A Franciscan friar who had ties to Bishop McCort Catholic High School decades ago has been accused of sexually abusing boys while he was a baseball coach and religious teacher at John F. Kennedy High School in Warren, Ohio, in the in the 1980s and early 1990s.
Brother Stephen Baker, now living in the Hollidaysburg area, was identified as the abuser by two men who spoke about the abuse at a news conference this week in Ohio. They and nine other men settled claims against the school, the Diocese of Youngstown and the Third Order Regular of the Franciscan Friars in October.
According to published reports, the two men said that the sex abuse took place mostly when they played baseball for the high school, where Baker was the coach and trainer.
Baker, now living at St. Bernardine’s Monastery, also was a religion teacher and a trainer on the baseball and football staffs at Johnstown’s Bishop McCort Catholic High School in the late 1990s and in the 2000s.
The Rev. Patrick Quinn, the minister provincial for the Third Order Regular, said in a statement that Baker has been removed from all public ministry and is living under supervision in which he has no contact with minors.
“The Province encourages anyone who has been harmed by Brother Stephen Baker or any of its members to contact the Minister Provincial,” Quinn said.
Tony DeGol, spokesman for the Altoona- Johnstown Catholic Diocese, said that Baker is not a diocesan priest and his case is not being handled by the diocese.
A statement from the diocese said that Bishop Mark Bartchak became aware of the accusations against Baker in November 2011 and that Bartchak immediately reported it to “the appropriate civil authorities.”
“The abuse of minors at any time and place is wrong and can never be excused,” Bartchak said in the press release.
Although there apparently are no reports of abuse here in Pennsylvania, SNAP – the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests – has issued a statement encouraging any other victims to come forward and report the abuse.
“We hope that anyone who saw, suspected or suffered Baker’s crimes – in Ohio or Pennsylvania – will come forward, get help, expose wrongdoing, protect kids and start healing,” Barbara Dorris, SNAP outreach director, said in a statement.
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