Baltimore Clergy Sexual Abuse Problems Outlined in Maryland Attorney General Report, Detailing 156 Priests Active Over 60 Years
A long-awaited report on decades of child sexual abuse by priests in the Baltimore Archdiocese has finally been released, revealing decades of cover-up and identifying priests who committed heinous acts against children.
The partially redacted report listing Maryland priests accused of sexual abuse in the Baltimore Archdiocese was released by the Maryland Attorney General’s office after years of investigation, highlighting how the Catholic Church covered up hundreds of cases involving child sexual abuse over more than 60 years, with a priority placed on keeping the events quiet and protecting priests who were known abusers.
Details involving more than 600 cases of Maryland Catholic Church sex abuse since the 1940s were outlined in the report, including many instances where children were abused multiple times by multiple priests. While the Archdiocese maintains an online list of priests and members of clergy credibly accused of abuse, this latest report names at least 36 other individuals who were not on the list. However, ten of the abusers’ names were redacted, as were other portions of the report.
Maryland AG Clergy Abuse Investigation
The Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore has been under investigation for four years by the Maryland Attorney General, whose office prepared a report outlining decades of incidents of credible child sex abuse in the Catholic church, which has now been redacted and released with the approval of a state judge.
The report was generated, in part, through an investigation of hundreds of thousands of documents dating back to the 1940s, which were turned over to a Maryland Grand Jury as part of the investigation. The court, however, had to approve the report before it could be shown to the public.
The current Maryland Attorney General, Anthony Brown, has issued subpoenas indicating he will expand the investigation into the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. and the Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware.
“This Report illustrates the depraved, systemic failure of the Archdiocese to protect the most vulnerable – the children it was charged to keep safe,” Brown said in an April 5 press release (PDF). “Based on hundreds of thousands of documents and untold stories from hundreds of survivors, it provides, for the first time in the history of this State, a public accounting of more than 60 years of abuse and cover-up. Time and again, the Archdiocese chose to safeguard the institution and avoid scandal instead of protecting the children in its care.”
Baltimore Archdiocese Sexual Abuse Report Findings
The 500-page report includes vivid and disturbing narratives from abuse victims, who often underwent ongoing sexual abuse and, in some cases, physical torture by priests placed in a position of trust by the Church leadership. According to the report, more than 600 children were abused by 156 people involved with the church. However, the report suggests that number is likely much higher, as only about a third of sexual assaults are ever reported, and the number is likely substantially smaller involving children abused by individuals in a position of authority.
Certain parishes in particular, like St. Mark Parish in Catonsville, were known to be havens for child sexual predators, with 11 abusers working there from 1964 to 2004. Other parishes which became magnets for child sex abusers included St. Michael-Overlea, St. Patrick in Cumberland, St. Mary in Cumberland and St. Clement in Lansdowne, which all had six or more abusers.
The report found that the Archdiocese would often transfer priests to different parishes once abuse reports surfaced, would frequently send them for psychological treatment, and then place them back in positions of authority with children after helping them avoid getting into legal trouble.
“Leaders of the Archdiocese repeatedly dismissed reports of abuse and exhibited little to no concern for victims. They failed to adequately investigate complaints and made no effort to identify other victims or corroborate alleged abuse,” the report states. “They focused not on protecting victims or stopping the abuse, but rather on ensuring at all costs that the abuse be kept hidden. The costs and consequences of avoiding scandal were borne by the victimized children.”
The current Archbishop of the Baltimore Archdiocese, William E. Lori, issued a press statement in response to the report, calling it “shocking and soul searing”, and acknowledging that the “evil acts” detailed in the report did occur. However, he noted the Archdiocese, since the 1990s, has fought to change the culture of abuse and cover-up.
“Make no mistake, however: today’s strong record of protection and transparency does not excuse past failings that have led to the lasting spiritual, psychological and emotional harm victim-survivors have endured,” Lori wrote.
Maryland Child Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Bill May Remove Statute of Limitations
Less than an hour after the report’s release, the Maryland state legislature passed the Child Victims Act of 2023, which will remove time restrictions limiting how long an individual has to file a lawsuit over sexual abuse or assault when they were a child. Governor Wes Moore has already signaled that he intends to sign the new law, which will take effect on October 1, 2023.
Similar laws passed in other states allowed in thousands of child abuse lawsuits being filed by survivors, who sometimes waited decades to do so. However, this latest bill being proposed in Maryland would remove the statute of limitations on child sexual assault claims permanently, instead of restricting the ability to bring claims to a temporary window, like provided in some other states.
The new law has been opposed by the Maryland Catholic Conference, which could face hundreds, or even thousands, of clergy sexual abuse lawsuits over incidents of child abuse carried out by priests for decades in Maryland. The Conference claims the new law would be unconstitutional, but the new Maryland Attorney General, Anthony Brown, has indicated he believes he can defend the constitutionality of the proposed bill if it is passed into law.
Contact a Baltimore Sexual Abuse Lawyer
If you or a loved one have questions about the new Maryland Child Victims Act of 2023 or Baltimore clergy sexual abuse lawsuits that may be pursued, request a free and confidential consultation to learn more.
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