Baltimore Sun [Baltimore MD]
November 22, 2022
By Lee O. Sanderlin
In the 1980s, Father Brian Cox told an official with Catholic church he had a problem – he was attracted to teenage boys.
The official, according to court papers, brushed him off, telling the Westminster priest not to “worry about it.” Cox, in a taped conversation with one of his victims, said a bishop once told him he was a priest, and priests don’t need help.
It later would be revealed, through court records and newspaper reporting, that Cox had molested children at St. John Catholic School — an extension of the St. John Westminster parish where Cox was a pastor — from 1978 to 1989. He stayed on as an assistant at St. John, but his post formally ended in 1995 when an unnamed “third party” came forward to church officials and accused Cox of sexual abuse.
Cox is one of more than 150 Catholic clergy who were assigned to the Archdiocese of Baltimore and who sexually abused children over the decades, according to a report prepared by Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh’s office.
The attorney general’s report is not yet public — it relies largely on grand jury materials, which are secret under Maryland law — but a motion Frosh’s office filed in Baltimore Circuit Court seeks to make it so. The motion cited Cox’s history, without naming him, as one of four examples of past clergy abuse as evidence for why a report into sexual abuse and torture over eight decades inside the local Catholic church should be made public.
“While these reports do not rely on information obtained via the grand jury subpoena, they provide examples of the kind of information that the subpoena has uncovered and illustrate why publishing the information in the report is vital to the public interest,” Assistant Attorney General Carrie Williams wrote in themotion filed Thursday.
Church officials, in a statement issued Tuesday, announced the archdiocese would not oppose Frosh’s efforts to release the report detailing the abuse of more than 600 people — most of whom were children — at the hands of 158 priests and officials.
Relying on more than 100,000 records obtained with grand jury subpoenas, the report reveals 43 priests accused of abuse who have not been named publicly, according to Frosh’s motion to make it public. The report also shows how the church failed to act on most of the abuse claims, and in some cases, actively helped cover them up.
“We are different — different than we were in the past — yet we must be transparent in acknowledging our past,” wrote Christian Kendzierski, the archdiocese’s spokesperson, in a statement. “To that end, the Archdiocese of Baltimore will not oppose the public release of the Attorney General’s report.”
The Baltimore Sun, through public records and past reporting, was able to identify Cox and one other priest, the late Laurence Brett, as two of the clergy referenced in Frosh’s motion seeking to unseal the hidden report. The Sun compared details from past reporting and court records to details included in the attorney general’s motion to confirm Cox and Brett’s identities.
A spokesperson for Frosh declined to comment for this article.
Cox did not return multiple phone calls requesting an interview for this story. Both men are publicly listed as credibly accused priests on the archdiocese’s website.
Cox had assignments at St. Pius V in West Baltimore from 1968 to 1973, and was a chaplain at Archbishop Keough High School in Southwest Baltimore from 1973 to 1978, according to information from the archdiocese’s website.
Until at least 1988, Cox molested boys at the Westminster parish, according to information from the diocese and the attorney general’s motion. One of them Cox often took swimming at a nearby pool, and then fondled in the showers afterward, according to court records.
Cox abused one victim so badly, a 10-year-old altar boy, that he suffered facial paralysis, according to the attorney general’s motion. That victim came forward in 2017 and no charges have been filed.
Although his conduct was revealed, Cox avoided prosecution in 1995, with Carroll County prosecutors accusing the Archdiocese of Baltimore of withholding Cox’s whereabouts from the state. Despite forwarding the allegation to the local state’s attorney, the church, according to previous stories in The Baltimore Sun, had paid for Cox to receive in-patient psychiatric care at a St. Louis facility.
Investigators were unable to interview him, and no charges were filed.
“Father Cox was never questioned, because when investigators from the state’s attorney’s office attempted to reach him, he went on sabbatical and the church would not disclose his whereabouts,” said Marcie S. Wogan, the prosecutor assigned to the case, in 1995.
Seven years later, in 2002, Carroll County prosecutors indicted Cox on child sex abuse charges — this time for two victims — and Cox ultimately pleaded guilty to two counts of child abuse. Sentenced to 15 months imprisonment, Cox was ordered released by Carroll Circuit Judge Michael M. Galloway in October 2003 after serving nine months, according to a Baltimore Sun report chronicling the hearing.
“I often think of those young men and pray for them,” Cox said at his early release hearing. “I have some sense of the impact I had on them. … I know I have a compulsive addiction, but I would like to continue therapy. It’s essential to my recovery.”
Similar to Cox, archdiocese officials knew of Father Brett’s abuse in the 1970s but failed to address it in a substantial way and did not report his conduct to authorities.
Brett ended up as chaplain at Calvert Hall High School in Towson in 1969 after church officials in Connecticut sought to have him moved out of state after getting multiple reports of sexual abuse. Within four years of being assigned to Calvert Hall, four boys had come forward and accused him of sexually abusing them while at school, according to the attorney general’s motion.
A teacher relayed the accusations to Calvert Hall’s principal and Brett left the school in 1973. However, the archdiocese made no attempt to learn if there were additional victims and the church opted not to tell anyone about the abuse, according to the attorney general’s motion.
Brett was later reassigned to a convent, but as more victims came forward over the decades, he disappeared in the early 1990s. Brett resurfaced in the Caribbean, where he had been hiding out.
Authorities later learned, according to the attorney general’s filing, that people “connected” with the Baltimore archdiocese visited Brett while he was hiding abroad, and that a D.C.-based apostolic society financially supported him for years. Brett died on the Caribbean island of Martinique in 2010 at age 73, after years on the run from law enforcement. Church officials have said that at least 14 former Calvert Hall students had accused Brett of abuse.
The Bridgeport, Connecticut diocese, where Brett was first based, paid out more than $2.7 million in settlements to people who accused him of abuse, according to a report the church release in 2019. The Baltimore diocese paid out settlements to at least six people who accused Brett.
FOR THE RECORD
This article was updated to reflect the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s announcement that it would not oppose the Attorney General’s Office’s release of a report on past sexual abuse.