MARYLAND PROBE UNCOVERS 158 ABUSIVE PRIESTS AND OVER 600 VICTIMS

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A state investigation in Maryland has revealed that more than 150 Catholic priests and other individuals associated with the Archdiocese of Baltimore sexually abused over 600 children and escaped accountability for decades, according to a long-awaited report released on Wednesday. The report accuses the church leadership of covering up the abuses, which spanned 80 years. It also details instances of church leaders protecting accused clergy, including allowing them to retire with financial support rather than be ousted, letting them remain in the ministry, and failing to report alleged abuse to law enforcement. The findings come as part of an ongoing legal battle over the release of the report and follow similar revelations from parishes across the US in recent years. The report has prompted renewed calls for accountability, with victims calling it a long-overdue public reckoning. A bill to end a statute of limitations on abuse-related civil lawsuits has also been passed by the state legislature. Photo Source AP

A state report released on Wednesday revealed that over 600 children were sexually abused by more than 150 Catholic priests and others associated with the Archdiocese of Baltimore, who often evaded accountability for their actions. The report, which spans 80 years, accused church leaders of covering up the abuse for decades. The archdiocese, which is the oldest Roman Catholic diocese in the United States and covers much of Maryland, had multiple abusers in some parishes, schools, and congregations at the same time.

For example, St. Mark Parish in Catonsville had 11 abusers living and working there between 1964 and 2004. In addition, one deacon admitted to molesting over 100 children, and another priest was allowed to pretend to have hepatitis and make other excuses to avoid facing abuse allegations. The report was released during Holy Week, which is considered the most sacred time of year in Christianity ahead of Easter Sunday, by the Maryland Attorney General’s Office, which conducted a yearslong investigation. The number of victims is likely much higher than reported, and some accused clergy identities were redacted to protect confidential grand jury materials.

According to the report, the Church hierarchy is responsible for the extensive prevalence of abuse, as evidenced by the sheer number of abusers and victims, the appalling nature of the abusers’ actions, and the frequency with which known abusers were allowed to continue victimizing children.

The disclosure of the redacted findings is a significant development in an ongoing legal battle over their release and adds to a growing body of evidence from parishes nationwide, as similar revelations have shaken the Catholic Church in recent years.

In an online statement, Baltimore Archbishop William Lori apologized to the victims and acknowledged that the report details a reprehensible period in the Archdiocese’s history that will not be covered up, ignored, or forgotten.

Lori stated, “It is challenging for most individuals to fathom that such heinous acts could have occurred. However, victim-survivors worldwide understand the hard truth: These atrocious acts did occur.”

The state legislature passed a bill on Wednesday to eliminate the statute of limitations on abuse-related civil lawsuits, which was sent to Gov. Wes Moore for approval. The Baltimore archdiocese has paid over $13.2 million since the 1980s for the care and compensation of 301 abuse victims, including $6.8 million for 105 voluntary settlements, according to the archdiocese.

Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown, who assumed office in January, stated that the investigation revealed “pervasive, pernicious, and persistent abuse.” Since 2019, state investigators have examined over 100,000 pages of documents dating back to the 1940s and interviewed hundreds of victims and witnesses.

The report was described by victims as a long-overdue public reckoning with the shameful accusations that the church has faced for decades, and the abuse they suffered was recalled as a “life sentence.”

The state legislature passed a bill on Wednesday to eliminate the statute of limitations on abuse-related civil lawsuits, which was sent to Gov. Wes Moore for approval. The Baltimore archdiocese has paid over $13.2 million since the 1980s for the care and compensation of 301 abuse victims, including $6.8 million for 105 voluntary settlements, according to the archdiocese.

Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown, who assumed office in January, stated that the investigation revealed “pervasive, pernicious, and persistent abuse.” Since 2019, state investigators have examined over 100,000 pages of documents dating back to the 1940s and interviewed hundreds of victims and witnesses.

The report was described by victims as a long-overdue public reckoning with the shameful accusations that the church has faced for decades, and the abuse they suffered was recalled as a “life sentence.”

Kurt Rupprecht reported that his abuser was assigned to the Diocese of Wilmington, which includes some counties on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

“We’re here to tell the truth and never give up,” he said after the news conference. “We deal with this every day. It’s a sentence we carry for life.”

The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP, pointed out that the report includes more names of abusers than have been publicly released by archdiocese officials. The organization urged the archbishop to clarify the differences.

Ongoing investigations are also being conducted in the Archdiocese of Washington and the Diocese of Wilmington, which both cover parts of Maryland.

The report exposes that the Archdiocese of Baltimore prioritized keeping the abuse under wraps rather than protecting victims or ending the abuse. Some victims even reported the abuse to priests who were themselves abusers. Additionally, law enforcement officials were often uninterested in investigating what the church leaders knew and when they knew it when abuse allegations were brought to their attention.

The extensive report, which spans almost 500 pages, documents numerous instances of church leaders taking actions to shield accused clergy, such as enabling them to retire with financial support rather than removing them from their positions, permitting them to continue working in the ministry, and neglecting to report allegations of abuse to law enforcement.

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