Baltimore Sun identifies 2 priests, one Catholic, one Episcopal, accused of abusing high school students

Baltimore Sun [Baltimore MD]

May 25, 2023

By Lee O. Sanderlin and Maya Lora

An Episcopal minister is on leave from his Western Maryland church after being listed as one of 10 people accused of abuse whose names are redacted in a Maryland attorney general’s report on child sexual abuse in the Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore.

The Rev. Thomas Hudson of St. George in Allegany County acknowledged to The Baltimore Sun that he is listed in the report, but declined to comment on the specific allegation against him.

Hudson is one of 15 living individuals whose names are blacked out in the public version of the report, either because they are accused of abuse and previously hadn’t been publicly identified, or because they are accused of helping to cover up abuse. The attorney general’s office learned about their alleged crimes as part of a four-year investigation of the Baltimore Catholic archdiocese. Much of the report relies on the Catholic Church’s records, obtained from a grand jury subpoena, which is why a judge ordered the attorney general to keep the names secret.

The Sun has confirmed 13 of the 15 redacted names, including five high-ranking clerics who the report says were key to the Catholic archdiocese’s efforts to cover things up. When The Sun revealed the names of those top officials earlier this month, one resigned from a hospital board and the archdiocese canceled the transfer of another to a prominent parish.

In addition to Hudson, a former Catholic seminarian, The Sun identified former Catholic priest Joseph F. O’Brien as abuser No. 154. Similar to how it identified Hudson, The Sun compared clergy assignments in archdiocese directories to dates in the report.

O’Brien is in his early 80s and lives in Newport News, Virginia. He denied the allegations Thursday when speaking with a reporter at his home, but did notcontest he was No. 154 in the report and agreed the dates of his Catholic Church service match those in the report.

“That doesn’t sound like me,” O’Brien said about the behavior the report described.

None of the 10 people accused of abuse whose names are redacted have been criminally charged. They are included in the report’s “List of Abusers,” which has 156 people on it.

Episcopal Bishop Eugene Sutton ordered Hudson, the priest-in-charge at St. George, to take a leave of absence because of “personal” and “family” issues Hudson is facing.

“My attorney has instructed me not to speak with you,” Hudson, 75, told a reporter Wednesday.

Hudson said he and his lawyer have a hearing scheduled in July in Baltimore Circuit Court about whether his name could be released by the attorney general. He added that his name and others that were redacted were not supposed to be public yet.

Sutton told The Sun that neither the Catholic Church nor the attorney general told him about Hudson. He added the Episcopal diocese learned most of the details from reading The Sun. Hudson met with Sutton in mid-May, but learned little about the situation, only that Hudson’s lawyer had advised him not to share much information.

“I expect that I’ll know more about all this in a couple of weeks than I do now,” said Sutton, adding that he expects to make a decision on Hudson’s future by sometime in July.

Hudson wrote a letter to parishioners that St. George church shared Monday on its Facebook page.

“I imagine you may want to know and say more, but I ask you to respect my need for privacy to address the things that are weighing on my heart and mind,” wrote Hudson, also asking people to pray for him and his wife.

The Catholic archdiocese, specifically Archbishop William Lori, has repeatedly said the abusers whose names were withheld are not in active ministry.

Catholic archdiocese spokesman Christian Kendzierski declined Wednesday to answer questions about Hudson. Kendzierski wrote in an email that Lori’s previous statements only applied to Catholic ministry.

A Baltimore judge is expected to hold a hearing eventually to determine whether the attorney general can publicly release the still-redacted names of abusers, as well as the names of the high-ranking clerics who the report said helped cover up abuse, silence victims and protect priests from criminal prosecution.

The archdiocese has its own public list of staff connected to abuse, which it defines as those who were priests or brothers in religious orders who were credibly accused. However, some of the other redacted names were those of priests and the archdiocese has not listed them publicly.

Attorney General Anthony Brown has said that while a judge has prohibited his office from releasing the 15 names without the court’s permission, the archdiocese can release them at any time. That’s because the archdiocese is not prohibited from publishing information from its files.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Church is paying legal costs for a group of people named in the report but who are not accused of abuse. Those people successfully fought to keep all proceedings around the report’s release secret. It’s not publicly known exactly who they are or how many are involved in the effort.

For survivors and their advocates, publication of the names provides a measure of transparency that Lori and previous Catholic archbishops have not.

David Lorenz, director of the Maryland chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said that with each identification, “kids become safer.”

