Baltimore church to end religious services after priest suspended over sexual harassment settlement

Associated Press [New York NY]

November 6, 2023

By Associated Press

The Archdiocese of Baltimore will end religious services at one of the city’s Catholic churches after its longtime pastor was recently suspended from ministry because he admitted to making a payment several years ago to settle sexual harassment allegations.

Last month, Father Paschal Morlino was dismissed from his position at St. Benedict Church in southwest Baltimore, where he served for nearly 40 years and became known for his efforts to help residents of poor neighborhoods surrounding the church.

Few details about the 2018 complaint against Morlino have been released. Church officials have said they regarded “alleged sexual harassment of an adult man.” The complainant died in 2020 and a lawyer representing him in the case has declined to comment citing a non-disclosure agreement.

Officials with the archdiocese also said in a statement Saturday that they are investigating another complaint against Morlino involving sexual abuse of a minor. They said the abuse allegedly occurred in 1993. Morlino denied the allegation, according to the statement.

St. Benedict is owned and operated by Saint Vincent Archabbey in Pennsylvania, the oldest Benedictine monastery in the country. In a separate joint statement with the archdiocese on Saturday, monastery leaders said they wouldn’t name a new pastor to replace Morlino. They said the “difficult decision was made based on the limited number of clergy available.”

Morlino, 85, returned to the monastery in Pennsylvania after being suspended from his job as pastor.

The church in Baltimore will continue to host community events and outreach programs, but officials said that parishioners are being rerouted other churches for Mass and other religious services.

The archdiocese said it learned about the settlement last month when reporters for The Baltimore Banner inquired about it. Officials said they immediately opened an internal investigation and decided to dismiss Morlino.

“We understand that this news comes at a difficult time for the parishioners,” officials said in the Saturday statement. “An outreach team will be available to assist parishioners and if they wish, help them receive Catholic pastoral services at nearby parishes.”