Discover more from Friendly Atheist
Maryland AG releases report on Catholic clergy abuse in Baltimore Archdiocese
The 463 report lists 156 Catholic predators who abused over 600 victims
This Substack newsletter is free, but it’s only able to sustain itself due to the support I receive from a small percentage of regular readers. Would you please consider becoming one of those supporters? You can use the button below to subscribe to Substack or use my usual Patreon page!
After a four-year investigation, and four months after the Maryland Attorney General’s Office announced it had finished its investigation of sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Attorney General Anthony Brown has released his office’s 463-page report. (Coincidentally, it comes as Catholics finish celebrating Lent and prepare for Easter services.)
The report, which was the result of a Grand Jury investigation, finds that over 600 children (“but the number is likely far higher”) were abused by 156 predators working with the Catholic Church since the 1940s. Most of the predators are now dead, but some of them who are redacted in the report are still alive and were not previously suspected of any wrongdoing. The names of Church officials who helped cover up their alleged crimes are also redacted in the public report. (The redactions have been the subject of legal battles and may be removed in the future.)
Still, the summary is damning:
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.
In many cases, the abuse continued even after victims came forward with their stories. Because Church officials didn’t take immediate action, the predators had a green light to continue abusing little kids.
Just consider this one story (because there are too many to list here):
… the Archdiocese learned as early as 1987 that Brother Thomas Rochacewicz had sexually abused a 14-year-old girl in around 1980, and he admitted to being “aroused by some young girls.” The response by the Church was to tell the victim that Rochacewicz would get therapy and be reassigned away from children. There is no indication that the Archdiocese took any steps to discover additional victims or report him to law enforcement until additional victims came forward in 1994. During the intervening seven years Rochacewicz continued his ministry. Ultimately, nine women reported that Rochacewicz abused them at St. Michael Church in Baltimore and Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Ellicott City in the 1970s and 1980s when they were between 6 and 15 years old, and there were indications of additional victims who chose not to report.
It wasn’t just Church leaders either. Government officials share some of the blame:
In 1987, the head of the sex crimes unit for the Baltimore state’s attorney’s office declined to prosecute Father Robert Newman, who admitted to abusing 12 boys between the ages of 9 to 15 over a 15-year period. That prosecutor, who the report doesn’t name, said she saw “the value of trying to keep a man like this in ministry,” according to the report. Newman was sent to a treatment center and then assigned to the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut, where he remained a priest until his abuse was made public in 2002.
Even when the Archdiocese offered to publish a list of “credibly accused” priests back in 2002, it only included 57 names. The list excluded anyone who was already dead. A second list, released in 2019, included the deceased… but only listed 23 more individuals. The most updated list has 152 names. Which means this report is still more comprehensive than the Church’s most transparent efforts to get to the bottom of the problem it exacerbated.
While the report won’t lead to legal repercussions, it makes one crystal clear recommendation for how to move forward: The legislature in Maryland needs to “amend statute of limitations for civil actions involving child sex abuse.”
Because Maryland recognizes a statute of limitations defense in civil cases—a defense that the Archdiocese consistently chooses to rely upon—victims have no recourse if they are over the age of 38. Yet many victims have suffered lifelong effects from the harm perpetrated on them by the Church.
Fifteen states now have no civil statute of limitations for some or all claims of child sexual abuse. Twenty-four states have created a window during which claims may be brought or have allowed revival of expired claims. Maryland should pursue one of these paths to provide greater opportunity for victims to hold the Archdiocese accountable and to be compensated for the harms they have suffered.
As it stands, Maryland has passed a bill this morning to eliminate the statute of limitations for these kinds of cases. It now awaits the governor’s signature. If and when that happens, the Archdiocese could become the latest in the Catholic Church to declare bankruptcy. Given that it’s already guilty of moral bankruptcy—as documented by the hundreds of pages of “abuser narratives” in the report—the economic kind couldn’t come fast enough.
This report is a predictable yet troubling account of what we’ve seen in state after state ever since attorneys general began taking these matters seriously. After a Pennsylvania grand jury report came out in 2018, the floodgates opened.
If there’s any silver lining here, it’s that the Baltimore Archdiocese appears, finally, to be taking these matters more seriously. It’s still too little, too late, no doubt, but it’s more than what they’ve done in the past, which is why the list of dead abusers is lengthy while currently accused priests is relatively shorter. Most of the allegations in the report occurred decades ago.
Whether of not there are legal consequences for the Church, the only way the institution will truly suffer is if there’s a mass exodus of worshipers who call themselves Catholic. If you’re a Baltimore native who still attends or supports the Catholic Church with your time or money, you’re complicit in their actions. It’s not too late to break ties. Tradition is no excuse to prop up a criminal institution. If that leads to more of these dioceses going bankrupt, no one who cares about the victims is going to shed a tear. The Church has enough property and stashed artwork to sell to cover the costs of the trauma they’ve inflicted upon victims.
(Portions of this article were published earlier)
If you enjoyed this article, please subscribe to my newsletter! Do it for the kids.