Detroit diocese: No abuse claims

The Detroit Archdiocese is reporting that it has no record of sexual abuse complaints brought against Brother Stephen Baker during his two years in Michigan.

The archdiocese made the statement on its website Wednesday after members of SNAP – Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests – a support group for clergy sex abuse victims, called on it to investigate whether Baker had sexually abused any of his students while teaching at Orchard Lakes Schools from 1983 to 1985.

On Thursday, Ned McGrath, communications director for the archdiocese, said there is nothing more the archdiocese can do unless alleged victims come forward with claims against Baker. He said that if that were to happen, the archdiocese would report those claims to the appropriate civil authorities.

“We have looked into it,” he said. “There’s really nothing else we can do unless somebody comes forward claiming abuse.”

Judy Jones of SNAP said on Thursday that the group is disappointed by the Detroit statements. However, she said the organization has not given up on its efforts to locate alleged victims.

“It’s not even logical that they would make such a statement like that,” she said. “The numbers are so high with so many people coming forward with information and allegations against this man. It’s very sad.”

Baker is accused of abusing former students while he was working at John F. Kennedy High School in Warren from 1986 to 1990 and then at Bishop McCort in Altoona, Pa, from 1992 to 2000. He committed suicide Saturday morning at St. Bernardine Monastery in Hollidaysburg, Pa., where he lived. In a letter found in his room he apologized to the church, the Blair County Coroner’s Office confirmed.

SNAP representatives said they decided to hand-deliver a letter to Detroit on Wednesday after learning Baker had worked at a school in Michigan. They said they spoke McGrath for about 15 minutes. The group’s letter asked Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron to investigate whether Baker molested any students while employed by St. Mary’s.

SNAP recently made similar requests of church officials in Youngstown and Altoona.

The archdiocese responded with a statement on its website Wednesday in which the archdiocese confirmed that Baker, a Franciscan friar, took classes and worked at Orchard Lakes Schools. However, the archdiocese explained that Orchard Lakes Schools reports that it does not have any record of an abuse complaint during or after those years.

The statement reads: “Neither the archdiocese nor OLS ever received any reports / advisories from the other locations where Brother Baker subsequently worked. Additionally, we were not informed of the legal claims made against Brother Baker or his apparent suicide last weekend. SNAP’s criticism of the archdiocese makes absolutely no sense. How and why would the archdiocese be criticized as negligent for not disclosing information it did not have?”

The archdiocese reported it was not informed of the legal claims made against Brother Baker or his apparent suicide last weekend.

“Reviews of past so-called revelations by SNAP have proven them to be misguided and misinformed, be it by design or default,” the statement reads,

No criminal charges were filed against Baker. On Jan. 16, two of his former JFK students disclosed at a news conference that they, along with nine other alleged victims, had reached an out-of-court settlement with the Youngstown Diocese and the Third Order Regular Franciscans. Attorneys representing more of Baker’s former students have indicated they may pursue similar civil lawsuits.

Jones said her organization became aware that Baker had been assigned to St. Mary’s Prep in Orchard Lake after someone from the Detroit area contacted her and provided that information, which SNAP verified through Catholic directories. The group also believes Baker worked at a Catholic school in Virginia in 1977. Jones said she has also been provided information that Baker may have worked in Minnesota in the late 1970s.

“All we’ve been asking is for church officials to look into the matter, to come forward and to help the victims,” Jones said.

She said the group is not relying on help from the church at this point, and is now encouraging victims or individuals with any information, to contact police rather than church officials.

“It’s very disturbing to realize that there are church leaders who may have known this man was hurting children and they did nothing about it, allowing him more opportunity to continue abusing his students. This information needs to come out. It feels like they’re all trying to protect each other,” Jones said.