Brother Stephen Baker's sex abuse victims decry settlement as 'paltry'
By Peter H. Milliken
September 14, 2016
Representatives of 28 people who were sexually abused by Brother Stephen Baker while they were students at Warren JFK High School conducted a sidewalk news conference outside the Roman Catholic Diocese of Youngstown offices to announce a $900,000 settlement.
They decried, however, what they said was the inadequacy of the settlement.
A diocesan official said Tuesday the church is committed to protecting children and helping abuse victims heal.
Baker, a member of the Third Order Regular Franciscan Friars of Hollidaysburg, Pa., who killed himself Jan. 26, 2013, in a Pennsylvania monastery, was a former teacher and coach, who was at JFK from 1986-91.
The settlement was reached directly with the diocese and the Third Order Regular. It is not part of any lawsuit because the civil lawsuit statute of limitations has expired.
The Franciscan Friars did not respond to a request to comment.
Speaking at the news conference were Robert Hoatson, president of Road to Recovery Inc., a nonprofit New Jersey-based organization that assists sexual-abuse victims and their families, and Barbara Aponte, mother of the late Luke Bradesku, who was part of the settlement.
Hoatson blasted what he called “the paltry sum of money that the diocese and the Franciscans offered these men.”
He also cited what he said is “the agony that they will go through after they’ve been devalued again and re-victimized.” Aponte and 26 of the 27 living victims have signed the settlement, but one victim has not, Hoatson said.
“What that says to me is that his life was worth about $20,000 to $25,000,” Aponte said of her son and the settlement.
“In my years of dealing with this horror, I’ve gone from having faith in this church to feeling personally victimized by this church,” she said.
Bradesku wrote in his suicide note “he wished he could let somebody in his head one day to see how he tears himself down,” she recalled.
Although she protested what she called its inadequacy, Aponte said she accepted the settlement because: “I don’t personally have the endurance to drag this out. ... I don’t have the energy to deal with the nonsense anymore.”
In addition to the financial settlement, the diocese has agreed to pay “the reasonable cost” of professional counseling for the victims, said Monsignor John Zuraw, diocesan chancellor.
“Our commitment is to ensure that children are protected,” Monsignor Zuraw said. “Our commitment is to ensure that individuals that have been victimized in the past by members of the clergy and religious communities are taken care of.
“The bishop is willing to meet with her [Aponte] or any of the victims,” the monsignor said, referring to Bishop George Murry.
The diocese urges that accusations concerning sexual abuse of minors by any church employee be reported first to police and county children services authorities, Monsignor Zuraw said.
The church wants to know about any allegations of sexual abuse of minors by any church employee, even if criminal and civil statutes of limitations have expired, he said.
The diocese recently announced its appointment of retired Detective Sgt. Delphine Baldwin-Casey of the Youngstown Police Department as its safe environment program coordinator.
He said reports of sexual abuse of minors by any church employees be made to Baldwin-Casey at 330-718-1388. He said she also would forward those complaints to police.