Pennsylvania Attorney General Files Felony Charges Against Members of Religious Order

PennsylvaniaIn an unprecedented move, the Pennsylvania Attorney General filed felony charges against three members of the Franciscan Friars, Third Order Regulars. The three friars are Giles A. Schinelli, 73, Robert J. D’Aversa, 69, and Anthony M. Criscitelli, 61.

All three are charged with conspiracy to endanger children. This marks the first time that members of a religious order of the Catholic Church have faced felony criminal charges for assisting a sexual abuser in their role as members of an order. A Missouri bishop and a Philadelphia monsignor have been convicted of cover-up-related charges, but no member of a religious order.

“They were more concerned with protecting the image of the order and more concerned with being in touch with lawyers than with the flock that they served,” Attorney General Kathleen Kane said at a news conference Tuesday.
The three Franciscan friars stand accused of assisting Brother Stephen Baker, who was accused of sexually abusing more than 100 children prior to stabbing himself to death in 2013. Prior to his death, Baker left a note apologizing for his criminal behavior.

The criminal charges come in the wake of a bombshell grand jury report that named 50 priests and other church employees in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown as child molesters.

The NY Times reports:

Father Schinelli, the minister provincial there from 1986 to 1994, was notified of past accusations of sexual abuse against Brother Baker in Ohio, and recommendations to keep him away from children, but assigned him to the high school anyway, the grand jury found. . . The next minister provincial, Father D’Aversa, removed Brother Baker from the school in 2000 after new allegations, the report said, but did not notify school officials or law enforcement. Father Criscitelli took over in 2002. He allowed Brother Baker to hold overnight retreats at a local college even though, the complaint said, the supervisor knew Brother Baker was to have no contact with children.

Kane made a bold but necessary move to stop the sexual exploitation of children. The case will be a difficult one and will be monitored closely by other communities across the country similarly ravaged by the scourge of child sexual abuse.

Dumas and Vaughn Attorneys at Law has law offices in Portland, Oregon and serves clients in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and other states.

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