Baker’s past in Detroit examined

Members of a support group for clergy sex abuse victims on Wednesday called on the Archdiocese of Detroit to investigate whether Brother Stephen Baker sexually abused students when he worked in that area during the early 1980s.

Judy Jones of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said representatives from the organization hand-delivered a letter to the archibishop’s office.

“We were wondering why, after everything has come out about Brother Baker in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and why, knowing that he also worked in Detroit, that they would not come forward about this, that they would remain quiet,” Jones said during a telephone interview Wednesday afternoon.

She said SNAP called a Wednesday afternoon news conference in Detroit after it was discovered that Baker, who is accused of molesting dozens of boys in Ohio and Pennsylvania, also worked in Michigan and Virginia. Baker committed suicide on Saturday.

SNAP made similar requests of church officials in Youngstown, Ohio, where Baker worked from 1986 to 1992, and in Altoona, where Baker worked from 1992 to 2000.

Jones said her organization became aware that Baker had been assigned to St. Mary’s Prep in Orchard Lake from 1983 to 1985 after someone from the Detroit area contacted her and provided that information, which SNAP verified through Catholic directories.

Baker’s suicide in the St. Bernardine Monastery in Hollidaysburg occurred a week and a half after a legal settlement by 11 men who said Baker sexually abused when they were students at John F. Kennedy High School in Warren, where Baker was a religion teacher and athletic trainer.

Since the settlement was announced at a news conference Jan. 16, dozens of former students have come forward, accusing Baker of sexually abusing them.

Matt Jatczak, a representative of the Detroit SNAP, and a SNAP member from Canada delivered the letter to the Archdiocese of Detroit’s downtown office, where they spoke with a representative for about 15 minutes, SNAP members said. The letter asks Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron to investigate whether Baker molested any students while employed by St. Mary’s.

“We’re asking the archbishop to acknowledge it and to ask anyone who might have been molested by Baker to come forward. The archbishop has not said a word,” Jatczak said. “He has due diligence to let the faithful know.”

When asked for comment, Archdiocese of Detroit spokesman Joe Kohn said, “We’re looking into it.”

Jatczak, along with Jones and other SNAP members, urged anyone abused by Baker to come forward.

“First call the police so that it will be on record,” said Jatczak. “[Victims] can feel safe to come forward and feel safe knowing that they’re not alone, knowing that others have gone through the same place.”

Brenda Brunelle, a SNAP representative from Windsor, Ontario, said it’s important that the identities of abusive priests be publicized so that they are arrested and prosecuted so that they are not able to harm children again.

Jones said the group believes Baker worked at a Catholic school in Virginia in 1977.

“All we know is that according to the Catholic directory he was in Virginia at that time,” she said. “If anyone has any information, we ask them to come forward. We are hoping anybody that has been harmed or has knowledge of any of this, we’re hoping that they please come forward, contact the police.

“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.

The Detroit News contributed to this report.