Catholic Church abuse scandal: Baltimore Sun readers share reactions, experiences | READER COMMENTARY

Baltimore Sun [Baltimore MD]

May 12, 2023

Archdiocese of Baltimore still colluding with abuse perpetrators

Lee Sanderlin’s and Cassidy Jensen’s excellent article uncovered the identities of five Archdiocesan officials whose names were redacted in the most recent version of the Attorney General’s report on child sex abuse by church clergy. (“Bishop, other high-ranking Baltimore Catholic officials identified as those who helped cover up sexual abuse,” May 6).

The information in the article provided me with some important pieces to the puzzle of my past. Getting this larger perspective strengthens my suspicions that all these officials knew what was happening, and some played key parts in this cover-up. Three such officials are Most Revs. Richard “Rick” Woy, G. Michael Schleupner and Auxiliary Bishop W. Francis Malooly.

I was introduced to Woy in August of 1992, when, as a representative of the Archdiocese, he was assigned to investigate my allegations of sexual abuse by Joseph Maskell and Neal Magnus. That relationship, which I believed to be pastoral as well as investigative, ended in 1993, with Woy advising me to “get a lawyer” rather than his agreeing to take time to pray with me.

So I retained a law firm, and they set up a P.O. Box for other alumni of Archbishop Keough High School in Baltimore to anonymously disclose instances of abuse and other inappropriate actions by clergy. They were searching for the corroboration the Church said they could not find after supposedly months of investigation. But my lawyers found it quickly! One response to the post office address came from “Monsignor W. Francis Malooly.” He wanted to be advised of any information obtained so “appropriate action may be taken by the Archdiocese to protect individuals from potential harm.” After my experience with the archdiocese when I came forward with allegations about Maskell, I did not want any more to do with them.

Schleupner knew me from my days as a member of Emmanuel, a Catholic prayer group, in the 1980s. Schleupner was one of two priests who were a part of the group. I was very aware when I came forward to the Church in the early 1990s, that the priests who knew me and my practicing Catholic family were not reaching out on our behalf. In fact, my parents’ parish priest at the time, Father Paschal Morlino from Saint Benedict’s Church, was told to “stay out of it.” And he did. Were other priests told the same?

I believe now that when I came forward in 1992, Church officials knew that what I was saying about Joseph Maskell was true. From the beginning, it appears they purposefully placed the full burden of proof on my and my husband’s shoulders. They chose to protect the perpetrators over caring for me, the victim/survivor. Their actions added years to my healing process.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore is still colluding with the perpetrators by hiding the truth and blacking out their names — which is the equivalent of sneakily moving pedophile priests from parish to parish. If this corrupt organization is not held accountable in a court of law, those who have followed in these church officials’ footsteps will continue to get away with the practice of lies, deception, and secrecy.

I hold the Archdiocese of Baltimore responsible for the pain and suffering their actions caused me and my family.

— Jean Hargadon Wehner, Elkridge

The writer was among those abused as a student at Baltimore’s now shuttered Archbishop Keough High School in the late 1960s and early ‘70s. Her story was featured in the Netflix documentary “The Keepers.” Her memoir of surviving the abuse, “Walking with Aletheia,” was published in March.

Are you listening, Catholics?

Dan Rodricks’ commentary is a perfect summation of all the many issues that Catholic leaders had better pay attention to, if they care anything about the mere survival of the Church (“The clergy abuse scandal is huge, but one of many issues for us fallen-off Catholics,” May 9).

— Steve Klose, Ellicott City

Trust in God and the many good people in the Catholic Church

It is truly sad that Mr. Rodricks has been exposed to so many bad priests and bishops (“The clergy abuse scandal is huge, but one of many issues for us fallen-off Catholics,” May 9). I certainly can see how it would negatively affect his view of the Catholic Church.

Thankfully, I have never been exposed to a truly bad priest. I trust that very many others have the same experience as me. I suppose this is beside the point, except to recommend that we don’t falsely judge the large number of truly great servants of God and our fellow man.

For those who read the Scriptures, it comes as no surprise that there are corrupt Bishops and priests. In Matthew, chapter 7, verse 15, Jesus warns His followers to “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” It is very challenging to understand why God allows this to happen. Jesus tells us elsewhere that the wheat and the chaff will separated at the final judgment. In the meantime Jesus is patiently waiting for even the worst sinners to turn to Him. He never gives up on anyone. They only give up on Him. I urge Mr. Rodricks and others scarred by their experiences with bad clergy to try to overcome the failings of humans and trust in God and His Church.

