A 456-page report from the Maryland Attorney General’s Office identifies 158 Catholic priests accused of sexual abuse, including 43 who were never publicly named by the Archdiocese of Baltimore, as part of a four-year investigation into the history of child sexual abuse by members. of the clergy.
The investigation also identified more than 600 victims of sexual abuse, according to a new court filing.
The report itself, as well as the names of the priests, is not yet public. The attorney general’s office disclosed some details in a court filing on Thursday as it sought permission to release information provided by the archdiocese in response to a grand jury subpoena.
Grand jury records are secret under Maryland law, but may be released with a judge’s permission. The attorney general’s office filed a 35-page petition in Baltimore City Circuit Court on Thursday. It was not immediately clear whether the archdiocese would object to the release of the documents.
The filing provides some details about the contents of the report and alleges that the archdiocese failed to report numerous allegations of sexual abuse, conduct adequate investigations, remove the abusers from the ministry, or restrict their access to the children.
“The Attorney General’s investigation revealed widespread sexual abuse within the priesthood and the archdiocese’s repeated failures to protect children in Baltimore,” the office wrote. “Time and time again, the Archdiocese has chosen the abuser over the abused, the powerful over the weak, and the adult over the child. Hundreds of Marylanders have suffered mentally and physically for decades because of the decisions of the archdiocese.
“Now is the time to take stock,” continues the file. “Publicly airing Church transgressions is essential to holding people and institutions accountable and improving how sexual abuse allegations are handled in the future.”
David Lorenz, who leads the Maryland chapter of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said reading the details of the report was painful.
“I have a stomach ache,” Lorenz said. “It’s not that I’m surprised, because it fits with everything that’s happened across the country.”
Lorenz said releasing the full report is essential, in part because other abuse survivors who have not yet come forward might feel safer seeing the stories of others.
“We must see the names of the authors,” he said. “We need to hear the stories of the survivors. … This is the only way, sometimes, to manifest yourself. You say ‘I am not the only one.’ ”
Attorney General Brian E. Frosh launched the investigation in 2019, shortly after Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro released a nearly 900-page report detailing decades of abuse by more than 300 “predatory priests” .
More than a dozen attorneys general across the country have said they will investigate clergy abuse in their states following the Pennsylvania report.
Christian Kendzierski, the archdiocese’s executive director of communications, said in a statement:
“The Archdiocese recognizes that the publication of a report on the sexual abuse of children over several decades would undoubtedly be a source of renewed pain for survivors of abuse and their loved ones, as well as for the faithful of the Archdiocese. . The Archdiocese continues to offer its deepest apologies to all those who have been harmed by a minister of the Church and assures them of our sincere prayers for their continued healing. The Archdiocese remains committed to pastoral outreach to those who have been injured as well as protecting children in the future.
“For more than four years, the Archdiocese of Baltimore has fully cooperated with the investigation conducted by the Maryland Attorney General’s office over more than 80 years, including providing more than one hundred thousand documents.
“The Archdiocese will continue to cooperate with any legal proceedings related to the Attorney General’s investigation.”
The attorney general’s filing describes widespread sexual abuse and a church that tried to cover up the problem. A congregation was assigned 11 sexually abusive priests over a period of 40 years, according to the document. Victims sometimes ended up reporting sexual abuse to members of the clergy who were themselves the perpetrators.
In one case, the archdiocese assigned a priest who had been accused of abusing children in Nashville to a parish in Baltimore.
A nun reported the abuse when a victim confided in her, filing a complaint, but was told she should not tell anyone else.
In another case, the archdiocese appointed a priest accused of sexual misconduct to serve as chaplain at a Baltimore-area Catholic high school, the attorney general’s office wrote. When four boys reported being abused a few years later, the priest was reassigned to a convent and the archdiocese made no effort to find out if there were other victims.
In the 1990s, the priest disappeared and was not found until 2002. According to the record, people connected to the archdiocese visited the priest in the Caribbean during those years.
The filing also explains why the full report should be made public. Information about priests who have already been prosecuted for sexual abuse or listed as “credible defendants” by the archdiocese should be released because it is already public, the attorney general’s office argued.
Of the 43 priests who were never named by the archdiocese, 30 are dead, according to the record, so their interest in privacy is diminished. The attorney general’s office said it would redact identifying information on the 13 people who are still alive and have not been prosecuted.
The report is likely to reinvigorate efforts to extend the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse claims and open a retroactive “window” for survivors to sue.
Maryland lawmakers successfully lifted the statute of limitations in 2017, giving abuse victims until their 38th birthday to file a civil lawsuit. But the General Assembly did not adopt a window that would revive claims that have already passed the statute of limitations.
The statute of limitations reform has repeatedly passed the House of Delegates and stalled in the Maryland Senate. Sen. William C. Smith Jr., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Thursday he thinks the legislative process will play out differently in the next session.
“We have scheduled an early session briefing to address ongoing issues” surrounding the statute of limitations and the issue of the stimulus window, Smith said.