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‘I’m sorry for what I did to the church’



Published: Tue, January 29, 2013 @ 12:08 a.m.

Friar accused of abuse at JFK leaves suicide note, letters to others

Brother Stephen Baker, the Franciscan friar accused of committing sexual offenses against students at Warren John F. Kennedy and Johnstown, Pa., Bishop McCort Catholic high schools left a note saying: “I’m sorry for what I did to the church.”

In suicide note, Brother Baker apologized ‘for what I did to the church’

By Ed Runyan

runyan@vindy.com

JOHNSTOWN, PA.

Brother Stephen Baker, the Franciscan friar accused of committing sex offenses against students at Warren John F. Kennedy and Johnstown, Pa., Bishop McCort Catholic high schools, left a suicide note saying: “I’m sorry for what I did to the church.”

The note was found near his body in his room at the St. Bernadine Monastery in Newry, Pa., Saturday morning after Baker stabbed himself in the chest. Baker was dead at the scene, and his death was ruled a suicide.

Officials also found other letters in sealed envelopes in the room, and those letters are being given to the people whose names are on them, said Patty Ross, Blair County coroner.

“He basically just apologizes for his behavior,” Ross said. “There was one open note [near Baker’s body] that just said, I’m sorry. I’m sorry to the church, to everyone and also to his sister.”

“There were other [sealed] letters” addressed to specific people, she said. “Of course we wouldn’t open those.”

Ross later restated the contents of the letter as: “I’m sorry for what I did to the church.”

At a Jan. 16 news conference in Trumbull County, two former JFK students told reporters they were among 11 men who were sexually assaulted by Baker while they were students there from 1986 to 1990.

Baker served as athletic trainer, religion teacher and baseball coach while at JFK. He held similar positions at Bishop McCort.

The 11 were part of a financial settlement reached for them by a Boston attorney. The settlement was paid by Baker’s religious order, the Franciscan Third Order Regular Province of the Immaculate Conception, and the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown.

The accusers and their attorney said Baker massaged their genitals and digitally penetrated them while giving massages in the school’s small, closed training room and in other locations.

Meanwhile, a Greensburg, Pa., attorney filed a notice with the Cambria County, Pa., Common Pleas Court on Jan. 22 indicating she has clients with a claim against Bishop McCort High School, where Baker was assigned after he left Warren JFK.

The notice also names as defendants the Catholic dioceses in Youngs-town and Altoona- Johnstown, and Baker’s religious order. Atty. Susan N. Williams said the notice, called a writ of summons, indicates to the defendants that a suit might be filed later. The notice alleges intentional negligence and lists Bishop McCort High School as the lead defendant.

The Youngstown diocese is named because of the sexual assaults Baker is accused of committing against students at JFK during his time there from 1986 to 1991, Williams said.

“I think it’s possible there was some knowledge on the part of the diocese,” Williams said.

“At some point, the diocese may have known something and may or may not have passed something on to the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown,” she said.

Nancy L. Yuhasz, chancellor for the Youngstown diocese, said she could not comment on the filing because she had not yet seen it.

“If the information was there and they chose for whatever reason to ignore it, that also would be a problem,” Williams said of officials within the Youngstown and Altoona-Johnstown dioceses.

Bishop George V. Murry of the Youngstown diocese said last week the diocese was first alerted about the Brother Baker case in 2009 when the victims’ attorney sent a letter requesting information about the students’ transcripts and indicated there was “a possibility of an abuse claim.”

The diocese has said Baker was never a member of the clergy of the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown, and the diocese had no legal liability in the matter.

Bishop Murry added that the diocese found no records prior to 2009 indicating any sex allegations against Baker.


Comments

1girardguy(7 comments)posted 1 year, 9 months ago

This POS takes the cowards way out, and can't even apologize to the victims. He only wrote that he was sorry to the church. At least the victims can take solace in the fact that this molester is in a very hot place right now. I am more thankful each day that I left the Catholic Church, and removed my kids from that environment.

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2whitesabbath(738 comments)posted 1 year, 9 months ago

I dont know if he is in Hell or not, I don't have any knowing connections. Hope the victims can get on with their lives and get some kind of therapy.

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3excel(285 comments)posted 1 year, 9 months ago

Brother Stephen Baker felt that he was paying for his sins by taking his own life. The saga is over and it is time to move on. Dwell on the future and not the past.

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4jeratboy(127 comments)posted 1 year, 9 months ago

Why weren't the other letters opened? They are evidence. You kind of lose any right to privacy in a case like this.

