A Scandal Grows: Franciscan Contempt
March 16, 2016
Charges against three retired superiors of a Franciscan order reveal an alleged sexual abuse conspiracy and an all-too-familiar code of silence. Sadly, that enabled a predatory monster under the guise of religious trappings to abuse dozens of children as a Johnstown high school athletic trainer.
Giles A. Schinelli, 73, Robert J. D'Aversa, 69, and Anthony M. Criscitelli, 61, allegedly provided cover for Brother Stephen Baker to abuse students of Bishop McCort Catholic High School, where Rev. Baker was assigned from 1992 to 2010. He committed suicide in 2013 — a coward's exit amid allegations of sexually abusing children in Ohio dating back to 1986.
The Franciscan case follows this month's grand jury report that accused two former bishops of the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese of covering for more than 50 priests who abused hundreds of children over many decades. But this time the alleged enablers haven't slipped away.
Rev. Schinelli assigned Baker to the high school regardless of a prior abuse allegation, authorities said. That followed other appointments with the Franciscan Friars, Third Order Regulars, Province of the Immaculate Conception — and more opportunities to abuse children.
All three defendants have moved from the state. But they cannot run from the horrid allegations of irresponsibility. And a code of silence will not protect the protectors of serial sexual abusers who degrade their faith and disgrace their church.