June 27, 2023
By Michelle Boorstein
[See the complaint. Photo above: Flannery Gallagher looks at a childhood photo of her father, the late Francis X. Gallagher, Jr., at a press conference announcing a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Baltimore and St. Mary’s Seminary, on June 27, 2023, in Baltimore, Md. (Michelle Boorstein / The Washington Post)]
The late patriarch of the family founded the law firm that still represents the Baltimore archdiocese in abuse matters. His son told officials there that he was abused at St Mary’s Seminary when he was a teenager.
For more than 60 years, the name Francis X. Gallagher has been linked prominently in Baltimore with the Catholic Church. The late Gallagher Sr. in 1961 founded an influential law firm that represented the Baltimore Archdiocese and does to this day; his name adorns Catholic institutions in the city, his face smiles from black and white photos with a pope on one side, a cardinal on the other.
But behind closed doors, his grandchildren now say, Catholic institutions destroyed the Gallagher family through clergy sexual abuse, neglect, cover-up and shame.
In a wrongful death lawsuit filed Tuesday in Baltimore Circuit Court, Gallagher Sr.’s adult grandchildren allege their father, Francis X. Gallagher Jr., a successful city lawyer, banker and philanthropist, was sexually abused as a 14-year-old in 1974 while he worked the night shift as a receptionist at St. Mary’s Seminary after his father died suddenly. The suit alleges that the abuse, along with the cool responses in the 2000s of the archdiocese and its lawyers at Gallagher, Evelius & Jones, emotionally wrecked Gallagher Jr., who began using drugs and overdosed last August at the age of 62.
His daughter, D.C. attorney Flannery Gallagher, at a morning news conference described how her father remained a devout, generous Catholic to the end of his life, even as the archdiocese and the firm that bore his father’s name allegedly failed him and other victims over the decades.
“He was a favored son of the city of Baltimore. He loved it. But beneath the public affect were untold levels of personal anguish and pain. Our father’s trials were overwhelming and overwhelmingly unfair and undeserved. His shame belongs to the defendants so today we hand it back to them,” she said from a podium surrounded by posterboard photos of her father as a child, with her at her college graduation, as well as images of her esteemed grandfather, who died at the age of 43.
“Given our close relationship to the leadership of the Catholic Church it would seem we’d be spared but we weren’t,” she said. “We love our Dad and we miss him. There are countless people in our community and across the country who suffer because of the horrific scourge in the church. We honor and stand with them.”
In a statement, the archdiocese Tuesday wrote that it is “just learning of the pending litigation and cannot offer a response at this time. The Archdiocese offers its deepest sympathies and prayers for the family.”
Gallagher, Evelius and Jones did not immediately return a request for comment.
The suit levels three charges of wrongful death against St. Mary’s Seminary and University, the St. Sulpice Foundation (the religious order that runs the school) and the Archdiocese.
Attorneys for Flannery and Liam Gallagher say they have not yet set a dollar amount in the suit. They also said they are still considering whether to add the Gallagher law firm to the suit.
Flannery Gallagher said while she and her brother learned about their father’s abuse in the 2000s, it wasn’t until he died last year and they went through his documents that they saw his exchanges with the archdiocese. In them, their father told them of his abuse and asked them to let others know of the abuser who by then was alive but no longer working as a priest, she said.
His abuser, the Rev. Mark Haight, is listed on the Archdiocese’s compilation of clergy credibly accused of abuse.
“In 2002, an individual alleged sexual abuse by Father Mark Haight in the mid-1970s. At the time of the alleged events, Haight was a seminarian for the Diocese of Albany at St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore. Haight was ordained by the Diocese of Albany in 1976. The Archdiocese of Baltimore informed the Diocese of Albany of the allegation and learned that Haight was removed from ministry in 1996 and that the Diocese of Albany had settled two cases involving allegations of child sexual abuse against Haight,” the list says.
At the press conference, Flannery said her father in 2002 “came to the archdiocese and engaged in extensive correspondence with leadership. He sought many things from them — compassion, acknowledgement, their reporting to civil authorities and their dissemation about his allegations to other parishes” who had employed Haight. He said “please reach out to those communities in case others were harmed as I was, and the archdiocese refused.”
In one letter the siblings found, Gallagher Jr. writes that “’my betrayal was in 1974 and in 2002,’ compounding the devastation he already felt,” she said.
The archdiocese added Haight’s name to its public list of clergy credibly accused of abuse in 2002.
Through the documents exchanged between their father and the archdiocese, she said, the Gallagher law firm that bore their family name was cc-ed all along.
The law firm is mentioned by name at least nine times in the Maryland Attorney General report on Catholic clergy sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, which came out in April. The Daily Record reported that Gallagher Evelius managing partner Thomas C. Dame told employees in an email that the firm had “helped deliver transparency and cooperation on behalf of our client during the attorney general’s four-year investigation.”
He said that the firm also helped the archdiocese’s develop, “one of the most thorough and accountable child protection programs in America.”
The Gallagher family’s lawsuit alleges the church harmed the family early on. When their famous grandfather died in 1972 of a heart attack in his 40s, he was representing priests of the archdiocese accused of anti-war activities in a high-profile trial. It alleges the firm “while making millions from Frank Sr.’s relationships and reputation,” gave virtually no financial support to his widow and five young children, who struggled to make ends meet.
It was that financial situation that led Frank Jr., then 14, to take a night receptionist job at St. Mary’s Seminary.
This story will be updated.