Baltimore’s Catholic Church sexually abused at least 600 children over 60 years, Maryland AG has revealed in a shocking report. Some of these were ‘preyed upon by multiple abusers over decades’ and were abused by over 150 clergy, according to the Attorney General’s Office.
A report published by The Maryland Office of the Attorney General accused Catholic Church officials of engaging in a yearslong cover-up of the abuse of children.
It identified how 156 abusers ‘engaged in horrific and repeated abuse’ and took advantage of the trust of parents and the community. The investigative report found that the abuse ‘varied widely’ and the child sexual abuse by the clergy, seminarians, deacons, and employees of the Archdiocese spanned over decades.
And it revealed the abuse continued even ‘after victims came forward’ as ‘Leaders of the Archdiocese repeatedly dismissed reports’ and exhibited ‘little to no concern’ for the victims. Following a four year long investigation, a 463 page report was published this week that named several priests and described what they are alleged to have done.
The Maryland Office of the Attorney General in 2018 launched a Grand Jury investigation into the Archdiocese of Baltimore. And the Office of the Attorney General also set out to investigate efforts by the leadership of the Catholic Church to hide sexual abuse. And on Wednesday, Maryland’s top prosecutor, State Attorney General Anthony Brown, accused Catholic Church officials of engaging in a yearslong cover-up of the abuse of children.
The investigative report, which outlined abuse from the 1940s through 2002, comes amid an ongoing reckoning with widespread abuse and coverups by Church leaders around the world. The Maryland Attorney General’s Office said it had identified 156 abusers who ‘engaged in horrific and repeated abuse’.
It noted how the abusers often took advantage of parents’ or a community’s trust.
According to the Attorney General’s report: ‘Time and again, members of the Church’s hierarchy resolutely refused to acknowledge allegations of child sexual abuse for as long as possible.
‘When denial became impossible, Church leadership would remove abusers from the parish or school, sometimes with promises that they would have no further contact with children. Church documents reveal with disturbing clarity that the Archdiocese was more concerned with avoiding scandal and negative publicity than it was with protecting children.’
The report said certain parishes were bases of multiple abusers, such as St. Mark Parish in Catonsville, where, it said, 11 child abusers lived and worked from 1964 to 2004. Meanwhile, four parishes for example had six abusers: St. Michael-Overlea in Baltimore, St. Patrick in Cumberland, St. Mary in Cumberland and St. Clement in Lansdowne.
The shocking report outlined that the ways in which ‘abusers preyed upon their victims varied widely, but all took advantage of the position of authority and respect’ afforded priests and other clergy within the Catholic communities. It also said that ‘one of the most distressing aspects of the abuse is the frequency with which abusers continued their behavior even after victims came forward or concerns were raised.’
The report also added that the sheer number of abusers and victims, the depravity of the abusers’ conduct, and the frequency with which known abusers were given the opportunity to continue preying upon children ‘are astonishing.’
It estimated that the number of victims was ‘likely far higher’ than the reported figure given of over 600 children, given that the ‘Leaders of the Archdiocese repeatedly dismissed reports of abuse and exhibited little to no concern for victims’.
The report also condemned the Church’s refusal to acknowledge allegations of child sexual abuse and shuffling known offenders to other locations, adding: ‘The duration and scope of the abuse perpetrated by Catholic clergy was only possible because of the complicity of those charged with leading the Church and protecting its faithful.’
On Wednesday 6 April, Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown revealed the findings of report, and commented on child sexual abuse in the Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore. He said that it illustrated a ‘depraved, systemic failure of the Archdiocese to protect the most vulnerable — the children it was charged to keep safe.
‘Based on hundreds of thousands of documents and untold stories from hundreds of survivors, it provides, for the first time in the history of this State, a public accounting of more than 60 years of abuse and cover-up.’ He added: ‘Time and again, the Archdiocese chose to safeguard the institution and avoid scandal instead of protecting the children in its care.’
In responding to the report, current Archbishop of Archdiocese of Baltimore, Archbishop William Lori apologized.
He stated that the study ‘details a reprehensible time in the history of this Archdiocese, a time that will not be covered up, ignored or forgotten.’
Lori also called the report a ‘sad and painful reminder of the tremendous harm caused to innocent children and young people by some ministers of the Church.’
He added: ‘The detailed accounts of abuse are shocking and soul searing
‘It is difficult for most to imagine that such evil acts could have actually occurred. For victim-survivors everywhere, they know the hard truth: These evil acts did occur.’
The detailed report comes after thousands of reports of pedophilia within the Catholic Church have surfaced around the world in recent years. In February, an independent commission in Portugal revealed that the country’s Catholic clergy had abused nearly 5,000 children since 1950. And a moment of reckoning first came in the United States in 2002 when the Boston Globe newspaper published a major investigation into abuses committed by scores of Boston priests, which were covered up by their bishops.
Meanwhile in 2018, a grand jury investigation into Pennsylvania dioceses exposed the systematic cover-up by the Church of abuse by ‘over 300 predator priests,’ where more than 1,000 child victims were cited. Pope Francis has pledged an ‘all-out battle’ against clerical abuse, holding an unprecedented summit on the issue in 2019 and enacting reforms that include new obligations to report clerical child abuse and cover-ups.
In late March, the pope extended a 2019 law aimed at fighting sexual abuse in the Church by making lay Catholic leaders responsible for acts committed under their watch in Vatican-approved bodies. Between 1950 and 2018, the US Catholic Church received credible complaints of child sex abuse involving 7,002 members of the clergy, according to the website bishop-accountability.org