Poland mother who says her son’s suicide resulted from being sexually abused by a priest at JFK demands transparency
March 7, 2016
The leader of a national support group for victims of sexual abuse by priests and other clergy is calling on county prosecutors in Mahoning and Trumbull counties to urge Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine to launch an aggressive investigation into sexual abuse within the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown.
At a press conference Sunday outside the headquarters of the diocese, Robert Hoatson, president of the New Jersey-based Road to Recovery support group, said, “We want the same type of investigation as was done in Altoona [Pa.].”
Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane last week released findings of her office’s investigation of the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese. It revealed that former bishops either covered up or didn’t do enough to respond to hundreds of allegations of abuse committed by more than 50 priests from 1966 to 2011.
“We want state officials to raid that building,” Hoatson said, referring to the West Wood Street headquarters of the diocese.
“In that building, I guarantee you are the same types of files found in Altoona,” Hoatson said. He added he would like the state to review records of all priests who have served in the diocese over the past 60 years or so.
“What was uncovered in Altoona was dastardly. What is going on in Youngstown is just as dastardly,” Hoatson said, adding that Sunday marked his 10th or 11th trip to the Mahoning Valley over abuse allegations in the diocese.
Many of the allegations center around Brother Stephen Baker, a Franciscan friar who served as baseball coach, sports trainer and religion teacher at John F. Kennedy High School in Warren from 1986 to 1991. Baker also was implicated in many of the abuse cases in Altoona.
He committed suicide in January 2013 after reports surfaced of settlements made in abuse cases in which he was accused of abusing about a dozen JFK students.
Also speaking at the press conference Sunday was Barbara Aponte, mother of Luke Bradesku, a former student at JFK. Aponte, a former teacher at JFK, said her son committed suicide over the long-lasting impact of shame he felt from the abuse he suffered at the hands of Baker. Bradesku attended Warren JFK from 1990 to 1994 and died in 2003 after two previous unsuccessful suicide attempts, his mother said.
“In the eyes of the church, suicide is not a problem; it’s a solution,” she said, because it means the church has one fewer victim to deal with.
She said she is disappointed with Bishop George Murry and leadership within the Youngstown Diocese for not taking a leadership role in actively working to resolve cases.
“We’ve met with mediators, but the bishop did not bother to come to the mediation. I’ve been trying to speak to the bishop for 21/2 years now,” she said.
“When this is over, I’m not going away. I’m going to keep after the church to get this problem solved. When this first came to light for me, I knew Brother Steve, and I worked with him. Not only did they move him around because he was a pedophile, they moved him to where there were more kids,” she said in a telephone interview before the conference.
“There needs to be transparency. There are records in Bishop Murry’s office. I can’t do anything more to help my son, but I can’t sit back, knowing what I know and knowing what they know, and do nothing, because it is still happening to others,” Aponte said.
Boston Atty. Mitchell Garabedian represents 27 clergy sexual-abuse victims of Brother Baker, plus Aponte, who has made a claim of clergy sexual abuse on behalf of her deceased son, who she said was sexually abused by Baker in Warren.
“I am mediating those clergy sexual-abuse claims with counsel for the Franciscans, TOR and the Diocese of Youngstown. The mediation began in person in Cleveland for three days in February, 2016 and continuing discussions are taking place by telephone. To date, the mediation has been unsuccessful,” Garabedian said.
Clergy sexual-abuse victims and their families should be proud of the courage they show by confronting the evil of clergy sexual abuse as they are doing in this unfortunate matter. In doing so, clergy sexual-abuse victims empower themselves, other victims and make the world a safer place for children, he said.
At the press conference, Hoatson said church leaders have said they don’t have the money or the time to settle all claims expeditiously.
“They can sell one building and have the money,” he said.
Aponte’s husband, Felix Aponte, accused the church of shielding pedophiles and urged the Youngstown Diocese to release records of all priests.
“Be men of God and not men of men,” he added.
Also speaking at the press conference was “John Doe,” who chose the pseudonym to protect his job and reputation. He said that he was a frequent target of molestation by Baker while attending JFK in the mid-1980s.
He related the long-term negative impact the abuse has had on his mental well-being. He also urged the church to release records and cooperate with a broader investigation.
Attempts to contact the diocese Sunday evening were not successful.