Ohio, Pa. victims urged to seek support
Compiled from local and wire sources
An alleged victim of sexual abuse by a Franciscan brother at Warren JFK high school and the founder of a support group for such victims urged Pennsylvania and Ohio victims of the brother’s purported abuse to come forward and get the help they need.
“We’d love for them to reach out and contact those of us who will support them,” said Robert M. Hoatson, co-founder and president of the Livingston, N.J.-based Road to Recovery Inc. support group, which will be distributing leaflets with that message from 10 to 11:30 a.m. today in front of St. Columba Cathedral in Youngstown.
Michael Munno of Cortland, who said Brother Stephen P. Baker sexually abused him at JFK, appeared with Hoatson at a Saturday morning news conference in front of Bishop McCort High School in Johnstown, Pa.
Munno was one of 11 men who reached an out-of-court cash settlement with Warren JFK concerning sexual abuse they said they suffered as students there between 1986 and 1990 at the hands of Brother Baker, who was then a teacher, baseball coach and athletic trainer at JFK. Some of the abuse was reported to have occurred during massages and whirlpool baths.
Similar accusations have been made concerning Brother Baker’s behavior toward students when he taught religion and served as a baseball team trainer at Bishop McCort in the late 1990s.
Hoatson said the known victims in Warren and Johnstown “are to be congratulated for coming forward” and that Munno and the other victim who spoke at a Wednesday press conference in Newton Falls were catalysts for others who have since come forward to acknowledge they were abused and sought support.
Since the JFK settlement was announced at the Newton Falls news conference, Hoatson said eight additional JFK victims and 15 new Johnstown victims have contacted two lawyers handling the abuse cases, Mitchell Garabedian of Boston, who negotiated the JFK settlement, or Michael Parrish in Johnstown.
At the news conference, Munno said he wished he had complained of the abuse at JFK while it was occurring to prevent the Johnstown abuse from occurring a decade later, but that he was afraid to speak out as a JFK high school student.
Munno urged all Johnstown victims to come forward and receive the support they deserve so they can begin their healing and recovery.
Hoatson urged victims to call his organization at 862-368-2800.
Baker, who resides at St. Bernadine Monastery in Newry, Pa., was the subject of complaints he abused boys at Bishop McCort in the late 1990s, church officials acknowledged.
Garabedian said the Warren cases were resolved without criminal charges or lawsuits because of concerns with the statute of limitations.
The Warren settlements were reached after talks involving the school, Third Order Regular Franciscans and Roman Catholic Diocese of Youngstown, which said it was unaware of the allegations until nearly 20 years after the purported abuse.
Now, Bishop Mark Bartchak of the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese in central Pennsylvania has acknowledged receiving complaints in 2011 of possible abuse by Baker at Bishop McCort High School in Johnstown, about 60 miles east of Pittsburgh.
Atty. Parrish said at least five men who played baseball at the Johnstown school when Baker was there claim he touched them inappropriately.
Parrish said his clients are shocked “that what was relayed to them as therapeutic treatment was probably just a creative ruse for a sexual assault or molestation.”
Baker hasn’t been charged or sued in Pennsylvania and hasn’t returned requests for comment. His religious order said he’s living under supervision to ensure he has no contact with minors.
Tony DeGol, a spokesman for the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese, said Baker is not a diocesan priest, so officials there are not handling his situation. Still, Bishop Bartchak forwarded the information he received in 2011 to proper authorities and expressed concern in a statement issued Thursday.
“The abuse of minors at any time and place is wrong and can never be excused,” the bishop said in the statement.