A former Warren John F. Kennedy High School religion teacher, sports trainer and baseball coach used his authority positions to tell students they needed massages to avoid injury, then sexually molested them, one as many as 25 times during the late 1980s. That's the information provided by a source familiar with the settlements reached in the cases Wednesday, as reported today by WKBN TV-27's website.
Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian told the TV station that he negotiated settlements for 11 men who attended JFK High from 1986 to 1990 that claimed Brother Stephen P. Baker, a baseball coach, religion teacher and athletic trainer during his tenure at JFK, had molested them.
Settlements were reached with JFK High School, the Youngstown Diocese and with T.O.R. Franciscan religious order based in Pennsylvania.
When WKBN reporters reached Baker by phone Wednesday in his room at St. Bernadine's monastery in Newry, Pa., he said he was shocked when informed about the accusations. "I'm flabbergasted," Baker told the TV station. "I'll have to ask my superiors if I can say anything." Baker then immediately hung up.
T.O.R. Franciscan officials told WKBN that Baker was removed from all public ministry and has been living under strict supervision in which he has no contact with minors.
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Judy Jones, who serves as Midwest Assistant Midwest Director of the advocacy group SNAP (the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, released the following statement:
"Youngstown Catholic officials kept silent for more than three years about multiple credible child sex accusations against a Catholic school teacher. What else are they hiding?
"'Open and transparent' -- that's what Catholic bishops are required to be in child sex cases, according to the official U.S. church abuse policy. What's 'open' about keeping quiet as child sex allegations trickle in -- one after the other -- against a Catholic school teacher? What's 'transparent' about saying nothing even as settlements are quietly being paid out? This is the same old, same old.
"What did Youngstown officials do -- besides say nothing -- about this predator? They quietly let him move elsewhere. The same old, same old.
"How many more kids has Brother Baker sexually assaulted over the last three years while Catholic officials in Ohio and Pennsylvania (where he now lives) kept secrets about his crimes? Even after settling 11 cases against Brother Baker, Catholic officials stayed silent. Again, same old, same old.
"We hope every single person who was abused in the Youngstown diocese -- by Baker or other predators -- will find the courage to step forward, get help, call police, expose crimes, protect kids and start healing," Jones concluded.
SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world's oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims.
SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 12,000 members. Despite the word "priest" in the title, the organization includes members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. The website is SNAPnetwork.org.