‘The church covered up the abuse’: Victims of predator priests want investigation findings released

KCRA TV [Sacramento, CA]

November 19, 2022

Maryland’s attorney general on Thursday filed a motion to release an investigative report of child sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Attorney General Brian Frosh released a statement Thursday afternoon, saying his office is seeking approval from the Baltimore City Circuit Court to release the 463-page report to the public.

“It shows many, many instances of child sexual abuse from priests and other employees of the Archdiocese of Baltimore — hundreds of victims — and it involves more than 100 priests, 150-some priests and other employees who were people who were accused of abuse by the victims,” Frosh told 11 News. “We want to make sure abusers know they can’t do it and get away with it.”

The release must be approved by the court because the documents were handed over in response to grand jury subpoenas.

“For decades, survivors reported sexual abuse perpetrated by Catholic priests, and for decades the church covered up the abuse rather than holding the abusers accountable and protecting its congregations. The Archdiocese of Baltimore was no exception,” the motion states.

PDFRead the motion

In the motion, the attorney general states the investigation identified more than 600 victims and said, “there are almost certainly hundreds more, as the Department of Justice’s Annual Crime Victimization Report has demonstrated that most incidents of sexual assault go unreported.”

The investigation found the archdiocese went through great lengths to keep abuse secret. The motion states the archdiocese failed to take action or report sexual abuse, conduct adequate investigations and remove abusers from the ministry.

“The archdiocese for many, many decades did everything they possibly could to keep the information about the abuse out of the public eye, away from the press, out of the court,” Frosh told 11 News.

The motion seeks to disclose information about priests or church officials who were:

  • Prosecuted for sexual misconduct
  • Publicly identified by the archdiocese as having been “credibly accused” of sexual misconduct
  • Not publicly identified by the archdiocese as having been “credibly accused” of sexual misconduct
  • Not publicly identified by the archdiocese as having been “credibly accused” and are still living

The report identifies 115 priests who were prosecuted and 43 priests who were accused but not identified publicly by the archdiocese.

Both boys and girls were abused from preschool through young adulthood, the report finds. And, some congregations and schools were assigned multiple abusive priests.

“In some cases, the same people just continued to abuse, and in other cases, new people came in and commenced abuse,” Frosh told 11 News.

In 2019, Frosh launched a criminal investigation of child sexual abuse perpetrated by priests and other employees of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Frosh said his office received hundreds of thousands of documents dating back to the 1940s in response to grand jury subpoenas.

“I would like to take a minute, if I could, to apologize to the victims, whom I promised we would deliver this information, and it’s taken longer than I anticipated. Part of that is because we didn’t get all the material that we needed until earlier this year,” Frosh told 11 News. “It’s very important to release this information. It goes back many decades. I think survivors, victims of the abuse feel like their voices are not being heard. I want them to know that our office heard them.”

The attorney general’s office sought information about child sexual abuse from the public, which could be submitted via email or by phone at 410-576-6312. The office received emails and phone calls from 300 people, which resulted in investigators interviewing hundreds of victims and witnesses that included former priests and church officials.

Frosh said many of the cases cannot be prosecuted because the statute of limitations has run out, or the abuser has died.

“We think a report to the public about what went on is important, not just for the satisfaction of the victims, but also to protect against future abuse,” Frosh told 11 News. “The laws have changed over the course of the last 40 years, and we think they are much more protective of children.”

“Our hope is that the Catholic Church will agree to the release of the report. They’ll have to make a decision over the course of the next week or two if they’re going to oppose the release,” Frosh told 11 News.

Archdiocese of Baltimore responds

Baltimore Archbishop William Lori sent a response to 11 News Thursday evening, saying: “As you may be aware, the Maryland Office of the Attorney General filed a motion in court today seeking permission to publicly release a report on his office’s four-year investigation of the archdiocese’s handling of child sexual abuse allegations dating back to the 1940s. The information contained in the motion will no doubt be a source of renewed pain for many, most especially those harmed by representatives of the church, for the lay faithful of our archdiocese, as well as for many good priests, deacons and religious. Ever-aware of the pain endured by survivors of child sexual abuse, I once again offer my sincere apologies to the victim-survivors who were harmed by a minister of the church and who were harmed by those who failed to protect them, who failed to respond to them with care and compassion and who failed to hold abusers accountable for their sinful and criminal behavior.

“I will continue to apologize as long as there are people in pain, and pledge to continue to do everything possible to ensure that no one in the church’s care is ever again harmed by a representative of the church!

“The motion filed in court today references more than 600 victims of abuse by representatives of the archdiocese. Sadly, we know horrifyingly well the enormity of the grievous harm caused to individuals, families and entire communities from our past experience of publicly naming the 152 priests and brothers we believe have abused children.

“Upon reading today’s motion, we feel renewed shame, deep remorse and heartfelt sympathy, most especially to those who suffered from the actions of representatives of the very church entrusted with their spiritual and physical well-being.

“Reports about today’s motion will undoubtedly conjure a range of emotions and lead to confusion and questions, including about the church’s commitment to transparency. Such questions might arise specifically due to the motion’s reference to 158 priests accused of committing child sexual abuse while serving on behalf of the archdiocese. It is difficult to make a direct comparison between this number and the 152 priests and brothers on the archdiocese’s website list of accused, but we know that the archdiocese has publicly stated, after consultation with its Review Board, that its list does not include the names of priests or brothers who died before a single accusation of child abuse was received, unless the allegation could be corroborated by a third party or unless a second allegation was made against the same deceased cleric. The list is posted on the archdiocesan website and is regularly updated as new information becomes known.

“Further confusion may arise from today’s motion about the current response by the archdiocese to allegations of child sexual abuse. Conclusions drawn from historic events in today’s motion, while a continued source of shame and remorse, do not reflect the archdiocese’s current and decades-long strong pastoral response and handling of allegations of child sexual abuse. For decades, the archdiocese has fully complied with child protection efforts including: Reporting to law enforcement of all allegations of child sexual abuse; zero tolerance resulting in permanent bans of any employee or volunteer credibly accused of abuse; offers of counseling assistance and pastoral outreach to anyone reporting harm by a minister of the church; extensive screening and training of all church ministers, employees and volunteers; continued accountability and oversight by our Independent Review Board and national compliance auditors; and open communication about newly received credible allegations of abuse, including through the list of credibly accused priests posted on the archdiocesan website and through various other archdiocesan communications channels, the media and church institutions.

“For some, the attorney general’s motion may help provide answers they have spent years awaiting. For others, it may reopen wounds or feel as an inadequate or incomplete account of justice. To all, however, I pray it brings some measure of healing of the deep wounds caused by the scourge of child sexual abuse in the life of the church.”