A new Catholic clergy sex-abuse scandal comes into the spotlight
From the Link: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-new-sex-abuse-scandal-in-the-spotlight/2016/04/01/4a1747fa-f76e-11e5-8b23-538270a1ca31_story.html
Mary Kane is a freelance reporter who lives in Arlington.
Like many longtime reporters, I celebrated the Oscar victory for “Spotlight” and the fearless journalism that exposed the Catholic Church’s clergy sex abuse scandal.
I would soon see the story, and the scandal, from a very different perspective.
Two days after the Oscar ceremony, news broke about another widespread church coverup. I found myself poring over a grand jury report outlining in sickening detail the abuse of hundreds of children by at least 50 priests and religious leaders in western Pennsylvania’s Altoona-Johnstown Diocese — in my hometown.
I moved away long ago, but I still have family there. I visit regularly, and my mom was a devoted parish volunteer during her lifetime. I figured I might recognize a few of the accused or some of the churches. I quickly realized things stretched far beyond that.
The names of priests and parishes from my childhood appeared, one after another, all familiar. My grade school priest. Not one but two pastors from my neighborhood parish, a half block from my childhood home. The principal, vice principal and music director from my high school. A priest I once met with to consider officiating my wedding. The priest at the church my four nieces and nephews attended. The chaplain of the nearby Catholic hospital, where my mom volunteered.
I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Two of the priests, leaders at Bishop McCort High School, where my parents sent me and my three brothers in the 1970s to receive a quality religious education, were “sexual partner[s]” who worked together to molest a 13-year-old boy, the report said. They coordinated visits to his house. Once one priest had “satisfied himself,” the report said, the other “took advantage of a victim he believed to be compliant.”
One had been my religion teacher.
First, I called my brothers, to vent. Then I tried comprehending the scale of the abuses. TheSpotlight team identified about 80 predatory priests in an archdiocese of 1.8 million Catholics. The grand jury report found at least 50 priests and religious leaders in a diocese of fewer than 100,000. That was stunning enough. But there was more.
“Spotlight” depicted the Catholic clubbiness of Boston that allowed for abuse. In small-town Pennsylvania, corruption extended into all corners of the community. The church exercised “overwhelming access and influence,” even handpicking community leaders, including the police and fire chiefs. “The mayor would have them come to me, and I would interview them and I would tell him which I would pick,” a top bishop’s aide testified.
I appreciated how “Spotlight” highlighted the crucial role that journalism plays in challenging the powerful. In my home town, however, I saw how it sometimes falls short. George Foster, manager of an outdoor billboard advertising company and a former high school classmate of mine, emerges as the hero — not an investigative reporting team.
Foster’s brother was a priest; the two heard rumors of abuses and began looking into them. In 2002, Foster wrote an op-ed for the local paper, calling on the church to clean up its house.
Immediately, he was inundated with tips and evidence from victims, attorneys and even the police. He also did something no journalist had: He went through the files at the Blair County Courthouse from the 1994 civil trial of the Rev. Francis Luddy, a priest accused of molesting boys. The lawsuit against Luddy was filed in 1987, but records were sealed at the church’s request. They became public during the trial.
Foster found in the files documents showing church officials knew of credible allegations against many additional priests but kept them secret. He confronted then-Bishop Joseph Adamec. If this were a movie, outraged authorities would have taken action. But that didn’t happen. Adamec rebuffed him.
Finally, in 2014, state investigators in a different child abuse case contacted Foster, and he provided his files. The report cited them extensively and called Foster’s actions “nothing short of heroic.”
I wondered where the journalists had been. Local media covered the Luddy trial, and the Johnstown paper, tipped off by Foster, wrote about the Luddy files in 2002. But none of it drew national attention. I called Richard Serbin, the attorney in the Luddy case, who regularly represents clergy sex-abuse victims. There wasn’t a paper with the prestige of the Boston Globe to make an impact, Serbin said. It happened in a small community in decline, and few noticed or cared. “The facts were all there, back in 1994,” Serbin said. “And no one bothered to look at them.”
“Spotlight” ends with a lengthy list of investigations of church abuses worldwide. In Pennsylvania, the grand jury report offers prayers that the current bishop makes the right choices going forward. I hope that works. I’m not exactly in the mood for prayer.
