Crux [Denver CO]
May 16, 2023
By John Lavenburg
Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore has spoken out against headlines related to a recent Maryland Attorney General report on clergy sex abuse, saying many of the news stories don’t “provide a full or completely accurate picture” of the “30-year history of the Archdiocese’s accountability and enforcement efforts.”
The 454-page report, published April 5, details more than 600 instances of child sex abuse by 156 abusers from the archdiocese. According to the report, the majority of the abuse took place between the 1940s and 2002 – the year the U.S. Bishops implemented the Dallas Charter, establishing a set of procedures dioceses must follow to address allegations of sexual abuse.
Secular and Catholic media outlets alike, including Crux, reported the details of the report when it was published by the Maryland Attorney General’s Office. However, in recent weeks, several Baltimore media outlets revealed the supposed identities of several priests and church officials whose names were redacted from the report to protect confidential grand jury materials, and reiterated claims that those individuals were allegedly involved in the archdiocese’s cover-up of abuse.
Baltimore media outlets went on to further reiterate claims that the individuals are still working for parishes in Maryland, which appears to be the claim against which Lori pushed back.
The Archdiocese of Baltimore declined a Crux request for further comment.
“I want to state unequivocally: No one who has been credibly accused of child abuse is in ministry today or employed by the Archdiocese,” Lori said in a May 12 statement.
“Some members of clergy whose names have been tied more recently to media coverage focusing on a ‘cover up’ are, in fact, some of the very people who helped force a culture change that rooted out evil and shut out attempts to conceal the failures or hide abusers,” the archbishop continued. “How is it cover up if you report everything to law enforcement?”
More specifically, Lori went on to say that that generation of archdiocesan leadership helped the archdiocese’s Office of Child and Youth Protection and Independent Review Board, and were often the ones who made reports on alleged abuse. He added these individuals took the pioneering steps to publish the archdiocese’s list of credibly accused and implement policies for screening and training of “tens of thousands of employees, volunteers, members of clergy and children.”
With that said, Lori also acknowledged that policies then weren’t as strong as the policies of today, whilst still defending the efforts and intentions of the aforementioned archdiocesan leaders.
“Indeed, we have learned a lot along the way, and as a result our response today is different. But to say that certain priests of this generation of leadership willingly or knowingly perpetuated the sexual abuse of children is simply not the case,” Lori said. “They followed what were understood as the best practices of those decades and worked in good faith to improve the Church’s response.”
In the report, Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown applauded efforts by the Archdiocese of Baltimore to implement protective measures and respond to allegations over the last two decades, but also noted that the archdiocese should expand its credibly accused list to include those who committed an act of child abuse under the auspice of the archdiocese opposed to just priests, as well as assess the structure of its Independent Review Board – which advises the archdiocese on its policies and procedures – to allow it more of an investigative capacity.
Brown launched the investigation into the archdiocese in 2018 to examine child sex abuse in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, and the serial cover-up of that abuse by archdiocesan leadership. The report contains every current or former Catholic clergy member, seminarian, deacon, member of a Catholic religious order, or other employee of the archdiocese who has been the subject of credible allegations of child sex abuse in Maryland made known to his office.
In his May 12 statement, Lori highlighted that all clergy and staff currently employed by the archdiocese follow strict compliance with child protection policies, which includes reporting all allegations to law enforcement, and completing mandatory training and screenings.
“To be clear, over the past decades we have endeavored to learn from our mistakes and improve on all of our efforts aimed at preventing the abuse of even one more child,” Lori said. “I believe now in the suitability of today’s pastors for ministry and their capable leadership and pastoral care, as well as their commitment to enforcing the child protection policies that some of them even helped to create.”