— Eric Pierce, Reisterstown

Recommended reading to make sense of the abuse scandal

Judith Herman’s new book, “Truth and Repair: How Trauma Survivors Envision Justice,” contains timely insights regarding the current crisis in the Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore (“Catholic Church cover-up continues; Baltimore Archdiocese still protecting those accused of wrongdoing,” May 12). She states that the combination of patriarchy and impunity leads to conditions in which abuse thrives. In my opinion, Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori and others carry out a version of the original abuse when they continue to protect the priests who protected the perpetrators. How can healing ever take place when these forms of institutional evil and injustice continue?

— Judith S. Ulrich, Glen Arm

I am an abuse survivor, and I support the Church

For many victims/survivors, the release of the Attorney General’s Report on Sexual Abuse of Children in the Archdiocese of Baltimore and the names of the abusing priests seems to have been a validation and affirmation of the abuse they had endured (”‘It’s an old-boy network’: Survivors feel disgust, vindication after Sun names church officials in abuse cover-ups,” May 8). For some, speaking to the Attorney General’s Office was the first time they felt heard and believed. For others, their deep, dark secrets were finally brought to light, and they found that they weren’t alone in the shame of this abuse. Survivor advocacy groups have been around for a long time, supporting survivors from all over the country. For some, this betrayal of trust from those who should have been some of the most trustworthy people has left them unable to trust anyone, including God. Many have not only left organized religion but have turned away from any belief in God.

I’m a survivor. I cooperated with the Attorney General’s Office, and the names of my abusers are in the report. I am also an active Catholic. I haven’t left the Church because my faith isn’t in any human person or stone building. I have found the fullest expression of my faith in Jesus Christ to be within the sacraments of the Catholic Church. I’ve been asked, “But aren’t you angry?” My answer is simple, “My anger is deeper than any words can express.” “Don’t you feel you’ve been betrayed?” “Oh yes! I have been betrayed by some priests of the Catholic Church and some of those priests whom I considered personal friends.”

I respect every survivor and how they choose to respond to their abuse and the report. However, when statements like: “Baltimore Catholic sex abuse survivors are calling for …” are published in various printed media or reported in various TV news stories, I feel that it is not representative of every survivor as it does not represent me (”Survivor advocates call on Catholics to push for the ouster of Archbishop Lori, newly named enablers,” May 8). Advertisements from a myriad of law firms and lawyers who ache to share the claimant’s monetary awards, billboards, to radio commercials are offensive to me and cause me additional trauma just to have it brought up over and over. It seems as if there is no safe place where this horror isn’t present.

In a climate of wanting to be heard and believed and to be represented, I, too, want that and haven’t felt represented at all.

— Patricia Ruppert, Parkville

Catholics have a duty to oust those who cover-up abuse

In the May 8 article “Survivor advocates call on Catholics to push for the ouster of Archbishop Lori, newly named enablers,” Frank Schindler, himself a survivor, so succinctly describes the situation we now face. As members of the Catholic faith in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, we wrestle with the continuing saga of clergy abuse and the ongoing cover-up of this travesty: “There are perpetrators, the ones who actually violated … but the other part is the cover-up. That’s the part we have to address.”

I would submit that our duty as Catholics is to insist that the very person who persists in shielding abusers and perpetuates the cover-up must resign. If Archbishop Lori’s loyalties rest with the abusers and the enablers, then there is no place for him in our holy, Catholic and apostolic Church.

His lack of leadership will continue to drive Catholics to other faiths; his lack of integrity will continue to harm those who have already suffered unspeakable abuse and lack of support.

— Linda Schwartz, Baltimore

The writer is a 1971 graduate of Archbishop Keough High School.

Clergy who cover-up abuse violate their mission under Christ

At this point in the Catholic Liturgical Calendar, the readings at Mass describe Christ sending His Apostles out to spread his teachings, preach his Gospel, minister to poor people and encourage his followers.

The very bad behavior alleged of Catholic Clergy that we are now learning of indicates that these individuals have violated Christ’s mission for them, and they should be immediately separated from the Catholic Church (”Catholic leaders named in cover-ups remain active in parish ministries, boards in Baltimore archdiocese,” May 11). The still-living members of the Church who committed the abuse should be defrocked, excommunicated and tried for the applicable crimes against children.

The supervisory clergy who chose to reassign and shuffle these abusers to repeated parishes should be suspended from clerical duties and all responsibilities in the Church, until they can be retrained in basic U.S. law, with a special emphasis on the separation of Church and state in the U.S., and the reality that U.S. civil and constitutional law supersedes canon law in all but religious matters.

— Sarah A. Riley, Timonium

The trauma of abuse is never over for survivors, their families

I have heard time and time again the urging of the Catholic Church to move on from the issue of clergy sexual abuse. I have listened to the incessant repetition of the “things are different now” mantra as if it were possible to drill this thought into the heads of Catholics as an addendum to the Baltimore catechism (”2022 Marylanders of the Year: Survivors of sexual abuse and their advocates seeking accountability from Catholic Church,” Dec. 22).

