Priest named in grand jury report worked for Youth Education in the Arts

 

The Chairman of Youth Education in the Arts (YEA!) confirms that one of the 300 priests named in the Pennsylvania Attorney General's grand jury report was a drum corps instructor for Cadets 2, a weekend-only touring branch of YEA!'s drum corps.

The board suspended Father Donald Cramer, who was a priest of the Diocese of Harrisburg, from all YEA! activities within 90 minutes, according to a letter from Chairman Doug Rutherford.

In a letter to the Corps, Rutherford said, "After verifying that Mr. Cramer was, in fact, the same person identified in the report, the board suspended him from all YEA! activities, all within 90 minutes. After reviewing the situation with the Board of Directors, staff and YEA! attorneys, we terminated Mr. Cramer's contract on the third business day after the story broke without an investigation, as the grand jury report provided sufficient cause."

Cramer was in an online chatroom and communicated with an individual in Connecticut who was charged criminally for possessing child pornography, according to the grand jury report. In Cramer's online communications, he mentioned he wanted to go to Mexico where he could "rent" boys.

The grand jury report says after an investigation, Cramer was not arrested because he was not in possession of child pornography. However, the Department of Homeland Security's investigative report listed the nature of the email communication where Cramer expressed interest in minor boys.

According to the grand jury report, the Department of Homeland Security eventually terminated its investigation and closed its file.

The Diocesan files for Cramer contained a letter that Cramer wrote to Pope Francis in September 2013 where Cramer requested dispensation from the priesthood. He was officially dispensed in November 2014, according to the report.

Rutherford says there is no record of any sexual misconduct involving Mr. Cramer during his employment with YEA! or specifically with The Cadets 2 Drum and Bugle Corps.

He says all required background checks of YEA! staff with both the state and the FBI were completed within the year and did not reveal any criminal history for him.

Rutherford said in the letter YEA!'s mission is to support the development of young people while ensuring an environment that is "safe, creative and empowering" for everyone involved.

It has been a tumultious year for YEA!.

In April, nearly a dozen women accused then-Cadets director and CEO George Hopkins with sexual misconduct.

Hopkins resigned, followed by the entire board of directors.

A new board led by Rutherford hired the law firm of Franczek Radelet to investigate the organization.

That report is expected to be released soon.

Rutherford says YEA! has developed policies, procedures and tools to protect members, staff and volunteers from harm.

The organization has also created pathways for reporting.

Rutherford says the new procedures recently put in place helped the board to act swiftly.

"As soon as we became aware of the situation we could quickly respond and determine in this case to suspend the individual until we can get more information," said Rutherford. "As a board, we could act swiftly and ultimately decided to terminate his agreement and do all of that in a way that is in line with our policies and procedures and be able to execute in a timely manner and also be able to handle it appropriately and professionally for all people involved."

69 News could not reach Cramer for comment.

The full letter from Rutherford to YEA! members can be found below:

I am writing to you today to inform you of a recent incident concerning one of our instructors.

On Tuesday, August 14, a national news story broke about 300 Pennsylvania priests accused of sexual abuse towards children. That morning, the YEA! Board of Directors was notified by the administrative staff that one of the 300 priests revealed in the grand jury report was a drum corps instructor at YEA!, Don Cramer.

After verifying that Mr. Cramer was, in fact, the same person identified in the report, the board suspended him from all YEA! activities--all within 90 minutes. After reviewing the situation with the Board of Directors, staff and YEA! attorneys, we terminated Mr. Cramer's contract on the 3rd business day after the story broke without an investigation, as the grand jury report provided sufficient cause.

There is no record of any sexual misconduct involving Mr. Cramer during his employment with YEA! or specifically with The Cadets2 Drum and Bugle Corps. All required background checks of YEA! staff with both the state and the FBI were completed within the year and did not reveal any criminal history for him.

We learned from the report that Mr. Cramer was investigated by the Department of Homeland Security and the USPS. We do not know of any charges or convictions resulting from their investigation.

Still, this cover-up of sexual misconduct by the Catholic Church is deeply troubling, and Mr. Cramer clearly violated the YEA! Code of Conduct. The board acted responsibly and quickly in terminating him.

YEA! has a fiduciary duty to stop sexual and workplace harassment before it occurs. As such, we encourage everyone to speak up, and continue to reinforce the process for reporting any issues with the participants and staff of YEA! programs. As I have stated previously, our mission is to support the development of young people through their participation in the performing arts while ensuring an environment that is safe, creative, and empowering for everyone involved.

Sincerely,

Doug Rutherford

YEA! Board of Directors