear if he has retained an attorney.

His preliminary hearing is currently scheduled for March 28, according to court records.

Anyone with information related to the investigation into Allen is asked to contact lead Dauphin County Detective John O'Connor at JO'Connor@dauphinc.org.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.