Legal arguments are set to begin Wednesday behind closed doors on whether redactions will be lifted from the state’s 456-page report on the history of child sexual abuse within the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
The Maryland Office of the Attorney General issued its report in April, with the names of five archdiocesan officials and 10 church figures redacted. The five officials are accused of failing to take appropriate action when presented with allegations of abuse and the 10 church figures are accused of acts of abuse. Authorities shielded the identities of these men and women by also redacting names of their parishes and Catholic schools.
The attorney general’s office redacted the names for procedural reasons of the courts. Attorney General Anthony Brown has said his office will return to court and request permission to release a second, unredacted copy of the report. Baltimore Circuit Judge Robert Taylor Jr. is scheduled to hear the matter Wednesday and Thursday.
The redactions are scattered throughout the report to the frustration of survivors of clergy sexual abuse and their attorneys. Without complete transparency, they have said, there can be no accountability.
“In practical terms, it doesn’t matter. In emotional terms, it would be good to get a win,” said David Lorenz, leader of the Maryland chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “It would show the justice system is on the side of survivors.”
To the accused, however, the closed-door hearings provide an opportunity to address the court about the allegations.
“The allegations against me are false so I want to redeem my name,” Michael V. Scriber said.
The attorney general report includes allegations of abuse against 156 people tracing as far back as the 1940s. The Banner identified Scriber as No. 156 by court and property records along with details from an interview with a man who reported the alleged abuse to the attorney general’s office. In addition, Scriber said he received an email from the attorney general’s investigator, Richard Wolf, inviting him to participate in the hearing.
The allegations against Scriber appear on page 449 and 450 of the report. Two men separately accused Scriber of sexually abusing them during Scout camping trips in the 1970s, according to the report. Scriber has denied the allegations and he has not been charged with a crime related to the alleged abuse. He will attend the hearing Wednesday, he said, “to clear up any misunderstanding of why someone has accused me.”
The investigation was conducted through a grand jury, and state law keeps grand jury materials confidential without a court order. Attorneys representing church officials, some survivors and spokespeople for the archdiocese and attorney general cited the confidentiality order and declined to comment.
The question before the judge is not whether the allegations have merit, but whether the attorney general’s office has met a legal standard to release confidential grand jury material.
In the redacted report, state investigators wrote that they found a history of pervasive sexual abuse by the priesthood as well as a cover-up and silence by church leaders. More than 600 victims suffered sexual abuse or physical torture at the hands of church figures in the past 80 years, according to the report.