Pennsylvania Catholic diocese covered up decades worth of child abuse, grand jury report finds
By: Steve Esack Contact Reporter
Call Harrisburg Bureau
March 1, 2016 3:43pm
From the Link: Pennsylvania Catholic diocese covered up decades worth of child abuse, grand jury report finds
Two bishops who ran a Catholic diocese in western Pennsylvania systematically covered up decades worth of child abuse committed by priests and other religious leaders they supervised, according to a grand jury report released Tuesday by the state attorney general’s office.
The statewide grand jury investigation, which started in 2014 with a referral from the Cambria County District Attorney’s office, discovered the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown kept a secret archive detailing hundreds of abuse claims against 50 priests and other religious leaders since the mid-1960s, the attorney general says.
The archive stretched from the mid-1960s to 2011 and included Bishop James Hogan’s notes on the abuse claims and letters and other documents sent to Bishop Joseph Adamec. Both bishops also intervened to stop law enforcement investigations over the years, the grand jury report found.
But no criminal charges can be filed against anyone, Attorney General Kathleen Kane said at a news conference, because the statute of limitations has run out, abusers have died and victims are fearful of testifying in open court.
The grand jury report, Kane said, recommends the state Legislature lift the statute of limitations on when child abuse claims can be filed.
“The heinous crimes these children endured are absolutely unconscionable,” Kane said in a news release that mirrors her comments at a morning news conference at the Blair County Convention Center. “These predators desecrated a sacred trust and preyed upon their victims in the very places where they should have felt most safe.”
The current bishop of Altoona-Johnstown, Mark Bartchak, issued a statement saying he deeply regrets “any harm that has come to children.”
He says the diocese will continue cooperating with authorities.
He did not comment specifically on the report’s findings. He says the diocese is reviewing it.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests says one of the grand jury’s most significant findings was that a diocesan review board was not focused on helping victims.
Reflecting on the human cost of abuse and its prevention By Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
Reflecting on the human cost of abuse and its prevention
EDITORS NOTE: In July 2012 when Archbishop Chaput’s investigation cleared one accused priest, SNAP reacted with sharp criticism of Chaput’s procedure, saying decisions were “held in secrecy for months or weeks until the archbishop and his public relations staffers deem it’s most advantageous to disclose them. Chaput continues to act recklessly and selfishly … with little or no regard for children’s safety.” At the same time, SNAP also called “again” on Archbishop Chaput to proceed to defrock Lynn after his conviction; and for “eliminating Pennsylvania’s archaic, arbitrary, predator-friendly statutes of limitations”. In January 2014, the archdiocese, prominently defended by Chaput, posted bail for Lynn. In April 2015 the state supreme court upheld the initial conviction and revoked Lynn’s bail. He was returned to serve the balance of his 3-to-6 year term. PLEASE read the Editors Notes following the end of the story.
The hypocrisy of Archbishop Charles J. Chaput in the following story is incredibly revealing.
Now from Archbishop Charles J. Chaput’s own hypocritical words:
Throughout the weeks of April, our Commonwealth, along with the rest of the country, has been focused on National Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month.
Here in Pennsylvania, our people have come through a very difficult decade on this issue. But the abuse problem is much wider than any one state, profession or demographic group. It cuts through every level of society. Child abuse is an ugly crime; abusing children sexually compounds the evil. Every year we see many thousands of cases of child sexual abuse across the country in a full range of institutions, public and private, religious and secular.
In response, Pennsylvania legislators have passed 20 new laws aimed at preventing child abuse and providing better support for survivors. In doing so, they’ve offered a model for the nation. We owe them our gratitude for their good work. And it’s important to stress that as a Catholic community, we too are committed — just as everyone should be — to ensuring safe environments for children and young people.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has a zero tolerance policy for clergy, lay employees and volunteers who engage in sexual misconduct with children. If an accusation of this nature is made, we take immediate action by reporting the matter to law enforcement and cooperating with authorities fully in the course of their work.
We’re committed to educating all those who work with children, as well as the children in our schools and parish religious education programs, so they can recognize signs of abuse and make a report.