What the Church leaders don’t grasp is that this will never be over. Victims have committed suicide or abused substances under the weight of unbearable mental anguish. Many struggle on a daily basis simply to function; they have been robbed of the ability to become who they were born to be. Think of the productive citizens who will never exist fully, the joyful marriages that many victims will never experience and the children who will never be born. Society, and more importantly, families have been altered for generations, forever really. As William Faulkner noted, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

— Kathleen Vanston, Fulton

The Catholic Church is at a crossroads

I read in The Sun today that Monsignor Richard Woy, a long time board member at St. Joseph Medical Center, has resigned (”Catholic Church leader resigns from Towson hospital board after Sun reveals role in abuse cover-ups,” May 8). So, suddenly, the diabolical hot potato has morphed into a flaming spud. The Catholic Church needs to transparently address the issue of child sexual abuse in the Baltimore community, all the way to the uber-secretive Vatican. Stop the covert lying to the people whose lives have been permanently altered by abusive clergy. It’s high time the Catholic Church adopt immediate transparency, a concept that the Church has deftly avoided for many decades. The Catholic Church is at a crossroads in which decisions will make or break it. The world awaits.

— Patrick R. Lynch, Towson

Did The Sun have a role in the Catholic Church cover-up?

I would like to commend The Baltimore Sun for its dogged digging into the story of child abuse carried out for decades by Priests, enabled by the hierarchy in the local Catholic Church, and the still ongoing cover-up (”Catholic Church abuse in Maryland: Coverage from The Baltimore Sun,” ongoing). These victims have suffered for many years, and the fact that a judge ordered the redaction of important parts of the Attorney General’s Report is further punishing the victims instead of the perpetrators. It just boggles the mind how the abuse go on and on.

The Sun’s being able to deduce whom Officials A, B, C, D and E are has shown that the Attorney General’s report should be released to the public totally unredacted, immediately. It is downright disgusting that people who are still around were being given yet another chance to go undiscovered and to escape punishment.

These people need to be tried in our courts for breaking the law, and if found guilty, punished. But the legal system continues to fail these poor sufferers. Only by coming clean with the full report, with no pieces omitted, can justice, long overdue, be meted out.

One thing I am still curious about. Who was the “highly placed newspaper man” mentioned in the report who agreed to suppress a story on abuse by priests many years ago? A relative of mine worked at The Sunpapers at the time, and has an idea who it might have been. Hopefully your reporters will also be able to uncover this, too, in the interest of full disclosure.

— D. Keith Henderson, Parkville

Let God handle the scandal

I think that David Lorenz and the other members of the SNAP organization should atone for their own sins and let God handle the rest (“Survivor advocates call on Catholics to push for the ouster of Archbishop Lori, newly named enablers,” May 8).

— Carol M Finke, Ellicott City

Names of the guilty should be public

It sickens me these Church leaders were protected by their very own (“‘It’s an old-boy network’: Survivors feel disgust, vindication after Sun names church officials in abuse cover-ups,” May 8). Who was there to protect their innocent victims? These predators should be called out once and for all. Their names plastered throughout the media and the towns they live in for all to see and finally know. Perhaps this would help the victims begin the long healing process.

— C. Billian, Baltimore

Sun journalists deserve a Pulitzer Prize for abuse coverage

Kudos to The Baltimore Sun journalists who have written about the Catholic Church and charges of sexual abuse. A major mission of the press is to serve as the conscience of the nation, and if it weren’t for the press, who would have exposed the widespread spate of sexual abuse within the Church? All of these journalists should be nominated for a Pulitzer.

The Church has been surprisingly complicit in these crimes. The systemic cover-up entails transferring accused priests from parish to parish or sending them to sanctuaries to undergo, in what seems to be a pseudo-medical term, “psycho-theological evaluation.” Other euphemisms adopted by the Church include “familiarity,” “boundary issues” and “inappropriate contact.” (“Occasionally words must serve to veil the facts.” — Niccolo Machiavelli.)

In 2002, when the Boston Globe provided evidence that Archbishop of Boston Bernard Law was transferring pedophile priests from parish to parish, he was whisked off to Rome, where Pope John Paul II appointed him archpriest of a major church Basilica. Upon his death in 2017 was eulogized by Pope Francis.

So it goes.

— Otts Laupus, Elkridge

When can we expect indictments?

How is this not a criminal conspiracy involving child trafficking across state lines? (“Bishop, other high-ranking Baltimore Catholic officials identified as those who helped cover up sexual abuse,” May 6) When will the indictments come out?

This outstanding article by Sun reporters makes one nauseous, disgusted, and angered. Why is law enforcement asleep at the switch for decades?

