Baltimore Catholic Priest Abuses Hundreds Of Children and Teenagers, Says Attorney General

Members of the clergy in the Archdiocese of Baltimore abused hundreds of children and youth over six decades, supported by a church hierarchy that systematically failed to investigate and restricted their access to children, according to detailed report from the Attorney General of Maryland released on Wednesday.

It was the latest chilling installment in the revelations of decades of sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church, this time in the first Catholic diocese to be established in the United States.

The 463-page report, which was the result of a four-year investigation by the attorney general's office, documented what it described as “widespread and persistent abuse” by members of the clergy and others in the archdiocese, as well as dismissals and hiding. by the church hierarchy.

The widespread abuse in the archdiocese was already known to victims' groups and, to some extent, acknowledged by current church leaders before the report was released. Individual cases have been documented by advocacy groups and journalists, and several individual pastors have been tried over the years for their crimes.

But the report purports to be the most complete account of abuse to date, the authors say. “We hope to publicize for the first time the scope and scale of abuse and cover-up perpetrated by the Archdiocese of Baltimore,” the report said.

State officials said they did not expect to file criminal charges as a result of the abuse detailed in the report.

However, the report comes just weeks after the Maryland Senate really choose to pass law repealing the statute of limitations on sexual harassment lawsuits. The law will allow victims to file civil lawsuits no matter how long their abuse lasted.

The House has passed a version of the same bill, and Governor Wes Moore has said he hopes to sign it into law.

The state Catholic Conference, the church's lobbying body, has opposed the bill, calling it unconstitutional and unfair.

The report includes the names of 33 members of the clergy who were not previously identified as perpetrators of violence, according to Terence McKiernan, president of the victim advocacy group Bishop Accountability, which asked Archbishop William E. Lori to add the names to the archdiocese's roster. existing public list accused member of the clergy.

In a statement, Mr. McKiernan called the report “a shocking addition to our understanding of clergy abuse of children in Baltimore.”

The report lists 146 perpetrators linked to the church, mostly men who served as priests, and lists an additional 10 whose names have been withheld because they may be alive or have not been publicly identified or credible accused by the archdiocese.

In total, the report documents 156 members of the clergy who abused more than 600 children starting in the 1940s. The report also removes the names of some members of the hierarchy which helps protect them.

David Lorenz, director of the Maryland branch of SNAP, an advocacy group for victims of clerical abuse, deplored some of the redaction in the report, including a significant block of text documenting “senior members of the archdiocese” involved in handling failed child abuse claims. to investigate, report or remove the perpetrator's access to children. The attorney general's office said people with anonymity would be given the opportunity to object to the court, and the court would then decide whether to release a less redacted version of the report.

The court filing in November hinted at the scale of the findings in Wednesday's report but included few details. The filing, from Brian Frosh, the attorney general at the time, said that “no parish is safe.” He requested that the judge allow the release of the full report.

A new attorney general, Anthony Brown, took office in January. In releasing the report on Wednesday, Mr. Brown said it “illustrates the depraved archdiocese's systemic failure to protect the most vulnerable – the children assigned to keep it safe.”

The report describes a common pattern of abuse across the church, where abusers single out children who are vulnerable or especially dedicated to the church, such as altar servers and choir members. Abusers sometimes told victims the abuse was “God's will”, dismissed it as “rough housing” or said victims and their families would go to hell if they told anyone.

The report documents several parishes containing many perpetrators. From 1964 to 2004, 11 child abusers cycled through St. Mark in Catonsville. One victim reported that a priest named Robert Lentz gave him alcohol and fondled them after taking them to a hockey game. Another victim said he stopped being an altar boy so he wouldn't have to ride in a car with Mr Lentz, who died in 2007.

Sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church have been uncovered for more than 20 years, ever since The Boston Globe documented widespread cover-ups of abuse in church circles.

The Baltimore report is the latest in several recent investigations by the state attorney general and grand jury into church sexual abuse, most notably a thorough report on six dioceses in Pennsylvania that shocked Catholics across the country in 2018. The investigation was led by Josh. Shapiro, then the state's attorney general and now its governor.

Baltimore has symbolic stature in American Catholicism as the first Catholic diocese in the United States, founded in 1789. Until 1808, the entire American Catholic Church was officially within the diocese of Baltimore. The archdiocese currently includes more than 150 parishes and missions and 59 schools. The influential current leader, Archbishop Lori, was elected in November as vice president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“I see the pain and devastation perpetrated by representatives of the church and perpetuated by the failure that allowed this evil to fester, and I am deeply sorry,” Archbishop Lori wrote in response to the report, calling it “heartbreaking and heartbreaking. a fresh reminder of a tragic and shameful time.” That long statement emphasized that most of the documented cases of abuse occurred decades ago, and that the archdiocese has carried out many reforms this century.

In a statement on Monday in anticipation of the report's release, the archbishop noted that “no one has been credibly accused of child abuse in the service of the archdiocese today.”

Lawyers for the victims applauded the release of the report.

“What a relief to get this out,” said Mr. Lorenz from SNAP. He described the report as the first time an institution had validated the accounts of victims it worked with. “This agency, the attorney general's office is saying, ‘We believe you, we put it down, on paper, recorded as the truth,'” Lorenz said. “It says someone trusts us.”