More … thanand others associated with the Archdiocese of Baltimore have sexually abused more than 600 children over the past 80 years, according to a state report released Wednesday that accuses church officials of decades of cover-up.
The report, released by the Maryland attorney general’s office, paints a damning picture of the archdiocese, which is the oldest Roman Catholic diocese in the country and spans much of Maryland. Some parishes, schools and congregations had more than one abuser at the same time – including St. Mark’s Parish in Catonsville, which had 11 abusers living and working there between 1964 and 2004.
“The staggering pervasiveness of the abuse itself underscores the culpability of the Church hierarchy,” the report said. “The number of abusers and victims, the depravity of the abusers’ conduct, and the frequency with which known abusers were given the opportunity to continue preying on children is astounding. Over 600 children were abused by the 156 people included in this report, but the number is likely much higher.”
The release of the redacted findings marks a significant development in an ongoing legal battle over their release and adds to growing evidence from parishes across the country as many similar revelations have rocked the Catholic Church in recent years. Also on Wednesday, the state legislature passed a bill to end the statute of limitations on abuse-related civil lawsuits, sending it to the governor.
Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown, who took office in January, released the report. Before a press conference on Wednesday, he met with several victims to summarize the findings and thank them for coming forward.
“What we have learned is that the indisputable story revealed by this investigation is one of pervasive, pernicious and persistent abuse by priests and other personnel in the Archdiocese,” Brown said. during the press conference. “It is also a story of the repeated cover-up of this abuse by the Catholic Church.”
The report largely focuses on the years leading up to 2002, when a Boston Globe investigation into abuse and cover-up in the Archdiocese of Boston led to an explosion of revelations nationwide. The country’s Catholic bishops, for the first time, have agreed on reforms, including a lifetime ban from ministry for any priest who commits even a single incident of abuse.
The report notes that while new national policies significantly improved the internal handling of reported abuse in the Archdiocese of Baltimore after 2002, there were still flaws, including that its public list of abusers did not include all those he knew ; its independent review committee is limited by the information church officials provide about alleged abuses; and some alleged abusers were allowed to retire, with financial support, rather than being ousted.
Brown’s predecessor, Brian Frosh, launched the investigation in 2019 and announced its completion in November, saying investigators reviewed more than 100,000 pages of documents dating back to the 1940s and interviewed hundreds of victims and witnesses. The contents of the report were not immediately released because it includes information obtained from church officials via grand jury subpoenas, which are confidential proceedings in Maryland.
State attorneys have asked a court for permission to release the nearly 500-page document, which identifies 156 priests and others associated with the church accused of abusing more than 600 victims over the past 80 years, and Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Robert Taylor ruled last. months that a redacted version should be made public. Authorities recently began making the necessary redactions, including removing the names and titles of 37 people accused of wrongdoing.
He also said Maryland lawmakers should be able to consider the contents of the report during the current legislative session, which ends April 10. This timing meant the report became public during Holy Week, which concludes Lent and is considered the holiest time of the year in Christianity. of Easter Sunday.
Lawmakers’ passage of a bill to end the state’s statute of limitations came after similar proposals failed in recent years. The issue received renewed attention during this session. Governor Wes Moore said he supported him. Currently, victims of child sexual abuse in Maryland cannot sue after they turn 38. The bill would eliminate the age limit and allow for retroactive prosecution.
Baltimore Archbishop William Lori said in a statement Monday that while the archdiocese has made great strides over the past three decades in responding to allegations of abuse, the report “covers a period from the past of the archdiocese where our response to the allegations was woefully inadequate”.
In addition to ordering prosecutors to remove the identities of 37 people from the report, Taylor told the attorney general to rephrase parts of the document to avoid identifying another 60 people. The court will consider releasing a more comprehensive version in the future.
The investigation also found that the archdiocese failed to report numerous allegations of sexual abuse to authorities, conduct adequate investigations, remove abusers from the ministry, or restrict their access to children.
In some cases, victims ended up reporting the abuse to priests who abused them themselves, prosecutors wrote.
The Archdiocese of Baltimore has long come under scrutiny for its handling of abuse allegations.
In 2002, Cardinal William Keeler, who served as archbishop of Baltimore for nearly two decades, released a list of 57 priests accused of sexual abuse, earning him a reputation for transparency at a time when the national scope wrongdoing remained largely unexposed. That changed, however, when Keeler was named in a Pennsylvania grand jury report. The 2018 report presented ample evidence of a wide-ranging cover-up that often involved transferring accused clergy to other parishes instead of holding them accountable.
In Keeler’s case, the grand jury charged him with covering up sexual abuse allegations while serving as bishop of Harrisburg in the 1980s. Keeler then cleared the accused, now defrocked clergyman John G Allen, to transfer to Baltimore and continue working. Shortly after the report became public, church officials announced that the archdiocese was changing its plans to name a new Catholic school after Keeler, who had died the previous year.