Friar accused of abuse in two states kills himself, police say
By Ron Todt, The Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA — A Franciscan friar accused of sexually abusing students at Catholic high schools in Ohio and Pennsylvania killed himself at a western Pennsylvania monastery, police said Saturday.
Brother Stephen Baker, 62, was found dead of self-inflicted wounds at the St. Bernardine Monastery in Hollidaysburg on Saturday morning, Blair Township Police Chief Roger White told The Associated Press. He declined to specify the type of wounds or say whether a note was found.
Baker was named in legal settlements last week involving 11 men who alleged that he sexually abused them at a Catholic high school in northeast Ohio three decades ago. The undisclosed financial settlements announced Jan. 16 involved his contact with students at John F. Kennedy High School in Warren, Ohio from 1986 to 1990.
The Youngstown diocese previously said it was unaware of the allegations until nearly 20 years after the alleged abuse.
“Let us continue to pray for all victims of abuse, for Brother Baker’s family and the repose of his soul,” Youngstown Bishop George Murray said in a statement Saturday.
After the settlements were announced, the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese in central Pennsylvania said it received complaints in 2011 of possible abuse by Baker at Bishop McCort High School in Johnstown, about 60 miles east of Pittsburgh.
Bishop McCort High School hired an attorney to investigate after several former students alleged they were molested by Baker in the 1990s. Attorney Susan Williams said three former students had talked to her in detail about the alleged abuse.
Baker taught and coached at John F. Kennedy High School in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s and was at Bishop McCort from 1992-2000.
Bishop Mark Bartchak of the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese said in a statement that he was saddened by the news of Baker’s death, but declined further comment citing pending legal action involving the diocese.
A message left for Father Patrick Quinn, the head of Baker’s order, the Third Order Regular Franciscans, was not immediately returned.
Judy Jones, assistant Midwest director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said the organization still hopes people who know about other abuse allegations against Baker will continue to come forward.
“We feel sad for Br. Baker’s family but even sadder for the dozens of boys who Baker assaulted,” she said in a statement.
Abuse allegations grow against friar in Youngstown diocese
Published: January 25, 2013 – 09:58 PM
YOUNGSTOWN: A Catholic high school in Pennsylvania has hired an attorney to investigate allegations that a Franciscan friar named in Ohio sexual-abuse settlements molested students in Johnstown in the 1990s.
Attorney Susan Williams said three former students at Bishop McCort High School have talked to her in detail about the alleged abuse.
Brother Stephen Baker taught and coached at the church-run John F. Kennedy High School in Warren, Ohio, in the late 1980s and early 1990s and at Bishop McCort in Johnstown from 1992-2000.
Bishop McCort said in a news release that it hired a Pittsburgh law firm to investigate after school trustees became aware of the allegations last week.
In Ohio, Bishop George Murry of the Diocese of Youngstown has offered assurances that children will be protected in the wake of recent financial settlements dating from alleged abuse by Baker.
The pledge came Thursday and followed last week’s announcement of settlements with 11 men who say they were abused at Kennedy. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
The Youngstown Vindicator said it was the third time in as many years that the diocese promised transparency, pledges increasingly met with skepticism from victim advocates.
In a news conference, Murry said the diocese first was alerted about the abuse in 2009 in a letter from the victims’ attorney.
A group that represents victims of clergy abuse alleged earlier in the week that there are other cases of abuse unrelated to Baker in the diocese. Murry said he knows of no other allegations but will investigate if any are known.
“We can only act on what we know,” he said.
All allegations immediately are reported to police, victims are offered pastoral or professional counseling and the person accused is placed on a leave of absence until it can be determined if the allegation is credible, Murry said.
A panel made up of lay people, including a retired police detective with experience in family issues, meets to review the evidence and decide if the allegations are credible, Murry said.
In the Kennedy case, mediation settlements involved the school, Baker’s Third Order Regular Franciscans and the diocese, which said it was unaware of the allegations until nearly 20 years after the alleged abuse. Franciscans said they responded compassionately when notified.
Because of statute-of-limitation issues, the cases were resolved without charges or lawsuits, an attorney for the former Kennedy students said.
Baker, who has been removed from public ministry, hasn’t responded to an interview request left at his Newry, Pa., monastery.