2 Sue Priest, Alleging Sex Abuse

By Joe Nawrozki and Robert A. Erlandson
The Baltimore Sun
August 25, 1994

In lawsuits seeking $ 40 million in damages, a Baltimore priest was

accused yesterday of sexually abusing two former students at a Catholic

girls high school more than 20 years ago.

The Rev. A. Joseph Maskell, 55, is accused of a series of assaults — some

involving bizarre sex practices — spelled out in graphic terms in the


The alleged attacks occurred when the plaintiffs were students during the

late 1960s and early 1970s at Archbishop Keough High School in Southwest


A now-retired gynecologist who accepted Archbishop Keough students as

patients on referral from Father Maskell also is named in one of the suits.

The suit says the doctor allowed Father Maskell into the examining room

where both men sexually assaulted the teen-age girl.

More than 30 men and women are prepared to testify to first-hand knowledge

about other alleged acts of sexual abuse by the priest — one of which

allegedly occurred on the Keough chapel altar, another in the chapel

sacristy and others in rectories and the priest's private school office,

said Beverly A. Wallace, a lawyer for the women.

Father Maskell also is the subject of a criminal investigation by the

Baltimore state's attorney's office involving sexual abuse allegations.

In addition, a high-ranking Baltimore County police official said this

summer that the priest's name has surfaced in a reopened investigation of

the 1969 slaying of Sister Catherine Ann Cesnik, who had worked with him at


Father Maskell, who was chaplain and psychological counselor at the school

but most most recently was pastor at a Howard County parish, engaged in

various acts of intercourse, the suits charge, and in one incident, is said

to have placed a gun in the mouth of one of the plaintiffs.

The suits allege that Father Maskell used various tactics to persuade or

coerce the victims, including hypnosis, threats of physical violence and

assault. The suits also claim Father Maskell forced the teen-agers to

perform sexual acts with a police officer when the priest was chaplain for

the Baltimore County Police Department.

Father Maskell, who holds a master's degree in psychology and a

certificate in advanced study in counseling from the Johns Hopkins

University, degraded and humiliated the plaintiffs, the suits allege.

Accusations denied

In interviews with police and The Sun, Father Maskell has denied all

allegations that he sexually abused students at Keough or elsewhere.

J. Michael Lehane, an attorney for Father Maskell, said he would not

comment until he reads the suits.

Thomas C. Dame, a lawyer for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore

who was present when the suits were filed, referred inquiries to William

Blaul, spokesman for the archdiocese.

Mr. Blaul said he would not comment on the suits because he has not had an

opportunity to review them.

He said Father Maskell is at a "well-regarded, out-of-state facility where

he is receiving treatment."

Girls coerced

Independently, The Sun conducted taped interviews with the two plaintiffs

months before yesterday's legal action.

Both alleged that Father Maskell occasionally used the sacraments of the

church as a vehicle for sex practices.

They, and other women and men on the witness list, told The Sun that

Father Maskell persuaded the girls to confess in church whether they were

sexually active or had experimented with drugs and then used their

indiscretions to force them to do his will. If they were not sexually

active, Father Maskell told them they were "frigid" and would "counsel"

them, usually involving sexual acts and implements, the women said.

"He told me he would tell my parents I was having sex with my boyfriend,"

said one woman on the witness list. "In those days, in a strict Roman

Catholic family, that was like the world was going to end."

Inappropriate comments

Another woman on the witness list, now a professional in the health care

field, said the priest conducted an "internal pelvic examination of me on a

table in the sacristy of the chapel at the high school."

"He would tell me he was medically trained, that it was for our own good,"

she said. "Combined with the fact that he was one of the closest

representatives to God in the Catholic religion, how were we as teen-agers

to know what to do?"

Other women have alleged that Father Maskell made inappropriate comments

during confession.

"I was only 13 years old; I didn't even know what petting was. It was the

only time I ever had a priest suggest what my sins might be," said a 1972

Keough graduate, also on the witness list, who said the priest asked what

she did with her boyfriend and made suggestive comments.

She said she did not attend confession for 25 years after the encounter

with Father Maskell early in her freshman year.