“It is the responsibility of the [Catholic] diocese of Baltimore to inform people of the last known location of everyone in that report and not just acknowledge that, yes, they abused somebody, but it’s to give the entire work history when they were working for the diocese … and then, if they left the priesthood, they should give us the last known location of every one of these people,” he said.

The following is a list of 13 of the 15 known redacted names, as well as their corresponding identities in the report:

  • Official A — Msgr. J. Bruce Jarboe
  • Official B — Msgr. Richard “Rick” Woy
  • Official C — Bishop Francis Malooly
  • Official D — Msgr. George D. Moeller
  • Official E — Msgr. G. Michael Schleupner
  • No. 148 — Rev. Joseph G. Fiorentino
  • No. 150 — Rev. Thomas Hudson
  • No. 151 — Rev. John Peter Krzyzanski
  • No. 152 — Rev. Samuel Lupico
  • No. 153 — Brother Ronald N. Nicholls
  • No. 154 — Rev. Joseph F. O’Brien
  • No. 155 — Rev. Joseph O’Meara
  • No. 156 — Michael V. Scriber

Fiorentino, Krzyzanski, Lupico, Nicholls, O’Meara and Scriber were previously identified by The Baltimore Banner news website. The Sun independently confirmed that their names are those redacted in the public report.

Of those six previously named publicly, Krzyzanski and Lupico did not return calls seeking comment. The Sun was not able to locate Fiorentino, and the report says the Archdiocese of Baltimore does not know his whereabouts, either.

Scriber, in a phone interview Wednesday with The Sun, acknowledged he was in the report, but denied the allegations against him. People have come forward with allegations against Scriber, a former seminarian and Scout leader at St. Ann’s Catholic Church in East Baltimore, on numerous occasions. The report says Scriber abused young boys by grabbing their penises and spanking them, or by touching their genitals and orally raping them.

“I’m in the process of obtaining a lawyer and trying to work this out,” Scriber said.

An attorney for O’Meara, Michael P. May, said his client and friend is a “very, very decent guy.” O’Meara was removed in 2020 from St. Agnes/William of York Parish in Catonsville after three women claimed he inappropriately touched their breasts, as was previously reported in The Sun in 2020. May said that was “old news.”

The report also says O’Meara inappropriately touched a 7-year-old girl in 1984, sliding his hand up her leg to her genitals under the table at a dinner. The report mentions other, similar inappropriate contact with women during meals.

Asked if he could address the allegations, May said he could not.

“His intent wouldn’t have been abusive,” May said. “Who the heck really knows? But he’s a good guy.”

As to Hudson, O’Brien and Nicholls, their allegations all involve single, separate victims in the 1970s.

O’Brien’s only known alleged victim met him at her prayer group while in high school.

Although the victim reported him to Catholic Church officials twice across three decades, No. 154 in the report is not on the archdiocese’s credibly accused list. O’Brien voluntarily left the priesthood in 1978. He would later work as a counselor for Catholic Charities for the Eastern District of Virginia until his retirement in 2013. O’Brien said most of the people he worked with in Virginia after he moved there in 1979 didn’t know he had been a priest.

In the mid-1970s, when she was 15 or 16 years old, the woman reported O’Brien to her parish priest after a friend saw O’Brien put his hand under her skirt while in his car. According to the report, there is no record she was contacted further at that time. The woman reported O’Brien again in 2002.

O’Brien used his knowledge that the woman had suffered previous abuse as a way to connect with her, the report said. According to the report, the woman said she was abused by Monsignor Roger Wooden at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Baltimore and by an unnamed “layperson teacher.” Wooden died in 1976.

O’Brien offered to take the girl home after prayer group meetings for “several weeks,” and during that time, O’Brien told the girl he’d heard from a former student that the girl had been sexually abused by a teacher at her former school, according to the report.

The girl, according to the report, said O’Brien told her he would show her “how real love between a man and woman could be.” The report states that O’Brien kissed and fondled the girl in his car, activity that continued “for some time.”

O’Brien initially said Thursday he never drove with anyone to a prayer group, then said in a later interview that he remembered going to a prayer group only once with one young woman.

“But she didn’t wear dresses,” he said. “She was gay.”

O’Brien, who was stationed in Baltimore and Hagerstown, was granted a leave of absence at his request in 1976. When O’Brien wanted a transfer from Hagerstown in 1974, the priest there wrote to then-Bishop Francis Murphy and stated O’Brien had unspecified “problems,” according to the report.

