A Catholic cleric who is accused of molesting dozens of boys and who killed himself on Saturday worked for at least four years in the Twin Cities and may have molested a Minnesota child, a newspaper has reported.
And a support group is blasting two Catholic institutions - the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese and a religious order called the Franciscans - for not disclosing the accused man’s presence here and the allegation against him.
On Jan. 26, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette disclosed that Brother Stephen P. Baker “had been banned from ministry in 2000 after his order settled a claim that he had sexually abused a minor while serving in Minnesota in the 1980s.”
Leaders of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, believe that Baker was at St. Patrick's church in Inver Grove Heights from 1978 to 1981. That parish has long been staffed by priests and others from the Franciscans.
Baker has attracted considerable public attention recently.
On Jan. 16, an attorney disclosed that 11 men settled child sex cases against Baker, the Franciscans and the Youngstown, Ohio diocese, where the alleged crimes took place. Despite repeated promises by church officials to be “open and transparent” in child sex cases, no one made this public.
Over the last two weeks, another 69 individuals have reported being victimized by Baker. Many come from the Altoona-Johnstown diocese in Pennsylvania. (Baker worked at Bishop McCort High in Johnstown.) Again, no church officials made this public.
On Jan. 26, Baker committed suicide at St. Bernardine Monastery in Blair County, PA.
Youngstown Catholic figures claim the first accusations against Baker surfaced in 2009. (But SNAP believes other victims likely came forward long years earlier.) No church officials however, made the allegations public.
In addition to having worked in Minnesota, Ohio and Pennsylvania, Baker also reportedly worked in Michigan and Virginia.
“So Catholic bishops in five states – and the Franciscans - all kept silent about multiple abuse reports against Baker for weeks, months or years,” said Bob Schwiderski, SNAP Minnesota Director.
SNAP wants Twin Cities Archbishop John Nienstedt to
-- 1) explain why he hid accusations against and/or settlements involving Baker,
-- 2) disclose whether Baker allegedly molested in Minnesota, and
-- 3) use his archdiocesan website, newspaper, parish bulletins and pulpit announcements to beg anyone who saw, suspected or suffered Baker’s crimes to come forward.
"Why has the Twin Cities' archbishop been silent for months or years about Baker’s presence in his archdiocese, especially since Baker has obviously hurt so many kids," asked Bob Schwiderski, SNAP Minnesota Director. “At whatever point Nienstedt or members of his staff knew about this, they should have alerted the public and their parishioners.”
SNAP says, "such silence violates the US bishops’ national abuse policy which mandates “openness and transparency” in clergy sex cases". "It also gives wrongdoers like Baker and his complicit church supervisors ample opportunity to intimidate victims, threaten whistleblowers, discredit witnesses, destroy evidence and fabricate alibis,” said SNAP director David Clohessy of St. Louis.
“Nienstedt and his staff may claim they didn’t know about Baker’s crimes until very recently,” said Clohessy. “We find that hard to believe. Regardless of what they knew when, they have an obligation to make sure he doesn't have the chance to hurt other kids.
“It’s possible that Baker might have been back in the Twin Cities over Christmas, visting families he met while working here and molesting their kids,” said Schwiderski. “And it’s possible that in November, a Minnesota person who was assaulted here by Baker couldn’t endure the pain any longer and committed suicide. Action by church officials could have prevented this further pain. But Nienstedt and his staff again chose silence over compassion, and inaction over protection.”
“If such claims of ignorance by church officials are true, then it’s disconcerting that a small non-profit with a tiny staff knows more about child molesting clerics in the Twin Cities than the Twin Cities archbishop and his hundreds of employees do,” said Clohessy.
Fr. Patrick Quinn, Franciscan Superior, claims that the Minnesota abuse report against Baker involved “a family friend.”
“That makes no difference whatsoever,” said Schwiderski. “If Baker sexually assaulted a girl or boy, Catholic or Protestant, student or stranger, church officials still have a moral and civic duty to call the police and warn the public.”
“As archbishop, Nienstedt is responsible for making sure that Catholic employees act responsibly in his archdiocese,” said Schwiderski. “So if he’s going to claim that the Franciscans deceived him about Baker, then he should discipline the Francisans. But we doubt that’s really the case. We suspect that St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocesan staff have known for years about Baker’s crimes here but have recklessly, callously and hurtfully stayed quiet.”
Among the clerics who SNAP believes worked with Baker at St. Patrick’s are Revs. Vincent Spinos, Rev. Justin Zawadski, Rev. Edward Sabo and Mr. Carl Vacek, all of whom belong or belonged to the Franciscans.