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Pennsylvania diocese settles sex abuse claims for $8 million

Earlier this month, we wrote about a Pennsylvania priest who has been charged with possession of child pornography and sex tourism. Under the guise of missionary work, the priest allegedly traveled to Central America to sexually abuse boys in orphanages.

Until his arrest, that priest worked in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. If that diocese sounds familiar to you, it may be because it is also at the center of another clergy sexual abuse scandal. The diocese recently paid $8 million to settle sexual abuse claims from 88 victims who were all allegedly abused by a man named Stephen Baker.

Allegations from victims seemingly span the 1980s and 1990s. In the 80s, Baker worked as a teacher in Ohio, among other assignments. He moved to a school in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, in the 90s. When allegations really started piling up in January 2013, Baker took his own life.

Just one day after the announcement of the settlement, a mother came forward to say that her son had also been one of Baker’s victims. He committed suicide at the age of 29, and his family did not know why until nearly 11 years later.

It is hard to fathom that one man, while claiming to do God’s work, could destroy so many young lives. But these crimes were not just committed by one man. Complicit in these acts were every church official who either turned a blind eye to what they knew or suspected and anyone else who helped move Baker around rather than turning him over to police. As we have written in previous posts, neutrality is not an option when it comes to child sex abuse.

Source: WJAC-TV, “Diocese asked to provide therapy as part of sex abuse settlement,” Maria Miller, Oct. 22, 2014

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