HOLLIDAYSBURG, Pa. (KDKA/AP) — Police say a Franciscan friar accused in the alleged sexual abuse of students at schools in two states took his own life at a western Pennsylvania monastery.
Blair Township Police Chief Roger White tells the Associated Press an autopsy by the county coroner confirmed that 62-year-old Brother Stephen Baker died of self-inflicted wounds.
According to the Associated Press, White said officers were called to St. Bernardine Monastery in Hollidaysburg on Saturday morning after another resident had found Baker not breathing.
Baker was named last week in legal settlements with 11 men who alleged he sexually abused them at a northeast Ohio school three decades ago. A Pennsylvania school said it has also received molestation allegations involving Baker.
Youngstown Bishop George Murray called for prayers for abuse victims, Baker’s family “and the repose of his soul.”
Meanwhile, the group SNAP, or Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, has released a statement following Baker’s death.
It reads in full:
“We feel sad for Br. Baker’s family but even sadder for the dozens of boys who Baker assaulted. His passing changes little, however. It’s still crucial that anyone who saw, suspected or suffered his crimes comes forward.”
“Kids are safest when clergy sex crimes and cover ups are exposed, and that’s still what needs to happen here. Kids are also safest when those who ignored or hid child sex crimes are held responsible for their irresponsible behavior. And kids are safest when officials are deterred from concealing child sex crimes. That happens best when officials who HAVE concealed child sex crimes are punished.”
“We believe it’s possible that corrupt Catholic officials who concealed Baker’s crimes might be prosecuted – for intimidating witnesses, obstructing justice, destroying evidence, deceiving police, committing perjury or other wrongdoing. So we renew our call for prosecutors to use their bully pulpits and investigative powers to delve into the heinous – and we believe continuing – complicity of Catholic officials in child sex cases.”
“It’s possible that if Catholic officials had acted with more compassion, suspended Baker sooner, monitored him better, and gotten him more help sooner, that he might still be alive.”
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