He later asked to leave the priesthood, according to the report. O’Brien told a reporter Thursday that he “wanted to have a family and be married.” His request was granted in 1978.

“I found him to be quite immature, and he raised some serious questions about his capacity to live a celibate life,” wrote Murphy, now deceased, about the decision to defrock O’Brien, the report says.

Nicholls was similarly situated to prey on a vulnerable young person, as the report says he used his role as a “positive role model” to a young man to sexually abuse him when he was between the ages of 10 to 12, according to the attorney general’s report.

According to archdiocese directories, Nicholls was a member of The Society of Mary, a Catholic congregation. He started at the Marianist Community at Cardinal Gibbons High School for boys in 1975. In 1977, Nicholls transferred to the Marianist Community at Glen Burnie, where he remained until he left the congregation in 1980.

The boy met Nicholls through his father, a teacher. Nicholls bought the boy things his parents couldn’t afford and took him to ballgames and on overnight trips, according to the report. On one trip, they shared a bed and Nicholls fondled the boy’s genitals.

“The victim felt responsibility for what happened and the ‘guilt ate him alive for ten years.’ It affected his behavior as a teenager and young man,” the report reads.

The boy’s sister reported the abuse to the archdiocese in 2003 after Nicholls contacted her on social media in an attempt to reach her brother, according to the report. The boy’s sister said she felt Nicholls did so because “of the large volume of sexual assault allegations coming to light at the time and was worried about liability for his own abuse.” The archdiocese then reached out to her brother and he described the abuse.

The Office of the Baltimore State’s Attorney told the sister “they will not do anything because of the age of the victim,” the attorney general’s report says.

At the time, Nicholls was living in Philadelphia. The report said the Archdiocese of Baltimore notified the Archdiocese of Philadelphia of Nicholls’ alleged abuse because the “allegation appears to be credible.”

Nicholls did not return messages seeking comment and no one answered the door Thursday at his home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.

At the Lutheran Church of Our Savior in Rehoboth Beach, ESL Program Director Denise Jacono said Nicholls previously volunteered as an online teacher of adult students, but has been gone over a year. Jacono said Nicholls stopped volunteering when the program transitioned to in-person classes.

She said she didn’t know he was No. 153 in the report. She noted that since Nicholls was never criminally charged, he would have passed a background check to work with children, though he didn’t seek to do so at the Lutheran church.

“That’s a flaw in the system,” Jacono said.

Similar to Nicholls, Hudson worked in schools during the period covered by the attorney general’s report.

A public high school teacher in Frederick in the mid-70s, Hudson was active at St. John Catholic Church in Frederick during that time, according to the report and to contemporary newspaper articles. He met the 15-year-old and his brother when they volunteered to cut the grass at the church, according to the report.

In 1976, Hudson invited the 15-year-old to go camping in Sharpsburg, where, according to the report, Hudson gave alcohol to the high school sophomore. When the boy became intoxicated, Hudson pulled on the boy’s belt buckle and tried to take his pants off. “Let me help you,” Hudson told the boy, according to the report. The boy pushed Hudson off and left the tent.

Hudson later taught at Calvert Hall, a Catholic boys’ school in Towson frequently cited in the report as the location of sexually abusive staff, before leaving the profession. There is nothing in the report to suggest Hudson engaged in predatory behavior at Calvert Hall.

The Baltimore Catholic archdiocese learned about the allegation against Hudson in 2009 as part of its investigation into Father Thomas Bevan, who was pastor at St. John when Hudson took the 15-year-old boy camping, according to the report. Bevan pleaded guilty in Frederick County in 2010 to felony child abuse.

The attorney general’s report does not say whether the archdiocese ever informed the authorities about Hudson’s alleged abuse, nor if it informed leaders of the Episcopal diocese.

Kendzierski, the Catholic archdiocese spokesperson, said he could not answer questions about “anything related to the court-ordered redactions,” which included whether the church reported Hudson to law enforcement.

Hudson addressed his leave at Sunday’s service, drawing a comparison to when Jesus told his disciples at the Last Supper that he would have to leave them for a while, but would return.

“I will not be with you for a period of time that isn’t determined yet,” he said. “I do sincerely hope, and intend, that I will be back at some time.”

Sun reporter Jonathan M. Pitts contributed to this article from Baltimore. Daily Press reporter Peter Dujardin contributed from Newport News, Virginia.