Brooklyn Park priest on leave after questions raised about role in alleged abuse cover-up

| March 23, 2016 | 0 Comments

The pastor of St. Gerard in Brooklyn Park was placed on a temporary leave of absence March 22 by his Franciscan superior because of unresolved questions regarding his role in supervising a Franciscan brother accused of sexually abusing minors in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

According to a statement from his provincial superior, Father Bradley Baldwin, TOR, has been cooperating in a Pennsylvania investigation about the supervision of a member of their religious community, Brother Stephen Baker, who has been accused of abusing dozens of minors from Catholic high schools in Pennsylvania and Ohio, where he taught and worked as an athletic trainer.

As a result of that grand jury investigation, three former superiors of the Province of the Immaculate Conception of the Franciscan Friars of the Third Order Regular, based in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, have been indicted. No charges were brought against Father Baldwin.

In a March 22 statement, Archbishop Bernard Hebda, apostolic administrator for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, made it clear that Father Baldwin has not been charged with a crime, but that grand jury documents suggest he might have played “some intermediary role in facilitating communication between provincial leadership and the friar in question.”

“It seems to us that the parameters of that role are not clear from the documentation and need to be further clarified, and I have asked for a preliminary investigation to be commenced,” Archbishop Hebda said.

The archbishop also confirmed the archdiocese has no record of a misconduct allegation made against Father Baldwin.

“I am unaware of anything in his file that would suggest that his ministry here has been anything less than exemplary,” he said.

Father Baldwin has been pastor of St. Gerard since 2010. He also served in parish ministry in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis from 1994 to 2000.

Father Baldwin is the second Franciscan priest in the archdiocese to take a ministerial leave in connection with the Pennsylvania attorney general’s investigation into sexual abuse in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.

On March 15, Father Anthony Criscitelli, TOR, pastor of St. Bridget and St. Austin in Minneapolis, was charged along with two other priests with conspiracy for endangering the welfare of children as well as for endangering the welfare of children.

The archdiocese announced March 15 that Father Anthony Criscitelli had been removed from ministry pending the outcome of the criminal charges.

Father Criscitelli has served in the archdiocese since 1982. The archdiocese reported that it has no records of misconduct allegations filed against him.

As The Catholic Spirit previously reported, Brother Stephen also served in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis at St. Patrick in Inver Grove Heights from 1977 to 1981. He committed suicide in Hollidaysburg in January 2013. Once abuse claims against him were substantiated, his name was included in the listing of priests with substantiated claims on the archdiocesan website in May 2014.

Catholic News Service contributed to this story.

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