Local Church Leaders Accused of Enabling Child Abuse
By Millard K. Ives
March 17, 2016
A Catholic priest in Mount Dora was charged in western Pennsylvania on Tuesday with conspiracy and child endangerment after he reportedly helped provide jobs to a friar who was a known sexual predator.
The jobs included a position as a high school athletic trainer, which enabled the friar to molest more than 100 children, according to an Associated Press story.
Father Robert D'Aversa, 69, of St. Patrick Catholic Community in Mount Dora, has until Friday to turn himself in. He has been placed on administrative leave.
Also facing the same charge is Giles Schinelli, 73, now a pastoral administrator at the San Pedro Center, a Catholic retreat in Winter Park, and Anthony M. Criscitelli, a pastor of St. Bridget Parish Community in Minneapolis.
According to the Associated Press article, the charges stem from when the three were provincial ministers of a religious order of the Roman Catholic Church in western Pennsylvania from 1986 to 2010.
In that role, each assigned and supervised the order's members.
Brother Stephen Baker, the friar at the center of the abuse allegations, committed suicide in 2013 after it was announced that 11 lawsuits were being settled from former students who said he abused them at schools in Ohio from 1986 to 1990.
More than 100 abuse claims were subsequently filed by former students of Bishop McCort High School in Johnstown, where Baker worked from 1992 to 2000.
Baker was removed from McCort in 2000 after what D'Aversa believed was a credible accusation of child sex abuse.
Neither D'Aversa nor Criscitelli notified school or law enforcement officials why Baker was removed, the Associated Press article adds.
On Wednesday, Bishop John Noonan, of the Diocese of Orlando, said he was informed Tuesday that D’Aversa and Schinelli had been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation of the Attorney General of Pennsylvania.
“I support the decision of the Minister Provincial to remove these two priests,” Noonan said in a statement. “We pray for all the people involved in this investigation and for those who are suffering.”
The third Catholic official facing charges, Criscitelli, is now based in Minneapolis, which is not part of the Diocese of Orlando.
Noonan added that the investigation does not involve any wrongdoing by D’Aversa and Schinelli in the Diocese of Orlando.
St. Patrick Catholic Community is a 44-year-old church that is home to about 1,700 families. It is located at 6803 Old Highway 441, just south of the city limits in Orange County.