West News Wire: A study issued this week by the Maryland attorney general’s office casts doubt on the accuracy of the Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore’s list of clergy who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse, despite the church’s longstanding promotion of its transparency in doing so.
Victims and activists urged the Baltimore archbishop to rectify anomalies following the report’s long-awaited release on Wednesday. This is their most recent demand for openness in the decades-long battle to reveal the church’s coverup techniques.
They also rejoiced in the passage on Wednesday of state legislation that would lift the current deadline for filing a civil lawsuit against organizations like the archdiocese in incidents of child sexual abuse. Similar proposals failed in recent years, but the attorney general’s investigation brought renewed attention to the issue this legislative session. The bill has been sent to Gov. Wes Moore, who has said he supports it.
The report reveals the scope of over eight decades of abuse and coverup within the Archdiocese of Baltimore. More than 150 Catholic priests and others associated with the archdiocese sexually abused over 600 children and often escaped accountability, the investigation found.
The report also names 39 people who aren’t included on the archdiocese’s list, which officials first published in 2002 and have continued to update since.
The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP, said in a statement Wednesday that some omissions “might be understandable,” but called for the archbishop to “err on the side of being more transparent” for the sake of victims and others.
The archdiocese acknowledged the discrepancies Thursday, saying none of the 39 people are currently serving in ministry in the Baltimore area, and at least 33 have died. Archdiocese spokesperson Christian Kendzierski said most didn’t make the list because they are laypeople, including deacons and teachers; they were never assigned to ministry in the Archdiocese of Baltimore; or they were first accused posthumously and received only a single, uncorroborated allegation.
Kendzierski said the archdiocese is reviewing its list “in light of the Attorney General’s report” and expects to add more names soon. The report recommended expanding the list to include non-priests, which officials are also reviewing.
When Cardinal William Keeler released the Baltimore list in 2002, his decision earned the diocese a reputation for transparency at a time when the nationwide scope of wrongdoing remained largely unexposed. But years later, a Pennsylvania grand jury accused Keeler himself of covering up abuse allegations in the 1980s.
While Baltimore was among the first, other dioceses across the country have since published similar lists.
“But there’s always the concern that even credibly accused people have been left off these lists,” said Terence McKiernan, president of BishopAccountability.org, which tracks clergy abuse nationwide. “Now, in Baltimore, we have confirmation that’s what was happening.”
Several of the clergy members not on the church’s list admitted to abusing children and teens, according to the report. Sometimes they were asked to leave the ministry but often avoided serious consequences. In some cases, church officials agreed to financial settlements with victims actions that suggest the allegations were considered credible, McKiernan said.
Currently, victims of child sex abuse in Maryland can’t sue after they turn 38. The bill, if signed into law by Moore, would eliminate the age limit and allow for retroactive lawsuits. However, the measure includes a provision that would pause lawsuits until the Supreme Court of Maryland can determine whether it’s constitutional.
The Maryland Catholic Conference, which represents the three dioceses serving Maryland, opposed the measure, contending it was unconstitutional to open an unlimited retroactive window for civil cases.