As we come to the end of April, it’s worth highlighting some key archdiocesan statistics:
* More than 280 designated Safe Environment Coordinators are now working in our parishes, schools and youth ministries to ensure compliance with state laws and archdiocesan safety policies.
* More than 92,000 adults have received training to recognize, respond and report child abuse since 2003.
* Nearly 30,000 adults have received mandatory reporter training.
* More than 100,000 children have received age-appropriate abuse prevention education.
* The archdiocese has invested more than $2.4 million in education and training aimed at preventing and reporting sexual abuse since 2006.
In addition, the archdiocesan Victim Assistance Program offers compassionate and substantial assistance to individuals and families every year. During the 2013-14 fiscal year alone, the Church in Philadelphia dedicated more than $1.6 million to various modes of assistance including counseling, medication, and vocational support for survivors and their families.
To put it simply: The Philadelphia Catholic community is, and will remain, fully committed to helping survivors of childhood sexual abuse and their families heal, no matter who committed the crime against them or when the crime occurred.
Evil actions in the past can’t be erased and shouldn’t be forgotten. Over the decades sexual abuse has wounded hundreds of innocent lives, both within and outside the Church in Pennsylvania. But the sins of the past need not determine the present or future.
The Catholic Church in the Greater Philadelphia region is dedicated to protecting our young people and families from sexual predators and the suffering they cause — now and always.
EDITORS NOTE: The Archdiocese of Philadelphia did NOT dedicate itself to protecting young people from sexual predators, nor did they do anything about the suffering of the victims. This is extremely well documented.
Cardinals John Krol and Anthony Bevilacqua covered up for their pedophile priests.
Bishop Joseph Cistone also participated in the cover ups, including silencing a nun who tried to alert parishioners at St. Gabriels parish of an abusive priest. Cistone also covered up for other priests and showed himself he was more concerned with the public relations than the sexual abuse of children.
Bishop William Lynn, who was eventually convicted in his part for covering up for “Father” James J. Brennan among others. “According to a scathing grand jury report, Lynn, as secretary of clergy for the archdiocese, concealed the crimes of accused priests and put them in positions in which they could harm more children.
Lynn figured prominently in a scathing 2005 grand jury report that found 63 priests in the archdiocese had been credibly accused of child sexual assault over several decades while local church officials turned a blind eye..
Some of the pedophile priests they covered up for were:
1. “Father” John McDevitt, a religion teacher at Father Judge High School for Boys, abused Richard Green for six months in 1990 and 1991. At the time, the victim’s uncle, Cardinal John Joseph O’Conner served as Archbishop of New York.
2. “Father” Edward Avery, 69, known for his moonlighting work as a disc jockey, pleaded guilty to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and conspiracy to endanger the welfare of a child. He was immediately sentenced to 2½ to five years in prison. The charges stem from Avery’s abuse of an altar boy at St. Jerome’s Parish in northeast Pennsylvania in 1999, when Avery was 57 and the boy 10. Avery was at St. Jerome’s despite a credible 1992 complaint that led him to undergo psychological testing at an archdiocesan-run psychiatric hospital, according to a 2005 grand jury report. He was pulled from his parish, put on a so-called “health leave” and then reassigned in 1993, the report said.”
3. “Father” James J. Brennan: Brennan is accused of the 1996 rape of a 14-year-old boy.
The Diocese of Allenstown PA had 22 pedophile priests: Thomas J. Bender, Luis A. Bonilla Margarito, Bernard A. Flanagan, Stephen Forish, Francis (Frank) J. Fromholzer, James F. Gaffney, Edward R. Graff, Richard Gulliani, Leo Houseknecht, William E. Jones, Michael S. Lawrence, James J. McHale, Francis J. McNelis, James J. Mihalak, Gabriel M. Patil, Joseph A. Rock, John Paul Sabas, William J. Shields, David Soderland, A. Gregory Uhrig, Andrew A. Ulincy, Ronald J. Yarrosh.
The Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown PA had 27 pedophile priests: Joseph J. Bender, Harold N. Biller, John J. Boyle, Martin A. Brady, James F. Bunn, Andrew Campbell, Thomas M. Carroll, Athanasius C. Cherry, Dennis E. Coleman, Alvin T. Downey, Elwood F. Figurelle, Joseph Gaborek, Bernard V. Grattan, Leonard Inman, Robert J. Kelly, George D. Koharchik, William Kovach, Thomas M. Lemmon, Anthony B. Little, Francis E. Luddy, Thomas K. Mabon, Joseph D. Maurizzo, Francis Mcaa, Martin D. McCamley, William A. Rosensteel, James F. Skupien, Joseph J. Strittmatter.
The Diocese of of Erie PA had 11 pedophile priests: Michael G. Barletta, Donald Bolton, Robert F. Bower, Chester J. Gawronski, H. Desmond McGee Jr., William F. Presley, Samuel B. Slocum, Thomas E. Smith, Daniel J. Taylor, and two un-named priests.
The Diocese of Greenburg PA had 6 pedophile priests: Dennis Dellamalva, Mark F. X. Gruber, Francis M. Lesniak, Gregory F. Premoshis, Roger A. Sinclair, Roger J. Trott.
The Diocese of Harrisburg PA had 7 pedophile priests: John G. Allen, John R. Bostwick Jr., Augustine Giella, David M. (H?) Luck, Guy D. Marsico, Joseph M. Pease, Patrick J. Shannon.
The Diocese of Philadelphia had 133 pedophile priests: Edward V. Avery, William G. Ayers, Phillip R. Barr, James J. Behan, Michael C. Bolesta, John F. Bowe, H. Cornell Bradley, Michael J. Bransfield, James J. Brennan, Robert L. Brennan, Leonard W. Broughan, Craig F. Brugger, James A. Brzyski, George B. Cadwallader, Raymond J. Cahill, Hugh P. Campbell, John A. Cannon, Paul A. Castellani, Pasquale R. Catullo, Gerard W. Chambers, Michael A. Chapman, Arthur B. Chappell, John A. Close, Richard J. Cochrane, James J. Collins, Michael F. Conroy, James J. Coonan, George A. Costigan, Nicholas V. Cudemo, John J. Delli Carpini, Edward M. DePaoli, Joseph L. DiGregorio, Richard D. Dolan, Michael J. Donofrio, John C. Dougherty, William J. Dougherty, Phillip J. Dowling, Peter J. Dunne, Ernest A. Durante, Thomas J. Durkin, James M. Dux, Charles F. Engelhardt, Francis S. Feret, Mark E. Fernandez, Leonard F. Furmanski, Robert W. Gaghan, Francis J. Gallagher, Joseph J. Gallagher, Joseph P. Gallagher, Stanley M. Gana, Stephen M. Garrity, Mark S. Gaspar, Joseph P. Gausch, Francis A. Giliberti, John E. Gillespie, Charles Ginn Jr., David W. Givey, Joseph M. Glatts, Thomas J. Grumm, David I. Hagen, Steven Harris, James T. Henry, Robert J. Hermley, Gerard J. Hoffman, Daniel J. Hoy, John F. Hummell, James M. Iannarella, Stanley Janowski, Richard G. Jones, William T. Joseph, William N. Killian, John Kline, Thomas M. Kohler, Matthew J. Kornacki, Albert T. Kostelnick, Edward P. Kuczynski, Dexter A. Lancetot, David T. Lawlor, Raymond O. Leneweaver, John R. Liggio, Joseph L. Logrip, Joseph E. Macanga, Nilo C. Martins, George J. Mazzota, Joseph F. McCafferty, Michael J. McCarthy, John F. McCole, Charles P. McColgan, Andrew D. McCormick, James J. McGinness III, Joseph M. McKenzie, Richard J. McLoughlin, Donald J. Mills, Joseph R. Monahan, John H. Mulholland, John J. Murray, Michael G. Murtha, Zachary Navit, Henry “Harry” J. Nawn, Charles Newman, John P. Paul, Stephen B. Perzan, Leonard Peterson, Terrance Pinkowski, Ted (Theodore) Podson, Robert Povish, Richard T. Powers, John D. Reardon, Francis P. Rogers, Thomas Rooney, Gerald J. Royer, Joseph F. Sabadish, William L. Santry, Martin J. Satchell, Charles J. Schaeflein, John P. Schmeer, Thomas F. Shea, David C. Sicoli, Charles J. Siegle, Edward J. Smith, Thomas J. Smith, DePaul Sobotka, Louis M. Steingraber, Michael W. Swierzy, Peter Talocci, Carmen F. Taraborelli, Joseph W. Thomas, Francis X. Trauger, Alyosius M. Vath, David E. Walls, Sylwester Wiejata, Thomas J. Wisniewiski.
