MOUNT DORA, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - Two central Florida priests are in trouble, as another scandal unfolds in the Catholic Church. A grand jury has indicted the priests -- on in Mount Dora and the other in Winter Park -- and another church official with no ties to Florida. All three men are charged with covering up decades of sexual abuse.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane said charges were brought this week, adding “These individuals knew that Brother [Stephen] Baker was a child predator and that Baker had faced allegations of child molestation in 1988 and again in 2000.”
Brother Baker is accused of molesting more than 80 children at a western Pennsylvania high school between 1992 and 2010. He committed suicide after the sexual abuse allegations spurred an investigation in 2013.
Kane said Giles Schinelli, who now runs the San Pedro Catholic Center in Winter Park, knew as far back as 1988 of sexual abuse accusations against Baker and was advised by a doctor not to allow him near children.
Instead of heeding that warning or reporting those claims to law enforcement, Kane says Schinelli assigned Baker to the school where he worked as an athletic trainer and religion teacher, and where, the Pennsylvania grand jury found, many of the sexual assaults took place.
Father Robert D’Aversa, who is now head of Saint Patrick Catholic Church in Mount Dora, moved Baker from the school in 2000, after another student accused him of sexual abuse. Documents show that, again, law enforcement was not told, and instead D’Aversa put Baker in charge of conducting youth retreats throughout the United States. Baker is accused of molesting three additional children during that time.
“Schinelli and D’Aversa engaged in efforts to protect the image and reputation of the Franciscan Friars, rather than act in the best interest of the children,” Kane said.
They, along with another official, are each charged with endangering the welfare of children and conspiracy.
The priests have been put on administrative leave. They will be arraigned in the next few days. They could not be reached for comment.
In a statement, Bishop John Noonan of the Orlando Diocese said he supports the removal of the priests, adding “We pray for all the people involved in the investigation and for those who are suffering.”