With names revealed, questions linger about redactions in Maryland AG Catholic Church abuse report

Baltimore Sun [Baltimore MD]

June 16, 2023

By Lee O. Sanderlin

A public version of the Maryland attorney general’s report on child sexual abuse within the Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore redacts the names of 10 alleged abusers and gives the reasons why in the footnotes: These people are presumed to be alive and previously haven’t been listed as publicly accused.

The Catholic Church, under pressure from survivors and advocates to be more transparent since the report’s release, has said in numerous statements and on its news site that none of the 10 are in active ministry.

Both the church and the attorney general’s office cite a judge’s confidentiality order as to why they cannot release those names, as well as the names of five high-ranking church officials who helped cover up abuse. Other names are redacted in the report — a Baltimore judge ordered the redaction of 37 identities in March — but the 15 people are the ones whose individual actions were singled out in the interim version of the report that the attorney general released April 5.

Future proceedings in Baltimore Circuit Court, all to be held out of public view, are scheduled for early July and likely will determine whether a less-redacted version of the report could be made public.

But with the revelation of the 15 names in a little over two months since the report’s release — The Baltimore Sun first reported eight of the names and confirmed the other seven — comes information that contrasts with the attorney general’s footnote and the archdiocese’s claims.

Some of those newly identified are dead and others remained active in Christian churches (none of them in the Catholic tradition), either as priests or as worship leaders. For example, the Rev. Thomas Hudson became an Episcopal priest in the decades after attending Catholic seminary. When the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland learned of Hudson’s alleged actions last month, he put the priest on an indefinite leave of absence.

At least one already had been accused publicly. The archdiocese announced in 2022 that one of the redacted names, the Rev. Samuel Lupico (abuser No. 152 in the report), was suspended pending the outcome of an investigation into the sexual abuse of a child. The Sun covered the announcement at the time, including the church saying he had denied the allegations.

It begs the question: Why redact names that didn’t meet the court’s criteria for redaction?

“That is a question I would certainly like to ask the attorney general,” said Dave Lorenz,leader of the Maryland chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “The criteria for the redactions do not seem to fit all the redactions.”

Survivors and their supporters have said that the greatest transparency possible under the law is needed to counter the secrecy that engendered abuse cases for decades in the Catholic Church.

Considering the circumstances of how the interim report was released, it should not be surprising that some names may have been redacted unnecessarily, said Kathleen Hoke, a professor at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law.

“There was a compromise that was going to get that report out, and the final area where the court forced compromise related to the nondisclosure of certain names,” Hoke said.

While the attorney general’s office may have erred in proposing some redactions, she said, she does not think it did so to unfairly shield someone from scrutiny.

“Clearly, the court set it up so the attorney general would submit the reactions and that the archdiocese could fight to include others,” she said. The church “did not have any technical obligation to correct the record.”

The office of Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown declined to comment. Brown has said previously that the archdiocese could release all the names at any time, something Archbishop William Lori has rebutted. A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Baltimore declined to comment.

The judge’s order approving the publication of a redacted report stemmed from how investigators obtained the names — from a grand jury that subpoenaed the archdiocese.

“The court’s role in this process is not to make editorial decisions regarding what should or should not be in the report, or to vet the accuracy of the information in the report,” Judge Robert K. Taylor wrote in a memo announcing the redactions. “Rather, the court’s role is to ensure that no grand jury secrets are disclosed contrary to Maryland law.”

On Monday, The Baltimore Banner news site published an article identifying Catherine Hasson, a former nun from Philadelphia, as abuser No. 149 in the report, the last of the 15 to be identified. The Sun separately confirmed Hasson’s identity.

She later married, becoming Catherine Salmons, had a son and died suddenly in 1991, according to her obituary.

During her brief tenure as a member of the Sisters of Saint Francis of Philadelphia, Hasson was a first grade teacher in Baltimore during the 1944-45 school year. The report says Hasson repeatedly sexually abused one of her students, a 6-year-old girl, during that year. The victim told archdiocese officials in 2004 that Hasson orally raped her in the coatroom several times a week.

The report says Hasson left the order in 1945. A representative for the Sisters of Saint Francis did not respond to a request for comment.

A statement on the order’s website addresses the misconduct of another nun, Sister Francis Marie Yocum. Yocum is listed in the attorney general’s report and died in 1994. As a nun, Yocum is not listed on the archdiocese’s credibly accused list of priests and brothers.

“The Sisters of St. Francis are distressed and shocked by the allegation against one of our congregation,” the order said of Yocum. “Our prayers and concern are with the victim and all victims of any such occurrences.”

The 15 names and corresponding identities in the report are as follows. None of them have been criminally charged.

In addition to Hasson, Fiorentino is deceased, according to a Banner report. The Sun has been unable to contact Fiorentino or his family.

Lorenz said he hopes the attorney general’s office will disclose the names the news media have published.

Kurt Wolfgang, an attorney representing two abuse survivors and who is party to the redaction proceedings, argues for more transparency from the parties involved. Wolfgang said unnecessary redactions, such as those of people who died, give the impression the report was hastily completed.

“It’s a huge report and towards the end I think they were rushing to get it done,” Wolfgang said. “Whether that included this oversight, that might also be the case.”

A product of a four-year investigation, the report was finished in November, less than two months before retiring Attorney General Brian Frosh left office. Frosh said in April that the archdiocese didn’t turn over all the records needed until last summer, late in the investigation, and a lack of funding for staff slowed his office’s probe.

Frosh began the Maryland investigation after the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office released its grand jury report on sexual abuse within the Catholic Church in that state. The Pennsylvania report has 11 names permanently redacted, with the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania finding those people would not be afforded due process under state law if a court authorized the release of their names.

In contrast, a recent report by the Illinois attorney general’s office contained no redactions. It covers the six dioceses in Illinois, which submitted their records to investigators without the use of grand jury subpoenas.

In addition to the Baltimore investigation, the Maryland Attorney General’s Office sent subpoenas to the Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware, and the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. Those investigations are ongoing and could provide similar reports, but a timeline for their completion has not been provided. Survivor-advocates say they eagerly await the completion of that work.

“We need the other two dioceses in Maryland,” Lorenz said.