3 friars in Pennsylvania abuse case removed from duties

AP News
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Posted: Mar 17, 2016 12:00 PM
3 friars in Pennsylvania abuse case removed from duties

HOLLIDAYSBURG, Pa. (AP) — Three Franciscan friars charged with allowing a suspected sexual predator to hold jobs where he molested more than 100 children have been removed from their religious assignments in Florida and Minnesota.

Robert D'Aversa, 69; Anthony Criscitelli, 61; and Giles Schinelli, 73, are scheduled to surrender Friday, said Jeffrey Johnson, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania attorney general's office. They're charged with child endangerment and criminal conspiracy.

The friars served successively as ministers provincial who headed a Franciscan religious order in western Pennsylvania from 1986 to 2010. In that role, each assigned and supervised the order's members including the late Brother Stephen Baker, who allegedly molested scores of children, most of them at Bishop McCort High School in Johnstown where he was assigned from 1992 to 2000.

Schinelli has been removed as pastoral administrator at the San Pedro Center, a Catholic retreat in Winter Park, Florida, while D'Aversa likewise has been removed as pastor of St. Patrick Catholic Community in Mount Dora, Florida, according to the Orlando Diocese.

The Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis said Anthony Criscitelli was removed is pastor of St. Bridget Parish Community in Minneapolis.

Orlando Bishop John Noonan issued a statement Wednesday saying he supported the decision of the Rev. Patrick Quinn, the current minister provincial of the Hollidaysburg-based Franciscan order, to remove D'Aversa and Schinelli from their Florida assignments.

"We pray for all the people involved in this investigation and for those who are suffering," Noonan's statement said.

Baker killed himself at the Franciscan monastery by plunging two knives into his heart in January 2013. That occurred nine days after Youngstown, Ohio, church officials announced settlements involving 11 students who accused Baker of molesting them at schools there in the late 1980s.

News coverage of those settlements prompted students from Bishop McCort to file lawsuits alleging they were abused by Baker, who worked as a religion teacher, coach and athletic trainer at the school about 60 miles east of Pittsburgh. Eight-eight of those victims settled their claims against the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese and the Franciscan order for $8 million in October 2014, with several other former students settling individual claims since.

The attorney general charged the friars because Schinelli assigned Baker to work at the school, even after an abuse allegation surfaced in 1988 and counselors told the Franciscans in 1991 that Baker should have no one-on-one contact with students.

D'Aversa and Criscitelli are charged because under their watch Baker continued working at the school or had access to its facilities, events and students. The attorney general alleges D'Aversa also didn't alert police about a "credible" abuse allegation against Baker in 2000, which prompted his removal from McCort.

All three friars are represented by prominent Pittsburgh defense attorneys.

James Kraus declined comment Thursday on behalf of Criscitelli. Bob Ridge, who represents D'Aversa, and Charles Porter Jr., who represents Schinelli, didn't immediately return calls.

Thomas Farrell, who represents the Franciscan Friars, Third Order Regular, Province of the Immaculate Conception, also didn't return a call. Quinn, who heads the order, also didn't return a message seeking comment Thursday.