Bishop apologizes to victims of sexual abuse - 21 News Now, More Local News for Youngstown, Ohio -

Bishop apologizes to victims of sexual abuse

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - At a press conference Thursday, the bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown apologized to the victims in a sexual abuse allegation against a former religious teacher and coach at the Warren John F. Kennedy High School.

"I am deeply sorry for the pain the victims of Brother [Stephen] Baker endured while at John F. Kennedy High School in Warren," Bishop George Murry told news reporters. "Brother Baker betrayed the trust these young men placed in him as a spiritual leader."

Baker was accused of sexually abusing 11 Warren JFK students more than 20 years ago, but the men just recently came forward in a lawsuit against the diocese and Third Order Regular Franciscans in Pennsylvania where Baker was a member.

The suit was settled with a monetary award for the men.  The Third Order Regular Franciscans of Pennsylvania paid 70 percent of the settlement and the other 30 percent came from the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown.

Baker has never been a member of the Youngstown diocese clergy, absolving the diocese of legal liability, but they did agree to the settlement in order to promote healing for the victims, an official with the diocese says.

"We agreed to a settlement because we believe that the allegations were credible," Murry says.

The bishop says none of the victims in the Baker case ever came forward to the diocese and they learned about the abuse, that took place between 1986 and 1991, when an attorney of one of the former students sent them a letter in 2009.

Now the church is reaching out to every former student who attended JFK at that time encouraging other victims to report the abuse to police and the diocese.

Murry also addressed recent allegations that surfaced this week claiming two other predators still work at the diocese.  He denies that's the case.

"I can tell you that there are no credibly accused priests in ministry, nor any credibly accused employees working for the Diocese of Youngstown," he says.

The accusations were made by the group SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests."

The bishop says the church is totally committed to protecting children from sexual abuse.

But the attorney representing the victims in Baker's case calls Thursday's news conference "an attempt at damage control."

Boston Attorney Mitchell Garabedian says, at the time of this report, 25 more possible victims from JFK, the former St. Mary's Middle School, and the Bishop McCort school in Johnstown, Pa. have come forward.

Judy Jones, SNAP, says the two victims that came to them are very upset.

"We have urged them to go to police, not the diocese," she says.

The diocese says when victims of abuse contact them, they offer pastoral assistance, including the cost of counseling, and will continue to do so.

A special Mass of healing and reconciliation at JFK will be scheduled in the future.

 

 

 

 

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