The Diocese of Pittsburgh PA had 42 pedophile priests: Alvin J. Adams, Jerome Binder, Robert J. Castelucci, Mauro J. Cautela, Charles J. Chatt, Anthony J. Cipolla, M. Eric Diskin, Jason R. Dolan, Richard J. Dorsch, David F. Dzermejko, Ralph J. Esposito, John P. (Jack) Fitzgerald, Richard Ginder, James G. Ginder, James G. Graham, Bernard Joseph Hartman, William Charles Hildebrand, John (Jack) S. Hoehl, Edward G. Huff, Joseph G. Karabin, John Keegan, William Kiefer, James Kline, Henry R. Krawcyzk, John Lukasik, Julius F. May, William J. McCashin, Francis Meder, Ralph Mrvanitz, Lawrence O’Connell, George J. Parme, Francis Pucci, Edward Smith, James E. Somma Jr., Bartley A. Sorenson, Andrew J. Suran, Daniel J. Tisak, Alberta Veri (nun), John W. Wellinger, Joseph Wichmanowski, George Wilt, Robert G. Wolk, Richard “Sade” Zulu.
The Diocese of Scranton PA had 23 pedophile priests: Phillip A. Altavilla, Robert J. Brague, Francis Brennan, Robert N. Caparelli, Christopher Clay, J. Peter Crynes, Eric Ensey, Robert J. Gibson, Unkown First Name Hazzouri, Albert M. Liberatore Jr., James M McAuliffe, Neil P. McLaughlin, Russell E. Motsay, Father Ned, W. (William) Jeffery Paulish, Edward J. Shoback, Thomas P. Shoback, Thomas D. Skotek, Virgil Bradley Tetherow, Robert M. Timchak, Carlos Urrutigoity, Lawrence P. Weniger, Steven J. Wolpert.
Inaction on priest’s alleged sex abuse of orphans at issue
Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014, 10:20 p.m
It began one day in 2009 with a fight among a group of boys — orphans, all of them — from the toughest, poorest streets of Honduras.
They argued about a priest, a pudgy, bespectacled older man from America who showed up now and then with gifts — offerings of cash and candy that carried a hefty price, according to Department of Homeland Security records.
Sometimes they paid by having sex with the man, records show. Other times, they showered nude, urinated or performed sex acts while he watched or took photos, records indicate.
But on that day when the boys argued about acquiescing to the Rev. Joseph D. Maurizio Jr.’s demands, an orphanage worker overheard the conversation and reported it, court records show.
Not long after, officials from the foundation running the orphanage traveled to Western Pennsylvania to report the boys’ allegations to the priest’s superiors at the Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, the state Attorney General’s Office and the FBI, according to records.
But four years later, Maurizio was traveling to other orphanages, so a frustrated official sent an email about the allegations to a website, bishop-accountability.org, dedicated to tracking sex abuse in the Roman Catholic Church.
Nine months later, federal agents swarmed Maurizio’s church in Central City, Somerset County, and the Windber farm handed down from his parents, Italian immigrants who raised five children on a coal miner’s wages.
Agents confiscated four computers, hundreds of CDs, VHS tapes, thumb drives and a loose hard drive.
Two weeks later, Maurizio, 69, was arrested, charged with exploiting children at the orphanage — allegations he said were concocted when his private foundation, Humanitarian Interfaith Ministries Inc., withdrew funding for the orphanage.
“Father Joe has maintained his innocence from the very beginning,” said his attorney, Steven Passarello. “He intends on fighting these charges.”
Local supporters stand behind the man they say started a thrift store, supplies a food pantry and is first on the scene when a family is in crisis.
“Father would do anything for anybody,” said Jane Skone, a parishioner of his Our Lady Queen of Angels Church.
Maurizio remains jailed, suspended by the diocese.
And questions linger about why church officials did not act on the allegations, and why it took five years for authorities to bring charges.
