Baltimore archdiocese responds to petition calling for release of 'Keepers' priest Maskell's files

By Alison Knezevich
Baltimore Sun
September 16, 2017

Sister Catherine Cesnik lived in the Carriage House apartments in the 100 block of North Bend Road, with her roommate, Sister Helen Russell Phillips.

Sister Catherine Cesnik is pictured with her father, Joseph Cesnik. "The Keepers" premieres on Netflix May 19.

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The Archdiocese of Baltimore has responded to the organizer of a petition that urged the release of personnel files of the late priest at the center of “The Keepers” documentary, saying it treated the request “very seriously” but is still declining to make the documents public.

More than 54,000 people have signed the petition, which calls on church officials to release the records of A. Joseph Maskell. The priest worked as chaplain and counselor at Archbishop Keough High School in Southwest Baltimore during the 1960s and 1970s. Multiple people have accused him of sexual abuse. He denied the allegations before his death in 2001.

The Netflix documentary series “The Keepers” explored possible connections between abuse at Keough and the unsolved 1969 killing of Sister Cathy Cesnik, who taught there.

Kevin Turowsky, a Massachusetts man who watched the series, created the online petition this spring. He said the records could shed light on Cesnik’s death and on how the church handled the abuse allegations.

“People from around the globe have signed this petition,” Turowsky said. “I think that people are really interested in truth and justice.”

In an email to Turowksy this month, archdiocesan spokesman Sean Caine said the petition’s request “is one we treat very seriously and is deserving of careful consideration and prayer.”

“While some feel the release of Maskell’s personnel records would provide clarity and possibly even closure, the reality is that it would provide neither,” Caine wrote. “The release of files, especially redacted ones — would likely create frustration and/or even cause some to believe information they were expecting to find but didn’t was removed or never included.”

Caine added that releasing the files would “create a precedent that would likely soon be followed by requests for the release of personnel records of other priests and employees of the Church.”

He said the decision not to release Maskell’s files is “not a refusal to share relevant information about those who harmed children while representing the Church.”

He pointed to a public list first published in 2002 naming clergy accused of abuse.

Caine told The Baltimore Sun “we have given the matter very serious consideration and this is our best decision.”

“Our communications about Maskell and other abusive priests ... are designed to affirm survivors, to warn parents and the world of possible bad actors, to encourage any additional victims to come forward to civil authorities and the Church for assistance, and to include sufficient information such as assignment years so that those who might be impacted can speak with family members or other professionals,” he wrote in an email to The Sun. “We do not believe the release of even fully redacted files will serve these goals or provide the clarity and closure that is sought.”

Turowsky said he and others would continue to call for the release of records. “We’re not going away because of their refusal,” he said.

The 25-year-old, who works in the insurance industry, said he nearly stopped watching the seven-part documentary after a few episodes because he found it so depressing. But he kept watching, and ended up inspired by the former Keough students who are searching for answers in Cesnik’s death.



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