— Lawrence Silberman, Burtonsville

Thank you to The Sun for naming names

I don’t know how many Pulitzer Prizes In reporting have been awarded over the years for coverage of the Catholic Church’s unforgivable sexual abuse of children. The Sunpapers absolutely deserve Pulitzer recognition for its stalwart reporting on the alleged criminal acts and mortal sins committed by the most senior leadership of the Diocese of Baltimore over the decades in enabling and covering up heinous acts against the most innocent and trusting Catholics — the children. (“Bishop, other high-ranking Baltimore Catholic officials identified as those who helped cover up sexual abuse,” May 6)

Thank you for naming names, even if the criminal justice bureaucracy, which bears no small culpability in these systemic outrages, still redacts and gives cover to the hell-bound priests, bishops and cardinals and others who cynically and perversely preyed upon these kids and/or actively abetted their abuse. Call them all out.

Keep up the exceptional work. Unfortunately, this story is a worldwide scandal, covering decades, and the Pulitzer judges may be exhausted from wallowing in these horrid stories and want to just move on. That is certainly the basic strategy of the Catholic Church: to hope that public exhaustion will eventually put this terrible matter to rest. Don’t let them off the hook. If you are denied the high recognition you deserve, that will be a great injustice. You will still have the gratitude and admiration of your readership.

— Jon Ketzner, Cumberland

The Catholic Church must let in the light

I nodded in complete agreement with everything Dan Rodricks wrote in his commentary today on fallen-off Catholics and the clergy abuse scandal “The clergy abuse scandal is huge, but one of many issues for us fallen-off Catholics,” May 9).

Almost 40 years ago when I was in my mid-20s, I converted to Roman Catholicism because I was looking for something deeper in religion than the Protestantism in which I grew up. Only after I was confirmed did I begin to see the arrogant paternalism in some of the clergy I met and the cynicism about the clergy among many laity I encountered.

I didn’t like the clergy arrogance, and I didn’t understand the cynicism until I began to date a man on leave from seminary who was testing his vocation. I sat with him on several occasions at mass in a prominent Catholic Church downtown. He repeatedly told me about the clergy we saw serving who were gay and in relationships. He also introduced me to some of his friends who were still in seminary — all talking about celibacy as though it were a suggestion rather than as a requirement of being a Catholic priest.

I was naively appalled with what I heard and saw. I perceived the source of cynicism I saw in some laity: It came from Catholic clergy who themselves were cynical.

We didn’t date long. He went back to seminary and was eventually ordained. I fled the Catholic Church after only three years and later joined another denomination that also has a deep spiritual tradition, which affirms LGBTQ people, and which ordains women.

I’ve watched, as an outsider with inside perspectives, the Catholic Church’s unfolding sexual abuse scandal these many years. I got a glimpse of Catholic clergy culture, and therefore the extent of the cover-up and complicity by high ranking Catholic clergy doesn’t surprise me.

I’ve had the privilege in subsequent years of meeting a few Catholic priests who are honorable and decent men, but I also continue to witness the deep hypocrisy and cynicism among many Catholic clergy.

It’s said that repression breeds pestilence. Repression of truth, love, decency and honor has led to a pestilence within the Catholic Church. To paraphrase Pope John XXIII, it’s time the Catholic Church again opened its windows to let in cleansing, purifying light.

— Ed Schneider, Baltimore

It feels so good to hear the truth from my church, Cathedral of Mary Our Queen

This has been a difficult time for Catholics in Baltimore. The Attorney General report was detailed and deeply troubling. The messaging from the archbishop and other Baltimore archdiocesan officials was very troubling and disturbing and totally unacceptable.

I was surprised when I attended Saturday afternoon Mass at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen on April 29. The pastor, Father Louis Bianco, addressed the issue with no programmed defense. Father Bianco presented the facts acknowledging the damage done by members of Church officialdom. It was such a relief — no excuses and no blaming the victims. I started attending Mass at the Cathedral as I was so disgusted by the take the pastor of my local parish took on this issue. It was pure spin. I think that Father Bianco is a great priest. He’s brave enough to hear my confession, and he always makes excellent points in reply.

The young Assistant Pastor Father Justin Gough always gives a thought provoking homilies as does Deacon Fritz Bauerschmidt. The Director of Music Julie Males provides an exciting musical program with very talented cantors. The young organist Cameron Kuzepski is a remarkable talent. Father Bianco has assembled a great team. My only criticism has to do with incense — too much of it.

I have the greatest respect for Father Bianco as I see him as a true hard working pastor. He as truly found his niche. It feels so good to hear the truth from my Church. I wish the best to Father Bianco and his staff including those behind the scenes.

— Edward McCarey McDonnell, Baltimore