Forbes [Jersey City NJ]
November 18, 2022
By Brian Bushard
Topline – A criminal investigation into the Archdiocese of Baltimore revealed clergy members and other church staff sexually abused more than 600 young victims over 80 years, according to a court filing released Thursday from the Maryland Attorney General’s office—the latest probe into sexual abuse allegations rattling the Catholic Church.
The Archdiocese failed to report sexual abuse allegations, conduct its own investigations into those allegations, remove people accused of abuse from the church or restrict their access to children, according to the AG’s filing.
The report identified 115 priests who have been prosecuted for sexual abuse or identified by the Archdiocese as having been “credibly accused” of abuse, as well as 43 priests accused of sexual abuse but not identified by the Archdiocese—the church lists 152 priests who have been accused of child sexual abuse, including at least one who has been sentenced.
The sexual abuse was “so pervasive that victims were sometimes reporting sexual abuse to priests who were perpetrators themselves,” according to the filing, which added, “there are almost certainly hundreds more (victims).”
One congregation within the Archdiocese was assigned 11 priests known to have a history of sexual abuse over a 40-year period, according to the probe. Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh criticized the church for covering up the abuse “rather than holding the abusers accountable and protecting its congregants.”
In a statement, Reverend William E. Lori, the Archbishop of Baltimore, apologized, writing, “we know horrifyingly well the enormity of the grievous harm caused to individuals, families and entire communities” and that the findings from the investigation are a “continued source of shame and remorse” but do not reflect its “current and decades-long strong pastoral response and handling of allegations of child sexual abuse.”
WHAT WE DON’T KNOW
Whether Maryland officials will bring charges against the Archdiocese of Baltimore or if the investigation leads to a settlement. Earlier on Thursday, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese said it has cooperated with the investigation and that the church “remains committed to pastoral outreach to those who have been harmed as well as to protect children in the future,” the Washington Post reported.
As part of the probe, the Archdiocese of Baltimore produced “hundreds of thousands” of pages of documents in response to a subpoena it was issued in January 2019, when Frosh launched the investigation. Since then, the Attorney General’s office has received correspondence from more than 300 people, according to Frosh’s press release. It follows another investigation launched in 2018 by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office into late Cardinal William Keeler, who had served as Baltimore’s Archbishop, alleging he was central in the church’s coverup of the sexual abuse allegations. They’re the latest investigations into allegations of sexual abuse within the Catholic church, including an FBI probe in June into sexual abuse by priests at the New Orleans Archdiocese, who allegedly took children across state lines to assault them, violating the federal Mann Act. The investigation into the Baltimore Archdiocese comes 20 years to the day after the Boston Globe released its bombshell report detailing years of abuse and coverups within the Catholic Church, which led to a wave of sexual abuse allegations worldwide. A 2004 report commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops found more than 4,000 priests were accused of sexual abuse, targeting more than 10,000 children from 1950 to 2002.