Abuse case: ‘crap’ sentences imposed on two Catholic friars
Pennsylvanian Franciscan friars Robert D’Aversa, 70, left, and Anthony Criscitelli, 63, have each been fined $1,000 and given five year periods of probation for enabling a paedophile priest.
According to this report, Shaun Dougherty, a local victims’ advocate, described the sentences as “crap”.
On one side of it, I’m happy to see that we’re putting a close to this. It’s another case on record, showing the church’s guilt on this.
But he insisted the sentences were “crap” because:
They got away with a lot, and it’s costing people their lives.
Both friars pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of children, a first-degree misdemeanor, in a case stemming from sexual abuse committed by Brother Stephen Baker, above, who was under their supervision at the Third Order Regular, Province of the Immaculate Conception.
D’Aversa and Criscitelli gave Baker assignments that gave him access to children even after there was clear evidence that he presented a danger as a sexual predator.
The trial of the two came about as part of an investigation by the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General into what was described as a decades-long cover-up by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona–Johnstown to protect religious leaders accused of sexually abusing children.
Settlements have been reached with more than 90 of Baker’s victims from his time at Bishop McCort High School in Johnstown where he officially served from 1992-2000 and had unofficial access afterward.
Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a press release:
These defendants knew the abuser was a serious threat to children – but they allowed him to engage with children and have access to them as part of his job within their order.
They chose time and time again to prioritize their institution’s reputation over the safety of victims. I won’t stand for that in any institution – and any person who fails to protect and safeguard children in their care will answer to me.
Shapiro said the friars, who, in their roles as minister provincial, had the ability to give Baker whatever assignments they chose, were the first religious order members in Pennsylvania to be sentenced for protecting clergy who abused children.
Shapiro said the conviction shows that, in Pennsylvania, enablers:
Will be held accountable for covering up rampant sexual abuse of children.
Mitchell Garabedian, one of the nation’s leading attorneys for victims of sexual abuse who represented dozens of Baker’s accusers, commended Shapiro for:
Bringing these two friars to justice. Victims of Brother Stephen Baker should be proud of coming forward and reporting their sexual abuse. If they had not done so, Attorney General Shapiro would not have had a foundation to build his case.
Blair County Judge Jolene G. Kopriva sentenced both to the maximum period of probation – five years and fined them $1,000 apiece and costs of prosecution.
Baker, in January 2013, committed suicide by stabbing himself in the heart shortly after word of his abuse became publicly known.
He also abused children in Ohio, Minnesota and Michigan before coming to Pennsylvania.