Criminal Charges Filed Against Franciscan Priests in Pennsylvania

Today the Attorney General charged three priests of the Franciscan, Catholic Religious Order in connection with their role regarding notorious predator Fr. Stephen Baker.

Religious Order Priests are associated with a particular Catholic Order (i.e. Franciscans) and can move more freely from Diocese to Diocese and Jurisdiction to Jurisdiction.  This jurisdictional mobility allows Religious Order priests to likely be the most unreported group of clerical sexual abusers in existence.  Often a particular Diocese claims to not have authority or information regarding a Religious Order priest and the distant superiors for that Religious Order never face scrutiny from local law enforcement.  Because Religious Orders like the Franciscans operate throughout the United States and sometimes the world, with the stroke of a pen a Provincial like those charged today can aid in the flight of a perpetrator priest fleeing a jurisdiction in which he committed crimes upon children.

The actions of the prosecutor are to be commended and the intelligence of the Grand Jury to seek accountability for those responsible for exposing local children to perpetrators imported from other jurisdictions is laudable.

The call to action to be taken from this important development is 1) Every Bishop needs to vet and investigate Religious Order Priests within his Diocese and 2) Religious Orders need to be scrutinized and held accountable for their actions allowing children to be victimized.  Long gone should be the days where a Religious Order priest can commit criminal acts in one jurisdiction before moving on to another jurisdiction with the full authority and assistance of his superiors to avoid detection.