One theme coursing though the historic Maryland Office of the Attorney General report released Wednesday documenting decades of child sexual abuse within the Archdiocese of Baltimore is cover-up. Plenty of church officials did it, but so did members of law enforcement, state investigators found.

Below, you’ll find summaries of some of the worst examples of cover-up described in the report.

They include priests who asked victims to delay reporting their abuse so they could reach retirement age; prosecutors who agreed not to pursue criminal charges against known abusers; and even a secret deal with a Baltimore County judge to resolve a case quietly.

Offered to pay for silence

In June 2002, when a former altar boy confronted Father George Loskarn about abuse he suffered in the 1960s at Baltimore’s St. Bernard Parish, he asked the victim to wait three years to report it so he could retire, according to the report. Loskarn even offered to pay the man for his silence. The abuse often took place on trips they took together out of state, according to the report. The victim reported the abuse anyway, and the archdiocese stripped Loskarn’s clerical responsibilities, but allowed him to continue living on church property until a treatment facility could be located. In September 2002, Loskarn’s application for retirement was approved by Archbishop William Keeler.

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Blame extends to archdiocese staff

The report places ultimate blame for the church’s handling of child sex abuse allegations with successive archbishops, who returned credibly accused priests to ministry over and over again. But it also criticizes the senior archdiocese staff members who did their bidding and helped them handle the cases. Five such individuals’ names are redacted from the report. Others implicated, and named, because they are deceased, include: Philip Francis Murphy, who served archbishops Lawrence Shehan, William Borders and William Keeler; Porter White, who worked as a consultant to Borders; and John Duggan, who served under Archbishop Patrick Keough.

‘You’re a fine priest. Don’t worry about it’

In 1995, after Father Brian Cox admitted to abusing several victims while working at churches in Baltimore and Westminster, the archdiocese sent him to St. Louis for inpatient psychiatric treatment in an attempt to help him avoid criminal charges. Several years later, he was indicted and convicted. More of Cox’s victims came forward after his conviction. In a 2019 interview with the Carroll County State’s Attorney’s Office, he told investigators that he previously told an unnamed church official he “struggles” with pedophilia. He said the official told him, “You’re a fine priest. Don’t worry about it.”

‘Tried to obtain his silence’

In March 1988, a victim called the Baltimore County Police Department and reported being sexually abused by Father Marion Helowicz at St. Stephen’s Church in the early 1980s. The police alerted the archdiocese the next day, and notes from unnamed church officials express alarm about the prospect of Helowicz being interviewed by police. Church leaders allowed him to return to the parish and resume his ministry, despite the allegation. Only after he admitted to abusing a second boy were his duties as a priest suspended. During the investigation, the first victim “was contacted a number of times by ‘unidentified’ persons from the archdiocese who tried to obtain his silence,” according to the report. He pled guilty to abusing the first victim in December 1988, but the archdiocese did not report the second victim’s abuse until 2002.

Intentionally failed to report

When a victim came forward in 1987 to report that Father Thomas Bauernfeind abused her, the archdiocese did not investigate, likely because he held a high-level staff position within the organization at that time. He had worked at churches across the Baltimore region and rose to the position of chancellor. An unnamed church official inquired with the state’s attorney’s office about their reporting obligations without mentioning his name, the report noted. Later, one of the unnamed church officials who knew about the abuse sent him a congratulatory letter to commemorate his 25th anniversary as a priest. The archdiocese only reported Bauernfeind after a second victim came forward in 2002 and alleged extensive abuse.

Accused of 100 acts of abuse; only one reported

In 1987, Father Robert Newman admitted to sexually abusing 12 boys ages nine to 15 over a 15-year period, describing more than 100 acts of abuse. Newman resigned from his parish, but the church said it was for “reasons of health” and did not disclose the abuse to Newman’s Baltimore parishioners. The archdiocese reported Newman to law enforcement, but the police report reflects only one instance of abuse with one victim. Newman was not prosecuted and got treatment instead. The head of the Sex Crimes Unit of the state’s attorney’s office said she was not inclined to prosecute and “sees the value of trying to keep a man like this in the ministry.” Newman returned to active ministry in Connecticut after a few months of treatment.

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Church asked state’s attorney not to prosecute

In early 1986, a man who was studying to become a priest told church officials he had been violently abused by Father Ronald Mardaga when he was 13 or 14 years old. The abuse consisted of anal and oral rape while Mardaga was serving as a seminarian at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Locust Point. Mardaga admitted to the abuse when questioned by the archdiocese. However, church officials later asked the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office not to charge Mardaga criminally. Prosecutors indicted Mardaga and agreed not to prosecute him if he completed a psychiatric evaluation and complied with a treatment plan. He never did, but he still escaped prosecution.

‘Compassion and courage’ for pedophile priest

Father John Hammer began working for the Archdiocese of Baltimore in May 1986 after completing treatment for sex addiction and pedophilia. He was assigned as a chaplain at Baltimore’s St. Agnes Hospital. Three months later, a Youngstown, Ohio, bishop signed an indemnity agreement protecting the Archdiocese of Baltimore from liability for “claims of any kind or nature whatsoever arising out of any culpable act or omission on the part of Rev. John E. Hammer.” The following year, he received additional treatment. A 1987 letter from Hammer’s therapist to Archbishop Borders said, “as you know, we have had difficulty finding placements for those diagnosed with pedophilia” and expressed gratitude for the archbishop’s “compassion and courage.”

Immunity ‘no matter how serious’ the abuse

In 1985, the archdiocese helped Father William Simms secure immunity from criminal prosecution in Anne Arundel County despite knowing he had abused numerous children at St. Andrew by the Bay Parish near Cape St. Claire. An assistant state attorney for the county memorialized the protection in a letter sent to archdiocese lawyers, which agrees “not to prosecute Father Simms for any incidents of child abuse he discusses with [county police investigators], no matter how serious and whether we already know about them or not.” Simms went on to abuse more children, and when lawyers for the archdiocese reported those cases to state law enforcement authorities, they would remind prosecutors of his special status.

Story killed by ‘highly placed newspaperman’

In 1958, Father Gerald Tragesser of Towson’s Immaculate Heart of Mary church was prosecuted for sexually abusing a 13-year-old girl, the report said. But according to letters Archbishop Keough wrote to other priests at the time, the case was resolved privately in the chambers of the chief judge of the circuit court for Baltimore County. When the victim’s mother tried to expose the abuse through the press, Keough wrote that “prolonged and extremely careful negotiations” and the “happy influence of a highly placed newspaperman” prevented the story from being printed. Less than a year later, Tragesser was reassigned to the Diocese of Salt Lake City and described as having “girl trouble.”

jessica.calefati@thebaltimorebanner.com

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Jessica Calefati is an education enterprise reporter exploring how Johns Hopkins University is shaping Baltimore’s future. 

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