When Maurizio moved to the Central City parish in 2003 from other assignments in the diocese, he had been visiting the Honduran orphanage for about four years, court records show.
Church bulletin items invited parishioners to accompany him to the orphanage in El Progreso, an agricultural city of 147,000 in northwestern Honduras viewed as a pass-through to the capital of Tegucigalpa.
At the orphanage, they could see boys learning skilled trades and how to read, write and manage money — useful tools in a nation stymied by an unskilled workforce and still rebuilding from a 1998 hurricane that killed nearly 6,000.
Those volunteers who could afford $500 to $1,100 for the trip could “help save some of the poor little orphaned and abandoned children who live on the streets of Honduras,” Maurizio said.
He spoke passionately about the children left parentless in the impoverished nation of 8.5 million, often a result of crime in the country that the CIA cites as having the highest homicide rate in the world.
Other bulletin entries asked parishioners to donate money to sponsor one of the orphanage’s 80 children living in dormitory-style buildings.
In 2006, Maurizio formed the nonprofit Humanitarian Interfaith Ministries, records show.
Adept at fundraising, he cobbled together money from large national organizations and small offerings from parishioners, records show.
With the help of organizations such as the Knights of Columbus of Pennsylvania, contributions grew from $23,000 in the foundation’s first year to $112,613 in 2012, when he listed net assets of more than $400,000, according to Internal Revenue Service filings.
Since his arrest, Knights of Columbus officials have said they are withdrawing their support and are “horrified” by the charges.
The foundation’s support accounted for 50 percent of the Honduran orphanage’s funding, according to Kevin Cestra, spokesman for ProNino USA, the Virginia-based nonprofit that operates the orphanage.
When ProNino officials confronted Maurizio with the boys’ allegations, funding became an issue.
“He threatened to cut off our funding if we made this public,” Cestra said.
But a former ProNino official said the group’s primary concern was the children.
“The first issue was protecting the children we support,” said Stephen Beer, a former ProNino USA board member.
What happened in the five years since the boys’ allegations were reported to the diocese, the state attorney general and the FBI remains somewhat murky — blurred by passing time, a lack of any public records of the report, changes in leadership at the state and diocese and the secrecy of the ongoing federal probe.
When reached by phone, retired Bishop Emeritus Joseph V. Adamec, who served the diocese when the allegations surfaced in 2009, said only: “If you want any information, you need to call the bishop’s office. They will have all the records.”
Diocese spokesman Tony DeGol did not return phone calls or an email.
Bishop Mark L. Bartchak, serving since 2011, told Our Lady Queen of Angels parishioners last week that he is not permitted to speak about the case.
“I don’t have words adequate to console you,” Bartchak said.
But Anne Barrette Doyle, co-director of bishop-accountability.org, described the diocese’s failure to act as “improper and irresponsible.”
D.J. Bragonier, a member of the diocese’s Allegation Review Board since 2001, said he was never told of the allegations.
Attempts to trace a report through state channels were fruitless.
Gov. Tom Corbett was attorney general in 2009. Corbett spokesman Jay Pagni said he found no one in the Corbett administration who knew about the case.
J.J. Abbott, spokesman for Attorney General Kathleen Kane, said the office has no record of a complaint.
The FBI initiated an investigation, which Homeland Security took over, when the unidentified board member contacted Doyle’s website, according to the complaint.
“We really have been working with HSI all along on this investigation, and we are continuing to work with them,” said Greg Heeb, spokesman for the FBI’s Pittsburgh office. “They have some investigative tools available to them to do certain things we couldn’t get accomplished.” He would not offer specifics.
Kenneth V. Lanning, a retired FBI agent and expert on sexual abuse crimes against children, said child sex abuse allegations against otherwise reputable individuals are difficult to piece together.
“You don’t want to move in until you have a strong case,” Lanning said.
The case might have been handed off to Homeland Security because the agency has authority to search individuals at border crossings, he said.
Maurizio took a two-year break from foreign travel after the allegations were made, according to records. He began traveling again in 2011, making 10 trips to Central American countries.
On one trip, Homeland Security arranged for Maurizio to be stopped so agents at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport could review images on a camera and other electronic devices, but nothing turned up, records show.
