The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

January 21, 2013

KELLY URBAN | Red flags went unseen

JOHNSTOWN — The thing about hindsight is it allows you the ability to better understand a certain situation or event after it has happened.

Never was that more clear to me than last week, when news broke of the investigation into sexual abuse allegations against Brother Stephen Baker.

The allegations first came out in reports from Warren, Ohio, that showed settlements had been negotiated with

11 men who attended John F. Kennedy High School in the late 1980s. They claimed they were sexually molested by Baker when he was employed by the school as a baseball coach, religion teacher and athletic trainer.

And then additional allegations surfaced that hit closer to home.

As many as a dozen men, former students at Bishop McCort Catholic High School, are saying they were sexually molested by the Franciscan friar, who worked at the school as a religious instructor and sports trainer in the 1990s and into the early 2000s.

I graduated from Bishop McCort in 1995, and had Baker for religion class and as a homeroom teacher my senior year.

As appalled as I am to hear of these allegations, I can’t say that I’m surprised.

Looking back, I remember there was chatter that something seemed “off” about Baker and that he focused too much of his attention on the boys in class, but it never crossed my mind that anything inappropriate was going on.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I chalked it up as Brother Steve being overly friendly and that was it.

It was a different time then.

There were no thoughts that a teacher, let alone a man of God, could abuse the children they were supposed to protect, especially not in a Catholic school.

Knowing what I know now, and being older and having lived a bit, I’d like to think I’d pick up more on those red flags and that I’d report my concerns to those in the position to look closer at the situation.

But back then, at 17 years of age, I honestly didn’t know any better.

My heart breaks for the men alleged to have suffered at the hands of Baker, and I hope that they are able to find resolution.

I also hope this will serve as a lesson to all of us that if something doesn’t seem or feel right, it probably isn’t. They say go with your gut because it’s never wrong.

I cherish my time spent at Bishop McCort.

Some of my best memories happened while I was a student there.

There are amazing teachers there – some of whom I had in class are still there today – who genuinely care about their students, and students who are proud to call themselves Crimson Crushers.

What Baker is accused of is inexcusable. There is no arguing that.

But now is the time for the McCort family to band together and offer any type of support we can to the alleged victims and show that pride, loyalty and tradition are not just words but a way of life.

Kelly Urban is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat.

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