Catholic Church cover-up continues; Baltimore Archdiocese still protecting those accused of wrongdoing | COMMENTARY

Baltimore Sun [Baltimore MD]

May 12, 2023

By Baltimore Sun Editorial Board

The Baltimore Archdiocese insists it’s a changed institution. The rampant sexual abuse of children and accompanying cover-up within the Catholic Church dating back to the 1940s — revealed this spring in a lengthy attorney general’s report that redacted some of the names of the guilty — could not happen today, officials claim. “For decades, the Archdiocese has been firmly committed to holding suspected abusers accountable,” an online response to the A.G. report promises.

Yet three of five clergy members accused of previously helping to conceal the abuse of others, and whose names were unmasked this month by The Sun, remain active in parish ministries or Catholic governing boards today. What kind of accountability is that? If they helped cover up abuse, as the report claims, then their consequence is being made head pastor? That’s the position held by Monsignor J. Bruce Jarboe (at St. Ann in Hagerstown) and Monsignor Richard “Rick” Woy (at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Crofton), both of whom also serve on boards. And Monsignor G. Michael Schleupner regularly leads services at Our Lady of Grace in Parkton.

What accountability did the church demand from these three men — respectively identified as Officials A, B and E in the report — over the years? Decades worth? We doubt it. Jarboe, Woy and Schleupner, along with Auxiliary Bishop W. Francis Malooly (Official C), who retired in 2021, and Most Rev. George B. Moeller (Official D), who retired in 2012, collectively appear in the report 257 times as helping abusive priests get away with their crimes. While they are not accused of committing any form of abuse themselves, these church leaders are accused of aiding and abetting the abusers, by hiding the extent of the crimes.

In a message to parishioners Friday, Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori said some of these men “followed what were understood as the best practices of those decades” and eventually “helped force a culture change” within the Church, “that rooted out evil and shut out attempts to conceal the failures or hide abusers.” But do good deeds today undo the bad deeds of the past? The survivors likely think not.

Furthermore, the archdiocese, along with a group of “interested parties” implicated in the report whose legal bills are being paid for by the archdiocese, have asked a Baltimore judge for the right to be heard before the court releases any new names to the public. Why? To try to stop it, according to Brian Frosh, who was attorney general when the abuse investigation began. It was the Attorney General’s Office that sought court permission to release the report, which was required because it included confidential grand jury testimony.

The archdiocese has long known every name in that document, which is largely based on their own records. Yet they’re working hard to make sure the rest of us don’t find out, while continuing to support those accused of wrongdoing. That sounds like the same old playbook the archdiocese has been using for years. The Church is following decades of its own precedent and again choosing to protect alleged bad actors over the individuals and their families the institution so deeply betrayed. The cover-up clearly continues.

The archdiocese makes much of the fact that its officials didn’t directly redact any names in the AG report, pointing out in that online response that “the Attorney General prepared the list of names to be redacted, and the court ordered it.” That’s technically true, but what does it matter? The redactions were the result the church wanted, and you can bet it will fight to keep the redactions in further hearings.

Otherwise, it would have released the names on its own by now, which the archdiocese is “uniquely positioned to legally” do, as Anthony Brown, the state’s current attorney general, noted last month. If transparency and reformation are truly the goals, the archdiocese could start by unveiling the names of the 10 individuals who are accused of committing actual abuse and are still living. They’re no longer in the ministry, according to the archdiocese, but that doesn’t mean they’re not still a threat.

The back-and-forth about redactions is a red herring argument, and a weak one at that, obscuring the fact that the Church has not taken responsibility for its sins, nor fully committed to holding the guilty accountable. People credibly accused of having protected abusers of children should not be rewarded with positions of power within the Church. People credibly accused of abusing children should not be shielded by the Church.

Until the Church revises its policies on those two points, its claims of change are hollow.

Baltimore Sun editorial writers offer opinions and analysis on news and issues relevant to readers. They operate separately from the newsroom.