More than 150 Catholic priests and others associated with the Archdiocese of Baltimore sexually abused over 600 children and often escaped accountability, according to a long-awaited state report released Wednesday that revealed the scope of abuse spanning 80 years and accused church leaders of decades of coverups.
The report paints a damning picture of the archdiocese, which is the oldest Roman Catholic diocese in the country and spans much of Maryland. Some parishes, schools and congregations had more than one abuser at the same time — including St. Mark Parish in Catonsville, which had 11 abusers living and working there between 1964 and 2004. One deacon admitted to molesting over 100 children. Another priest was allowed to feign hepatitis treatment and make other excuses to avoid facing abuse allegations.
The New York Times adds:
The 463-page report, which is the result of a four-year investigation by the attorney general’s office, documents what it describes as “pervasive and persistent abuse” by clergy members and others in the archdiocese, as well as dismissals and cover-ups by the church hierarchy.
Widespread abuse within the archdiocese was already well known by victims’ groups and, to some extent, acknowledged by current church leaders before the report was released. Individual cases had been documented by advocacy groups and journalists, and some individual priests had been prosecuted over the years for their crimes.
Yet the report is meant to be the fullest, most complete account of the abuse to date, its authors said. “We hope to make public for the first time the enormous scope and scale of abuse and concealment perpetrated by the Archdiocese of Baltimore,” the report says.
State officials have said that they do not expect to file criminal charges as a result of the abuse detailed in the report.
However, the report landed just weeks after the Maryland Senate overwhelmingly voted to pass legislation repealing the statute of limitations on sexual abuse lawsuits. The law would allow victims to file civil lawsuits no matter how long ago their abuse happened.
The House has already passed a version of the same bill, and Gov. Wes Moore has said that he looks forward to signing it into law.
Baltimore has symbolic stature within American Catholicism as the first Catholic diocese in the United States, established in 1789. Until 1808, the entire American Catholic Church formally existed within the Baltimore diocese. The archdiocese currently includes more than 150 parishes and missions and 59 schools. Its current influential leader, Archbishop Lori, was elected in November as vice president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“I see the pain and destruction that was perpetrated by representatives of the church and perpetuated by the failures that allowed this evil to fester, and I am deeply sorry,” Archbishop Lori wrote in a response to the report, calling it “a heartbreaking and new reminder of a tragic and shameful time.” The lengthy statement emphasized that a vast majority of documented abuse cases took place decades ago, and that the archdiocese had made numerous reforms this century.
You can read the full report here.