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RICHMOND, Va. (ChurchMilitant.com) - The revelations of a massive cover-up of abusive homosexual priests in western Pennsylvania is continuing to escalate as investigators are claiming the scandal crosses state lines into Virginia.
The indictment against three Franciscan friars accused of allowing known abuser Br. Stephen Baker to work with minors is expanding to include three more religious of the same order given access to children despite accusations of abuse. According to the claims, Br. Christian Neetz and Friars Cletus Adams and Martin Brady all worked in the same parishes, schools and orphanages in Virginia in the 1970s.
The accusation against Br. Neetz goes back to his earliest days with the Franciscan Friars, Third Order Regulars, Province of the Immaculate Conception. An unnamed victim was allegedly raped by Neetz prior to taking his final vows in the mid-1950s while he was stationed at Highland Hall, a school in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania. Following his time at the school, the brother worked at James Barry Robinson High School in Norfolk from 1968 to 1970, while also serving St. Thomas More parish in Lynchburg. Neetz additionally had stints in Maryland, Ohio and Washington. The victim also claims to have been raped by a second unnamed Franciscan after the encounter with Neetz.
Father Cletus Adams was accused of molesting a young girl between 1972 and 1980 while assigned in Rapid City, South Dakota. Following the allegations, Bp. Harold Dimmerling transferred Adams to another parish before releasing him from service in the diocese of Rapid City in 1984. Immediately prior to his time in South Dakota, Fr. Adams spent a few years at the James Barry Robinson Home for Boys, which belonged to the high school of the same name; his appointment at the orphanage coincided with Br. Neetz's term at the school. Archived records additionally show a request from Adams in the early 1990s to give piano lessons to children, which was denied.
The case of Fr. Brady, who died in 2003, is the most extensive of the three, with multiple reports of molestation. According to the indictment, the first known abuses began while Brady was assigned a position at James Barry Robinson High School, serving as headmaster from 1968 to 1972. During his appointment in the diocese of Richmond, he purportedly molested a post-pubescent boy while traveling to a sporting event in North Carolina; the victim's brother also claims to have been sexually assaulted by Brady. A third known victim, Paul Traub, was not a student at James Barry Robinson High School, but frequently encountered Brady when he would celebrate Mass at St. Nicholas in Virginia Beach. Traub asserts he was sexually assaulted by the friar around a dozen times over the course of a year.
Following his time in the Richmond diocese, Brady returned to Pennsylvania, where from 1974 to 1981 he worked at the Bishop Carroll High School in Ebensburg, Pennsylvania, where the indictment states he "offended on children between 11 and 17 years old." One victim, a student at Bishop Carroll from 1976 to 1980, asserts Brady would frequently grope him under the guise of a hug; at one point the friar invited the victim to the rectory where he was plied with alcohol before Brady attempted to molest him. This abuse, the victim testifies, lasted "all through high school."
Another former student of Brady's spoke out in 2005, stating he was molested when he was 16 years old by the friar at a rectory in the Altoona-Johnstown diocese in the late 1970s. The victim, Fr. John Nesbella, who was ordained a priest in 2002, sued the diocese and the following year was suspended. Nesbella claims this is owing to his harsh criticism of homosexuals within the priesthood.
"This is the end of a sad tale of how wicked so-called Catholic priests and bishops drove me and a few other priests out because we dared to speak up about the corrupt brotherhood of homosexuals in the priesthood," he told a local newspaper. "I come forward and say I was abused, and I say that homosexuals should not be ordained as priests, following the Pope's instructions, and I get kicked out."
The records of Br. Stephen Baker, the notorious perpetrator who allegedly abused hundreds of minors aided by the complicity of three friars, indicate he spent a year living at the James Barry Robinson Home for Boys. He also had a brief appointment at St. Thomas More in Lynchburg, working alongside Br. Neetz.
The exact number of Virginia victims is unknown, but Bp. Francis DiLorenzo of Richmond is urging "anyone who has been abused to come forward and report this abuse to the police and to the diocese" and emphasized the diocese's willingness to cooperate with authorities.
The reports concerning Virginia are the newest revelations in an ongoing scandal within the Altoona-Johnstown diocese in western Pennslyvania involving a systematic cover-up of abusive homosexual priests. The investigation has so far implicated three former heads of the Franciscan Friars, Third Order Regulars in addition to two past bishops and members of local law enforcement who allegedly sheltered more than 50 homosexual priests.