Maryland, US attorney general's office alleges historic child sexual abuse by Catholic Church officials

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

The Baltimore Basilica on September 11, 2016.
Image: Euelbenul.
Brown at his swearing-in on January 3.
Image: Office of the Maryland Governor.
Lori in 2022.
Image: Office of the Maryland Governor.

The office of the attorney general of the US state of Maryland released a report Wednesday alleging clergy members and others in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore sexually abused more than 600 children from the 1940s through 2002.

The document, the result of an investigation begun in 2018, listed 156 abusers, naming all but ten, redacted upon the orders of a circuit court in Baltimore. The report stated: "Over 600 children are known to have been abused by the 156 people included in this Report, but the number is likely far higher." It did not name the children, even those who have publicly said they were abused, and referred to them as "victims" rather than "survivors" "to highlight the criminal acts of those who hurt them."

The report alleged: "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. Leaders of the Archdiocese repeatedly dismissed reports of abuse and exhibited little to no concern for victims. They failed to adequately investigate complaints and made no effort to identify other victims or corroborate alleged abuse. They transferred known abusers to other positions of equal authority and access to children. They focused not on protecting victims or stopping the abuse, but rather on ensuring at all costs that the abuse be kept hidden."

It also provided a list of people transferred to the Archdiocese of Baltimore who had previously been "credibly accused" of abuse outside Maryland.

Attorney General Anthony Brown announced the report at a press conference, saying: "Today, certainly in Maryland, is a day of reckoning and a day of accounting."

"While each of those stories is unique, together, they reveal themes and behaviors typical of adults who abuse children, and those who enable that abuse by concealing it. What was consistent throughout the stories was the absolute authority and power these abusive priests and the church leadership held over survivors, their families, and their communities," Brown continued.

After the report became public, Archbishop William E. Lori released a statement. "To all survivors, I offer my most earnest apology on behalf of the Archdiocese and pledge my continued solidarity and support for your healing. We hear you. We believe you and your courageous voices have made a difference. Through difficult, although deeply meaningful, meetings, I have experienced your brave witness, and the power of your words and testimony compel my personal conviction to ensure we do everything possible to prevent future incidents of abuse and promote healing for survivors," he said.

Jean Hargadon Wehner, who said she was repeatedly raped in the 1970s and reported it to church officials decades later, told reporters: "I expected them to do the right thing in 1992 [...] I'm still angry." Her abuser was allegedly A. Joseph Maskell, a priest and her high school counselor. According to the report, Maskell had at least 39 victims.

Kurt Rupprecht said he was abused as a child, but his abuser was reassigned to the Diocese of Wilmington. "We're here to speak the truth and never stop. [...] We deal with this every day. It is our life sentence," he said.

Also on Wednesday, the Maryland House of Delegates passed a bill to end the statute of limitations on sex crimes against children. The bill, passed by the Maryland Senate in March, would become law once signed by Governor Wes Moore. Moore has expressed support for the bill. Existing law in Maryland dictated victims had no legal recourse once they turned 38.