Alleged victim of friar’s abuse speaks out

JOHNSTOWN – Speaking outside Bishop McCort Catholic High School on Saturday morning, a former Ohio Catholic school student detailed the alleged locker-room sex abuse that dozens of men have now accused Hollidaysburg friar Stephen Baker of committing throughout his career.

Michael Munno – now a father of two, married 17 years – said Baker’s sexual tastes were a running joke among boys at his alma mater, John F. Kennedy High School in Warren, Ohio.

“It was a daily joke in the locker room: Don’t get injured, or you’ll go to the training room,” he said.

It was in the school’s small training room, Munno said, that Baker, an athletic trainer, is accused of abusing many of his alleged victims – fondling their genitals and digitally penetrating them while supposedly giving post-workout massages.

More than 35 people, including at least one woman, have contacted attorneys with accusations stemming from Baker’s work in Ohio and at Bishop McCort, said Robert Hoatson, president of Road to Recovery, a sex-abuse survivors’ group.

Baker now lives at St. Bernardine Monastery near Hollidaysburg.

Baker has declined to comment on the accusations on the advice of an attorney, a monastery superior said.

Munno said Baker groomed him for abuse in the late 1980s, befriending him before ninth grade and accompanying him on a group trip to Virginia. While the abuse was widely known, nobody reported it to the authorities for years, he said.

“They’re trained to show deference to religious authority,” Hoatson, a former Roman Catholic priest, said.

Bishop McCort student-athletes and their families looked curiously at the knot of TV cameras and reporters outside their school Saturday morning. Hoatson wore a sign reading: “Children must have a voice.”

Since a settlement was announced last week with 11 of Baker’s Ohio accusers, dozens more alleged victims have contacted attorneys, including some in unrelated clergy abuse cases, Hoatson said.

None involve alleged crimes in the Altoona area, he said. Nevertheless, Hoatson questioned whether Baker had been allowed to leave the monastery where he’s lived for years.

“Why wasn’t the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese telling the community that there was a serial pedophile roaming around Hollidaysburg and Newry?” Hoatson said.

Diocese spokesman Tony DeGol said Thursday that the case is outside the diocese’s jurisdiction, as Baker is not an area priest.

Baker no longer has contact with minors, the monastery’s head, the Rev. Patrick Quinn, said last week.

Munno and Hoatson said they expect more alleged victims, in both Johnstown and Ohio, to come forward in the coming days. The new accusations could lead to possible criminal charges, they said, noting that Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations is less restrictive than Ohio’s.

“I’m sure there will be an outpouring,” Munno said.

Mirror Staff Writer Ryan Brown is at 946-7457.