Yesterday's suits were filed in Baltimore Circuit Court by Towson lawyers

Phillip G. Dantes, James G. Maggio and Ms. Wallace.

The two women plaintiffs, identified only as Jane Roe and Jane Doe, now

are in their early 40s.

Additional suits will be filed, Ms. Wallace said.

Mr. Dantes, lead lawyer in the case, said there are only two plaintiffs

because a three-year civil statute of limitations precluded others from

joining the suit.

With the two plaintiffs, he said, the three-year period began from the

time they recovered their memories of the alleged abuse, as allowed under

state law.

Other people who alleged Father Maskell abused them said they never had

lost the memory but had no one to report to.

Mr. Dantes said their testimony will show a pattern to corroborate the

plaintiffs' allegations.

Gynecologist sued

Also named as a defendant in one of the suits is Dr. Christian Richter,

79, of Ruxton, a retired gynecologist. "During the course of multiple

examinations . . . in Maskell's presence, both Richter and Maskell sexually

battered plaintiff, including engaging in vaginal penetration," the suit


Dr. Richter told The Sun last March and April that he accepted referrals

from Father Maskell at his private office on St. Paul Street.

Although he first denied the priest was present during examinations, Dr.

Richter later said, "It's possible he may have been in the examining room,

in the absence of parents, I don't know, to calm the girl. It's very

possible he might have come in the examining room. She was 16. She probably

had a good deal of faith in him."

Dr. Richter said Father Maskell showed a great interest in medicine,

particularly in gynecology. "He seemed to be more acclimated to the OB

obstetrics and GYN part of it."


"All I can say is, he's a man. And I guess it was his opportunity . . . ,"

Dr. Richter replied.

Asked what he meant by "opportunity," he said, "To be inclined to favor

women in any way, I guess."

During the interviews, Dr. Richter denied sexually abusing the woman. He

reiterated that denial yesterday when he was shown a copy of the lawsuit.

Dr. Richter declined to comment on the suit other than to say it lacks

"details on what we're supposed to have done."

Police inquiries

The city state's attorney's office also is looking into other purported

sexual attacks on children and young adults at parishes where Father Maskell

was assigned after his ordination in 1965.

Two weeks ago, city detectives dug up a vanload of confidential records

the priest had ordered buried four years ago in Holy Cross Cemetery in


Sharon A. H. May, chief of the Sex Abuse Unit in the city state's

attorney's office, this week continued to refuse comment on the


City police were accompanied at the exhumation of the records by the two

Baltimore County homicide detectives assigned to the revived investigation

of the slaying of Sister Catherine.

The detectives were there because Father Maskell's name had come up during

their investigation, said Capt. Rustin E. Price, commander of the county

homicide unit.

"We are still actively investigating leads," Captain Price said yesterday.

Sister Catherine was also on the faculty of Archbishop Keough. The priest

has denied any knowledge of the slaying.

On July 31, Father Maskell stepped down as pastor of St. Augustine's

Church in Elkridge and went into treatment.

On Aug. 2, he resigned from the Maryland Air National Guard, where he was

senior chaplain of the 135th Air Transport Group, based at Martin State


He also was dropped from the advisory board of Operation Challenge, a

Guard-sponsored program at Aberdeen Proving Ground for high school dropouts.

After he left St. Augustine's, archdiocesan officials said he had

requested time off to seek in-patient therapy for anxiety and stress brought

on by "the prospect of civil litigation and a criminal investigation."

Other defendants

The suits also name as defendants the archdiocese, Archbishop William H.

Keeler, the School Sisters of Notre Dame and Seton-Keough High School, which

previously was known as Archbishop Keough.

The lawyers for the plaintiffs said the order of teaching nuns is named as

a defendant because it was Father Maskell's immediate supervisor while he

was at Archbishop Keough.

The high school is named because of administrative responsibility, and the

archdiocese and Archbishop Keeler because they are the direct employers of

the priest.

"Defendants breached their duties by negligently failing to investigate

and monitor the background and activities of Maskell and, upon notice of

such propensities, negligently placing Maskell at Keough, and thereafter

negligently failing to adequately supervise and monitor his behavior," the

suit says.


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