Catholic priests assigned to the Archdiocese of Baltimore have sexually abused and tortured more than 600 people over the past 80 years, and the church has helped cover up many of the abuses, according to a report from the Maryland attorney general’s office.
There are “almost certainly” hundreds more victims of the “endemic sexual abuse within the archdiocese,” according to a petition filed Thursday in Baltimore Circuit Court by attorneys for Attorney General Brian Frosh’s office.
Boys and girls were abused, with ages ranging from preschoolers to young adults, according to the motion, which describes a report from the attorney general’s office which is the result of a four-year investigation.
The petition says investigators found 158 priests accused of sexual abuse, including 43 the archdiocese has never publicly identified. Church officials have repeatedly said they are sharing the names of each accused clergy member with law enforcement. Of the 43 people who have not been publicly identified, 30 have died.
Abuse took place in the Archdiocese’s nine Maryland counties and in the city of Baltimore, with Assistant Attorney General Carrie Williams writing in the motion that “no parish was safe.”
However, the attorney general’s office found that parish members and students at some institutions suffered more than others. For example, a parish sometimes had more than one sexually abusive priest assigned at a time. At least one parish, which was not named in the motion, was assigned 11 sexually abusive priests over a 40-year period.
“Time and time again the Archdiocese has chosen the abuser of the abused, the powerful over the weak and the adult over the child,” Williams wrote.
Two victims died by suicide, according to the report. One victim was so traumatized that she suffered from facial paralysis. In another case, a priest abused boys for decades, as early as 1959. The archdiocese had known about the ongoing abuse for at least 30 years, but did not alert authorities until 1997. Another priest, known for abusing boys in Connecticut, was appointed chaplain at a Baltimore high school where further abuse occurred.
“The sexual abuse was so widespread that victims sometimes reported sexual abuse to priests who were themselves the perpetrators,” the motion reads.
The investigation found that the archdiocese failed to report numerous allegations of sexual abuse, conduct adequate investigations, remove abusers from their posts, and restrict their access to children. Instead, the attorney general’s office found that the archdiocese “has gone to great lengths to keep the abuse secret,” according to the motion.
“For decades survivors have reported sexual abuse by Catholic priests and for decades the church has covered up the abuse rather than holding abusers accountable and protecting its congregations,” Frosh said in a statement. “The Archdiocese of Baltimore was no exception.”
The 456-page report itself is not yet publicly available because it relies heavily on evidence obtained with the help of a grand jury. Maryland law requires that all grand jury records be kept secret. The motion filed by Frosh’s office asks a circuit court judge to waive grand jury privilege and allow the attorney general to release the report publicly, according to the motion obtained by The Baltimore Sun.
“Publicly airing church transgressions is essential to holding people and institutions accountable and improving how sexual abuse allegations are handled in the future,” Williams wrote.
The archdiocese will have the opportunity to respond to Frosh’s motion and could argue that the report should not be released. Asked on Monday whether the church would oppose a motion like that from Frosh’s office, an archdiocese spokesperson told The Sun in an email: “The archdiocese will continue to cooperate in any legal proceedings related to the Attorney General’s investigation”.
A call Thursday to a law firm representing the archdiocese was not returned.
More than 486,000 Catholics in 145 parishes are members of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the first to be founded in the United States.
The archdiocese has turned over hundreds of thousands of files as part of the attorney general’s investigation, some as late as July, and hundreds of victims and priests have been interviewed.
The church, in a statement on Monday, apologized for past instances of abuse.
“The Archdiocese recognizes that the publication of a report on child sexual abuse over many 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. “wrote church spokesman Christian Kendzierski. .
“We again offer our deepest apologies to all who have been harmed by a minister of the church and assure them of our heartfelt prayers for their continued healing. The Archdiocese remains committed to pastoral outreach to those who have been wronged as well as protecting children now and in the future.
When David Lorenz, Maryland State Director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, heard the details of the motion on Thursday, he said he was “appalled” — but they didn’t. didn’t shock him.
“I’m horrified and I feel a lot of other things, but ‘surprised’ isn’t one of them,” he said. “Time and time again, these independent reports of abuse in the church have shown the same thing – lots of abusive priests and an effort to close their eyes, to move them from place to place, and to cover it all up.”
Lorenz called it “essentially important” that the report be public, in large part because seeing the names of abusive priests in print and hearing their deeds described would encourage more victims to come forward.
Lorenz said SNAP would formally ask the judge to grant the attorney general permission to release the report.
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A well-known survivor said she was encouraged by the legal developments.
“I’m really, really thrilled,” said Teresa Lancaster, who in the 1970s suffered years of sexual abuse at the hands of late father Joseph Maskell, whose crimes were detailed in the 2017 Netflix docuseries “The Keepers.” .
“It’s been so long in coming that I didn’t think I would ever see it happen. The fact that we can get these names out there is really, really wonderful.”
Lancaster said the scope of the findings came as no surprise. She agreed with Frosh that the number of victims and abuse is “almost certainly” higher than the report found.
“You have to consider those who couldn’t come forward,” said Lancaster, a lawyer who lives in Edgewater. “There are a lot of people that this happens to who stay hidden because they just can’t face the public.”
Baltimore Sun reporter Emily Opilo contributed to this article.
This article may be updated.