York-area defrocked priest pleads guilty to indecently assaulting 2 altar boys

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 76-year-old defrocked Catholic priest who lives in West Manchester Township has pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting two altar boys when he served at a Harrisburg church.

John G. Allen, of the 1600 block of Kenneth Road, pleaded guilty in Dauphin County Court on Thursday morning to all of the charges against him, according to Jennifer Gettle, that county's chief deputy district attorney.

As part of his negotiated plea agreement, Allen will be sentenced to five years of probation, Gettle said. She declined further comment until after sentencing.

Defense attorney Brian Perry said state-sentencing guidelines call for probation or a minimum sentence of up to nine months in county prison.

"The district attorney took into consideration his age, his health and the specific allegations," Perry said. "We're reserving our comments for sentencing, but John has accepted full responsibility."

Allen pleaded guilty to six misdemeanors — two counts each of indecent assault against a child under 13, indecent assault of a child under 16 and corruption of minors.

He remains free on $25,000 unsecured bail pending his sentencing hearing, set for Jan. 21 before Common Pleas Judge Deborah E. Curcillo.

Dauphin County detectives arrested Allen on March 14, 2019, District Attorney Fran Chardo has said.

The crimes: Allen indecently touched the altar boys from 1997 to 2002 while he served as a priest at St. Margaret Mary's Alacoque Church on Herr Street in Harrisburg, court documents state.

In October 2018, Victim 1 reported to police that Allen would come up behind him, grab his buttocks and look down on him.

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.

"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."

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

On March 2, 2019, 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 state.

2 years of assaults: 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 touched the boy's genitals when the boy was 12, according to court documents.

County detectives began investigating after speaking with Victim 1, according to a previous news release from Chardo's office.

"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."

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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.

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.

The Diocese of Harrisburg released a statement in March 2019 after Allen's arrest. It states, in part:

"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."

The release expressed "heartfelt sorrow and apologies to all survivors of clergy sexual abuse."

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

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