Friars Deserve More Than Probation for Child Endangerment

The Tribune-Democrat
May 10, 2018

Franciscan friars the Rev. Robert J. D'Aversa (left) and the Rev. Anthony M. Criscitelli on April 14, 2016. Photo by Todd Berkey/ The Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Pa.

While Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro is touting the fact that two Franciscan friars accepted guilty pleas on charges of endangering the welfare of children, we believe the punishment brought by the legal bargaining is too soft for these men who allowed children to be in the presence of a known pedophile.

The Revs. Robert D’Aversa and Anthony Criscitelli – of the Third Order Regular, Province of the Immaculate Conception – assigned Brother Stephen Baker to duties where he could be in contact with young people, even after learning that he had a history of sexual abuse.

Blair County Judge Jolene G. Kopriva sentenced Criscitelli and D’Aversa to

five years’ probation and fined them $1,000 each – the maximum for misdemeanor endangerment given the admissions they made.

We agree with Johnstown native and victims advocate Shaun Dougherty, who admitted to “mixed” feelings about the plea deals and the level of punishment handed down.

Yes, for the first time in Pennsylvania, members of a religious order were sentenced for shielding staff or clergy members who had abused children. Shapiro called the moment “historic” in an interview with The Tribune-Democrat.

But, like Dougherty and likely the many young people violated at Bishop McCort and elsewhere, we would have preferred prison time for these men.

“They got away with a lot, and it’s costing people their lives,” Dougherty said, making a reference to victims who chose suicide or other self-destructive behaviors over living with the painful memories.

Financial settlements were reached with more than 90 people in the Bishop McCort-Baker case.

Mitchell Garabedian, a prominent victims attorney who was portrayed in the film “Spotlight,” applauded the work of the attorney general’s office and praised victims who told their stories and allowed for at least some level of justice to be delivered.

“Victims of Brother Stephen Baker should be proud of coming forward and reporting their sexual abuse,” Garabedian told reporter Dave Sutor. “If they had not done so, Attorney General Shapiro would not have had a foundation to build his case.”

In this long, emotional war against institutional child sexual abuse, we do share with those celebrating this small victory.

We hope the movement gains energy from this moment, because many important battles remain.








Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.