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5kurtw(876 comments)posted 1 year, 9 months ago

test

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6kurtw(876 comments)posted 1 year, 9 months ago

I'm going to do some research on this and find out just what the numbers are: what percentage- of all the priests, friars, etc. in the Catholic Church- are actually accused of committing these kinds of acts. And, also, how those figures compare to other organizations: Protestant's, Teachers, Boy Scout Leaders, etc.- other adults interacting with minors.

Every news story is relative and has to be put in context, including this one. Of all the students at JFK High School over the years interacting with Clergy- how many cases similar to this one have there been? I can't recall any.

Granted, there shouldn't be any at all. But to wish for that (as we all, instinctively, do), is to wish for life to be perfect and we all know it isn't. If life were perfect, there wouldn't be any plane crashes- but we all know that some planes must come down. Statistically, the law of averages preordains it.

And, statistically, the law of averages preordains that if you throw adults and children together- no matter what you do to prevent it- a certain number of abuse cases will result.

The question is how many, in relation to the number who are faithful caregivers and teachers who respect their charges. That's the issue here.

We need to know the context- the percentages.

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7kurtw(876 comments)posted 1 year, 9 months ago

A good analogy to the issue of clergy abuse of minors is the issue of "how many reporters of all the reporters who report the news" plagiarize, falsify or slant the news to benefit a partisan agenda.

Here, also, what are the "numbers"- the percentages.

A few years ago the report came out that 2 reporters for the NYTimes (one of them Judith Miller) plagiarized and falsified news stories. They've since been relieved of their posts, but there have been other cases of falsification and deception in the media over the years- the most egregious being the case of the Moscow Journalist for the NYT in the 30's(Walter Duranty) who ignored or glossed over the reports of Joseph Stalins genocide of the Ukrainian peasantry- which eventually reached about 4 Million victims (alongside Stalin's other atrocities).

Recently, there was the case where NBC (flag-ship to the Vindy owned station WFMJ) was caught falsifying, through mendacious editing, the Zimmerman 911 tape making him look like a racist where, based on the actual footage, he wasn't.

All these cases of reporters ignoring their vows to report the truth fairly, are analogous to a clergy man ignoring his vows, or, for that matter,anyone in a "loco parentis" position with minors abandoning their responsibility: a certain percentage of deviants from the norm exist in every group

The question is- what are the numbers, the percentages- in the pool of all reporters, what percentage are "partisan bad apples" who distort and slant the truth to benefit a particular agenda. Hopefully small, but, sometimes I wonder

In the case of the clergy abuse scandal, as well, - we need to know- and report- the numbers- the percentage of decent, honorable clergy fulfilling their vows compared to the deviants.

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8kurtw(876 comments)posted 1 year, 9 months ago

FOR: girardguy
re: "thankful I left church"

If you left the Church because of a few "bad apples" then that's, literally, a case of "throwing the baby" out with the bath water.

But, of course, a decision like that is always more involved- a decision involving personal issues. I was brought up a Catholic and I gave it up, too, in favor of reading newspapers. I often think I made a bad choice...

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9kurtw(876 comments)posted 1 year, 9 months ago

Another good analogy to this story is the old saying which, I'm sure, still circulates around newsrooms- it goes like this:

A man biting a dog is news.

A dog biting a man is not news.

In other words, if what happened at JFK were commonplace, we wouldn't bother to report it- everybody would say- "Big deal. A clergy-man molesting a minor. What else is new?"

But, the fact that it made the front-page, suggests the rarity of the event.

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10kurtw(876 comments)posted 1 year, 9 months ago

What I'm concerned about is the way the suicide note was reported: "I'm sorry for what I did to the church" sounds a heck of a lot different from the actual note, which read:

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry to the church, to everyone and also to his sister"- and you have to ask what else was left out.

The way it was presented- the (edited) suicide note suggested a heartless indifference to the victims and only concern for damage to the Church, but that isn't the actual note.

It seems to me, whatever Brother Baker's sins were (and I'm sure he was guilty of abuse), the least we could do is report his final statement accurately and not distort, or delete, his words into something not true- and misleading- that he only cared about his Church and not the people he abused (what about the sealed letters?)

This kind of media distortion (against an organization they dislike) reminds me of the falsification (through editing) of the Zimmerman 911 note by NBC (flag-ship to our own WFMJ- owned by the Vindy) which suggested Zimmerman was racist which, based on the true tape, he wasn't.

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