Johnstown Attorney Investigating Abuse Claims
By Michelle Ganassi
January 18, 2013
|Bishop McCort (January 18, 2013)|
A local attorney is looking into whether a Franciscan brother who is accused of sexually abusing 11 boys in Ohio committed similar acts here.
Sexual abuse allegations were made against Brother Stephen Baker, who taught at John F. Kennedy Catholic School in Warren, Ohio, from 1986 to 1990.
The settlements involved the school, Third Order Regular Franciscans and Youngstown Catholic Diocese. Members of those organizations said they were unaware of the allegations until nearly 20 years after the alleged abuse, according to an article by The Associated Press. He was not criminally charged.
Baker taught at Bishop McCort High School in the late 1990s. Johnstown attorney Michael Parrish said potential victims from the Johnstown-area Catholic school contacted his office after the story in Ohio broke.
"At this point in time I was approached by a number of young men who were student-athletes in the late 1990s and early 2000s," he said.
Parrish said he is in the investigative stages of the case.
"We are trying to determine if valid claims exist and trying to determine if valid claims do exist, who are the responsible parties," he said.
The young men told Parrish that Baker said he was giving them legitimate therapeutic treatment for injuries they suffered as athletes.
"The belief from our initial investigation is it was used as a ruse basically for an assault or molestation for some of these kids," he said.
Parrish said he does not believe any of the students were from Somerset County. He encouraged others to speak up.
"Don't be afraid to ask questions and don't be afraid to get information," he said.
A woman at Bishop McCort High School refereed all calls regarding Baker to Johnstown attorney D.C. Nokes. A message left for Nokes was not returned Friday afternoon.
The Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown released a statement regarding Baker. The statement said that the diocese was notified about Baker's inappropriate contact with a minor in 2011 and immediately reported it to appropriate civil authorities. Bishop Mark Bartchak was assured by Baker's religious superior that he was removed from all ministerial activities and has no contact with minors.
"The abuse of minors at any time and place is wrong and can never be excused," Bartchak said.
Baker is living in a monastery near Hollidaysburg. The very Rev. Patrick Quinn of the St. Bernadine Monastery in Newry confirmed that Baker was removed from all public ministry and is living under supervision. He has no contact with minors. St. Bernadine officials were involved with the Diocese of Youngstown during the settlement process.
"The Province encourages anyone who has been harmed by Brother Stephen Baker or any of its members to contact the Minister Provincial," he said. "Our policy is to reach out with compassion and care to any who come forward. The Province deeply regrets the suffering endured by these 11 individuals and prays for the continued healing of all victims of sexual abuse."
According to the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown press release, the bishop continues to pray for all those who have been harmed, and he remains committed to providing appropriate assistance to victims.