Maurizio remains in Cambria County Prison. A federal magistrate deemed he is a flight risk.
Sex abuse claims building against friar
A Franciscan friar from Cambria County has been accused of molesting dozens of teens in at least three states, including more than 25 at Bishop McCort High School in Johnstown in the 1990s.
Brother Stephen Baker, 62, has been restricted to Franciscan facilities since he was banned from ministry after an initial complaint from Minnesota in 2000, said the Rev. Patrick Quinn, minister provincial of the Franciscan Friars (Third Order Regular) of the Immaculate Conception Province in Hollidaysburg. Last week, after an attorney for 11 victims in Warren, Ohio, announced an earlier settlement of civil suits, more than 25 former McCort students contacted at least four attorneys.
Johnstown attorney Michael Parrish represents 20 of them. “I can tell you from the clients that I have spoken to that 20 is just the tip of the iceberg,” he said Friday.
The board of Bishop McCort has hired Kathleen Gallagher, a former Allegheny County prosecutor experienced with sexual assault cases, to do an internal investigation. Bishop McCort was a diocesan school until 2008, when it became independent.
The Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown said it first heard an allegation against Brother Stephen in 2011 and took it to the police.
Cambria County District Attorney Kelly Callihan confirmed that in 2011 the diocese took the allegation to the Johnstown police, who investigated. The police never sent a case to her office, but she learned of it because she inquired after recent news stories, she said. She said she couldn’t speak for the police, but that the statute of limitations for child abuse in the 1990s is complicated, changing with the year of abuse, age of the victim and degree of abuse.
“I’ve been trying to encourage anyone who feels they were victimized to come forward. If it happened at the school in Johnstown, then the Johnstown police have jurisdiction,” she said.
Johnstown police Chief Craig Faust was unavailable, according to his office.
Father Quinn, who became the Franciscan superior in 2010, said he didn’t know whether his order had told school officials of the Minnesota allegation in 2000.
“It was a single event that occurred in Minnesota. It was not in a school. He was a friend of the [victim’s] family. When we received that allegation in 2000, he was removed from Bishop McCort.”
From 2000 to 2010 he lived under supervision at St. Joseph’s Friary in Hollidaysburg and then at St. Bernardine Monastery in Newry, Blair County, Father Quinn said.
There are conflicting timelines for his years as a teacher, coach and athletic trainer at Bishop McCort. Many victims say he molested them in the guise of therapeutic massage to prevent or heal sports injuries.
The Ohio settlements were said to be in the high five figures each, with costs shared by the Diocese of Youngstown, John F. Kennedy High School in Warren and the Franciscans.
Greensburg attorney Susan Williams has filed notice on behalf of three victims. Mr. Parish is waiting.
“It’s very early in our investigation. I’m not yet in a position to point fingers specifically at people or entities. There are definitely issues with respect to who knew what and when,” he said.
Baker worked at other schools
January 17, 2013
HOLLIDAYSBURG, Pa. – For years as his alleged crimes against those students went unreported, Brother Stephen P. Baker, a Franciscan friar based in Hollidaysburg, had a presence at Altoona and Johnstown Catholic schools.
Baker’s presence among area youths includes his role on the Bishop McCort High School baseball team in Johnstown, Pa., in the late 1990s and mid-2000s. He also served in 1998 on the Confirmation Committee for the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, which developed confirmation preparation guidelines in April 1998.
Baker is a friar of the Third Order Regular based at St. Bernardine’s monastery in Hollidaysburg.
When reached about 9:45 a.m. Wednesday in his room at St. Bernardine’s, he told Tribune news partner WYTV 33 that he was shocked when told of the accusations.
“I’m flabbergasted,” Baker said. “I’ll have to ask my superiors if I can say anything.”
The Rev. Patrick Quinn, major superior of the T.O.R. Franciscan, said Baker has been removed from all public ministry. Quinn said Baker has been living under strict supervision in which he has no contact with minors.
Quinn said his position is similar to a bishop overseeing priests.
“Brother Stephen has and continues to be removed from all public ministry and is living under supervision in which he has no contact with minors,” Quinn wrote in a statement.
“The Province encourages anyone who has been harmed by Br. Stephen Baker or any of its members to contact the Minister Provincial (Quinn),” he wrote.