The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

February 2, 2014

Who all knew of Baker's antics? | His supervisors must share in blame

JOHNSTOWN — Brother Stephen Baker’s suicide one year ago last week ended any chance for prosecution of the man accused of molesting dozens of students at Bishop McCort Catholic High School.

That’s a shame. We would have liked to have seen him face his accusers and, if found guilty, pay for his crimes - both literally and figuratively.

That didn’t happen. Baker took the coward’s way out, stabbing himself in the heart, according to the Blair County coroner’s office.

The coroner, Patricia Ross, said Baker left a note apologizing for his actions. That’s not nearly enough for his victims, many of whom we’re sure are still struggling to deal with the aftermath even today.

We wonder how many others knew of his actions at Bishop McCort and said or did nothing. While investigators are still in the middle of the long, drawn-out process of determining just that, the likelihood of prosecution for some Bishop McCort administrators might have taken a hit with a recent Pennsylvania Superior Court ruling.

The court overturned the conviction of Monsignor William Lynn of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, who was convicted in June 2012 of endangering the welfare of a child after he reassigned a priest known to have sexually molested children to another parish without informing church officials there.

That ruling could impact whether or not school or church officials could face repercussions in the Baker case, according to Mitchell Garabedian, the Boston attorney representing a couple dozen former Bishop McCort students who say that Baker molested them while he was affiliated with the school.

“It appears it’s going to be difficult for the government to prosecute supervisors prior to 2007 if they didn’t have direct contact with the student,” Garabedian said recently.

The year 2007 is important because that’s when the Pennsylvania law was amended to significantly broaden the term of supervisor and the person who supervises the supervisor, Garabedian said.

Considering that Baker worked at Bishop McCort from 1992 to 2001, that could make it very difficult to prosecute. Some alleged victims and former school employees have said that Baker was on campus as late as 2008, but if he was not an actual employee, proving that he was a school supervisor would be a challenge.

“Maybe legally they can’t charge in the Baker case, but morally and ethically who knew and let him have free access to these victims?”  said Robert Hoatson, founder of Road to Recovery, a New Jersey-based victims organization.

That’s exactly what we would like to know. If there were school administrators at Bishop McCort who knew of the accusations against him – or of the allegations that he molested boys at the Youngstown, Ohio, school where he previously worked – why was he allowed to work with children here?

If administrators knew of Baker’s alleged misconduct and did nothing to stop it, aren’t they also guilty?

It appears as though they might not be in the eyes of the law.

Of course, the decision in the Lynn case will be appealed, so a reversal could change the outlook again on the Baker case.

“It’s not over yet for Lynn and those who knew about Baker,” Judy Jones of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

We hope that if it is proven that Baker was allowed to molest children here when people in positions of power stood by and did nothing that they face criminal prosecution as well.

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