Detroit Archdiocese Urged to Investigate Priest Who Killed Self after Abuse Allegation

By Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News
January 31, 2013

Abuse survivor Brenda Brunelle, right, of Windsor stands by after Matt Jatczak, a representative of the Detroit area chapter of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, delivers a letter to the Archdiocese of Detroit chancery office in Detroit on Jan. 30. (Robin Buckson / The Detroit News)

Detroit — Metro Detroit activists want the Archdiocese of Detroit to investigate whether a Franciscan friar who killed himself last weekend in Pennsylvania was accused of molesting youngsters while serving at an Oakland County school in the mid-1980s.

Brother Stephen P. Baker, who was a teacher at St. Mary's Prep in Orchard Lake from 1983-85, was found dead Saturday of reported self-inflicted stab wounds to the chest.

Baker's suicide in the St. Bernardine Monastery in Newry, Pa., occurred a week and a half after a legal settlement by 11 men who said Baker sexually abused when they were youngsters and he served in Ohio and Pennsylvania. After the settlement was announced Jan. 16, 60 more accusers came forward, said Matt Jatczak, a representative of the Detroit area office of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

Jatczak was joined at a news conference by a SNAP member from Canada who accompanied him to try to deliver a letter Wednesday at the Archdiocese of Detroit's downtown office on Washington Boulevard. The letter asks Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron to investigate whether Baker molested any students while employed by St. Mary's.

"We're asking the archbishop to acknowledge it and to ask anyone who might have been molested by Baker to come forward. The archbishop has not said a word," Jatczak said. "He has due diligence to let the faithful know."

In a statement Wednesday evening, archdiocese spokesman Joe Kohn said church officials are unaware of any abuse allegations against Baker while he was at St. Mary's.

"The Detroit archdiocese has no record of sexual abuse complaints involving minors brought against Br. Baker during his two years in Michigan," Kohn said. "As a professed Franciscan friar, Br. Baker took classes and worked at Orchard Lake Schools (OLS) from 1983-85. OLS reports that it does not have any record of an abuse complaint during or after those years."

Kohn said neither the archdiocese nor the school received any reports from other locations where Baker worked.

Jatczak urged anyone abused by Baker to come forward.

"First call the police so that it will be on record," said Jatczak. "(Victims) can feel safe to come forward and feel safe knowing that they're not alone, knowing that others have gone through the same place."

Brenda Brunelle, a SNAP representative from Windsor, said it's important that the identities of abusive clergy be publicized so that they are arrested and prosecuted so that they are not able to harm children again.

"How many in Michigan were victimized by Baker? Are there any victims in Michigan that he molested that the archdiocese did not report?" asked Brunelle.

"We can't change what happened to us as children, but we talk about it so that children today will be safe and protected," Brunelle said.

According to the Youngstown (Ohio) Vindicator newspaper, Baker left a note apologizing for his alleged crimes.



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