Three retired Franciscan priests were charged in mid-March by Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane, related to what the state says was a cover-up of sexual abuse by a friar in the Catholic Church. The three—Giles Schinelli, Robert D’Aversa and Anthony Criscitelli, were the provincial ministers of the Franciscan religious order in western Pennsylvania during the friar’s tenure, from 1986 until 2010. Officials say that the friar, Stephen Baker, may have molested more than 100 children while under their administration. Baker committed suicide in 2013.
According to the Attorney General’s office, over 100 sexual abuse claims have been filed by individuals who attended Bishop McCort High School, in Johnstown, where Baker was employed between 1992 and 2000. Attorneys for some of the victims say, however, that it’s likely that the actual number of victims was substantially higher.
Alleging that the three retired priests were “more concerned about the protecting the image of the order…than in protecting the flock they served,” Kane charged all three with conspiracy and child endangerment. Kane said that all three knew that Baker had been accused of molestation by many students, but neglected to notify police, and continued to allow Baker access to children.
According to court documents, Baker served as a football coach and religion teacher, and apparently fondled or molested many students who came to him for treatment for sports-related injuries. He was removed from McCort by D’Aversa in 2000 based on what D’Aversa believed to be a credible allegation of sexual abuse, but was then reassigned to a position as vocations director for the order, where he was allowed to lead youth retreats in a number of states.
The charges come after a two-year investigation into alleged sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. During the course of the grand jury investigation, prosecutors say, they found evidence linking at least eight other Franciscan friars to acts of sexual abuse.
Contact Our Office
At the Law Offices of John E. Kusturiss, Jr., we have more than 30 years of practice experience. Contact us online or call us at 610-565-0240 to schedule a private meeting. There is no charge for your first consultation. We will meet with you evenings or weekends upon request. We take Visa, MasterCard and Discover, as well as debit cards.