Religious Sexual Predator: Charges For Three Franciscan Leaders In Child Sex Abuse Case

Charges religious sexual predator

Three ex-leaders from the Catholic order of the Franciscan friar are facing criminal charges after they allowed a known religious sexual predator to work with children. As reported by NPR, Pennsylvania prosecutors have charged Giles Schinelli, 73, Robert D’Aversa, 69, and Anthony M. Criscitelli, 61, with conspiracy and child endangerment.

The Los Angeles Times explained that the three men were successively the provincial ministers of a religious order of the Roman Catholic Church in western Pennsylvania from 1986 to 2010. In that role, each had the power to assign and supervise the order’s members. And authorities say this power allowed the friars to grant Brother Stephen Baker, a known sexual predator, permission to work in a high school.

Schinelli is working as a pastoral administrator at a Catholic retreat in Winter Park, Florida. D’Aversa is a priest in the Catholic community of St. Patrick in Mount Dora, Florida. Criscitelli is the parish priest at St. Bridget in Minneapolis.

Baker was accused of sexually abusing dozens of teens in at least three states. 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. Eventually, more than 25 students contacted attorneys to say that he had abused them during his tenure as a teacher, sports coach, and athletic trainer. Many of them say he molested them in the guise of giving therapeutic massage to prevent or treat sports injuries. In 2013, Baker committed suicide in his monastery in Newry, Blair County.

More than 100 abuse claims were subsequently filed by former students of Bishop McCort High School in Johnstown, Pa., where Baker worked from 1992 to 2000. Millions of dollars in damages have been paid out, the Times wrote.

According to a grand jury report released Tuesday, this is the first time members of a Roman Catholic religious order have been charged with aiding an abuser. As said in a report from the New York Times, the church has faced thousands of lawsuits regarding sexual abuse cases over the years, but criminal prosecutions of the supervisors accused of covering up abusers have been rare.

Prosecutors say the three were well aware of the abuse, but refused to report his actions to police. All three men have until Friday to surrender and prosecutors said their arraignments would be scheduled in the coming days.

“These men knew there was a child predator in their organization. Yet they continued to put him in positions where he had countless opportunities to prey upon children,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane said during a press meeting Tuesday. “Their silence resulted in immeasurable pain and suffering for so many victims. These men turned a blind eye to the innocent children they were trusted to protect.”

The Franciscan Order issued a statement which said it would cooperate with the investigation and was “deeply saddened” by the announcement. The Order added that it “extends its most sincere apologies to the victims and to the communities who have been harmed.” Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who announced the charges, was quoted as saying that the men “were more concerned about protecting the image of the order, more concerned with being in touch with lawyers than in protecting the flock they served.”

“No reports were ever made to law enforcement,” Kane said. “As the grand jury found, the ultimate priority was to avoid public scrutiny at all costs.”

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