Report names 158 Catholic priests accused of abuse after investigation into Archdiocese of Baltimore

Madeleine O'Neill//November 17, 2022

Report names 158 Catholic priests accused of abuse after investigation into Archdiocese of Baltimore

By Madeleine O'Neill

//November 17, 2022

A 456-page report from the Maryland Attorney General’s Office identifies 158 Catholic priests accused of sexual abuse, including 43 that 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, along with the names of the priests, is not yet public. The Attorney General’s Office disclosed some details in a court filing Thursday as it requested permission to release information that the Archdiocese provided in response to a grand jury subpoena.

Grand jury records are secret under Maryland law but can be released with a judge’s permission. The Attorney General’s Office filed a 35-page motion in Baltimore City Circuit Court on Thursday. It was not immediately clear whether the Archdiocese will object to the release of the documents.

The filing provides some details of what the report will contain and alleges that the archdiocese failed to report many allegations of sexual abuse, conduct adequate investigations, remove abusers from ministry or restrict their access to children.

“The Attorney General’s investigation uncovered pervasive sexual abuse amongst the priesthood and repeated failures by the Archdiocese to protect the children of Baltimore,” the office wrote. “Time and again, the Archdiocese chose 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 Archdiocese’s decisions.

“Now is the time for reckoning,” the filing continues. “Publicly airing the transgressions of the Church is critical to holding people and institutions accountable and improving the way sexual abuse allegations are handled going forward.”

David Lorenz, who leads the Maryland chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said reading details of the report was painful.

“I’m sick to my stomach,” Lorenz said. “Not that I’m surprised, because it’s in line with everything that’s ever happened across the country.”

Lorenz said releasing the full report is critical, in part because other abuse survivors who have not yet come forward might feel safer to do so if they see others’ stories.

“We need to see the names of the perpetrators,” he said. “We need to hear the stories of the survivors. … That’s the only way, sometimes, you come forward. You say ‘I’m not the only one.’ ”  

Attorney General Brian E. Frosh launched the investigation in 2019, soon after Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro released a nearly 900-page report detailing decades of abuse by more than 300 “predator priests.”

More than a dozen attorneys general around the nation said they would investigate clergy abuse in their states in the wake of the Pennsylvania report.

Christian Kendzierski, the Archdiocese’s executive director of communications, said in a statement:

“The Archdiocese recognizes that the release 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 faithful of the Archdiocese. The Archdiocese continues to offer its profound apologies to all who were 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 harmed as well as to protect children in the future.

“For more than four years, the Archdiocese of Baltimore has fully cooperated with the investigation conducted by the Office of the Attorney General of Maryland looking back over 80 years, including by providing more than a hundred thousand papers.

“The Archdiocese will continue to cooperate with any legal processes relating to the Attorney General’s investigation.”

The Attorney General’s filing describes pervasive sexual abuse and a church that tried to cover up the problem. One congregation was assigned 11 sexually abusive priests over a span of 40 years, the document claims. Victims sometimes ended up reporting sexual abuse to members of the clergy who were themselves perpetrators.

In one instance, 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, the filing claims, but was told she should not tell anyone else about the abuse.

In another case, the Archdiocese assigned a priest who had been accused of sexual misconduct to serve as a Baltimore-area Catholic high school’s chaplain, 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 discover if there were other victims.

In the 1990s, the priest disappeared and was not found until 2002. According to the filing, 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 were already prosecuted for sexual abuse or listed as “credibly accused” by the Archdiocese should be released because it is already public, the Attorney General’s Office argued.

Of the 43 priests that were never named by the Archdiocese, 30 are dead, according to the filing, so their interest in privacy is reduced. The Attorney General’s Office said it will redact identifying information about the 13 who are still alive and have not been prosecuted.

The report is likely to reinvigorate efforts to extend the statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse claims and open a retroactive “window” for survivors to sue.

Maryland lawmakers successfully raised the statute of limitations in 2017, granting abuse victims until their 38th birthday to bring civil claims. But the General Assembly has not passed a window that would revive claims that are already past the statute of limitations.

Statute of limitations reform has repeatedly passed the House of Delegates and stalled in the Maryland Senate. Sen. William C. Smith Jr., the chair of the Senate Judicial Proceedings committee, said Thursday that he believes the legislative process will go differently in the upcoming session.

“We planned an early session briefing to address the lingering issues” surrounding the statute of limitations and revival window issue, Smith said.

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