Monday is the deadline for attorneys to submit their suggested redactions to a 456-page investigation into the history of child sexual abuse within the Archdiocese of Baltimore. It’s one of the final steps before a Baltimore judge releases the long-awaited report that details the “sexual abuse” and “physical torture” of more than 600 children and teens at the hands of 158 Catholic priests over eight decades.
Here are key events that led to the investigation:
1985: For the first time, a case of a sexually abusive priest was gaining national attention. The Louisiana priest, Rev. Gilbert Gauthe, admitted in 1985 that he abused 37 boys. He received a 20-year prison sentence, but was released halfway through, according to reporting in The New York Times.
December 1991: The Archdiocese of Baltimore received allegations from a victim that retired priest Rev. Michael J. Spillane sexually abused him when he was a minor. One year later, Spillane admitted to sexually abusing six boys, and the archdiocese removed his priestly responsibilities. From 1969 to 1986, Spillane worked in Baltimore archdiocese churches and retired to undergo psychological treatment. He worked at the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions in Washington, D.C., from 1986 to 2002.
June 1995: John Merzbacher, a former teacher at Catholic Community School of Baltimore, was convicted of sexual abuse and the repeated rape of a student in the ‘70s. He is currently serving four consecutive life sentences. The women who accused Merzbacher of abuse have said publicly that Sister Eileen Weisman, the principal of the school at the time, witnessed the crimes and did nothing. She has never been charged with a crime.
2002: Following the Boston Globe’s investigation of the Archdiocese of Boston, the Roman Catholic Church was in the nation’s spotlight.
April 2002: Another person came forward and accused Spillane of sexually abusing him in 1968. He was the second person to publicly accuse Spillane. The Archdiocese of Baltimore reported the allegation in 2002 to the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office.
September 2002: The Archdiocese of Baltimore published a list of 57 Catholic clergy members who had been accused of child sexual abuse, with allegations dating back to the ‘50s. The Baltimore list was one of the first lists published in the country after The Globe’s investigation. Former Cardinal William H. Keeler also disclosed that in the last 20 years, the archdiocese paid $5.6 million in settlements to victims, according to reporting in The Washington Post.
Feb. 17, 2005: A former priest of St. Edward Roman Catholic Church in West Baltimore, Maurice Blackwell was found guilty and convicted of three counts of sexually abusing an altar boy in the ‘90s, according to The Washington Post. Blackwell requested a new trial, which was granted in April 2005, and then in July 2005, the state’s attorney dropped the case, according to The Baltimore Sun. Blackwell never served prison time. A man who accused Blackwell of abuse shot him in 2002, and the injuries caused the former priest to use a cane. In 1998, the archdiocese removed Blackwell’s priestly responsibilities after receiving abuse claims.
Feb. 8, 2006: Jerome Toohey, former chaplain at Calvert Hall College High School in Towson, was sentenced to 18 months in jail for sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy between 1987 and 1989, according to The Baltimore Sun. He had been accused twice of sexual abuse before his sentencing. After serving 10 months in jail, Toohey was released and served the rest of his sentence on home detention.
September 2010: Former Frederick pastor Thomas Bevan was sentenced to 18 months of home detention and five years of probation for the child abuse of a 10-year-old altar boy in 1976, according to The Frederick News-Post.
May 2016: Fourteen years after the Baltimore archdiocese published the list of priests accused of sexual abuse, the archdiocese posted an updated list of 71 priests.
May 19, 2017: Netflix released “The Keepers,” a docuseries looking into the 1969 unsolved murder of Sister Catherine Cesnik, a teacher at Archbishop Keough High School, and how her death may have been linked to Father A. Joseph Maskell, a chaplain and counselor at Keough. Maskell was accused of child sexual abuse and rape and denied all allegations against him. He was never criminally charged, and he died in 2001. In total, the archdiocese has spent $1.1 million in payments and counseling support to 23 people Maskell abused, according to spokesman Christian Kendzierski.
2017: Archbishop Keough High School is demolished due to declining enrollment.
Aug. 14, 2018: The Pennsylvania grand jury released their 18-month investigation into child abuse in the clergy. The abuse spanned seven decades and the grand jury’s report lists more than 300 priests. This report was part of what prompted the Baltimore report.
2018: The Maryland Attorney General’s Office investigation into the Catholic clergy’s sex abuse was publicly acknowledged by Archbishop William Lori, who said former Attorney General Brian Frosh began to look into sex abuse in the church. There is not an exact date when the investigation began, but it was spurred after “The Keepers” aired and after the Pennsylvania investigation.
Nov. 17, 2022: Frosh signed a motion asking to make the 456-page investigation public. The attorney general’s office also contacted victims to tell them the report was nearing completion. Lori released a statement responding to the motion in which he apologized to survivors, restated the church’s commitment to transparency and its commitment to protecting children from abuse.
Nov. 22, 2022: The Archdiocese of Baltimore released a follow-up statement that said it will not oppose the release of the attorney general’s investigation into child abuse in the church. Although the archdiocese said it would not oppose the release, it is paying for lawyers who are filing motions to keep legal arguments about the report sealed. The lawyers also represent some of the people named in the report, but who are not accused of sexual abuse.
Dec. 2, 2022: Baltimore Circuit Judge Anthony Vittoria ordered the case sealed, meaning the legal arguments about whether to release the investigation will continue, but will not be made available to the public. Since the investigation was done through a grand jury, all proceedings must be kept secret, according to Maryland law.
Dec. 19, 2022: The Maryland Catholic Conference announced it will support legislation that erases the statute of limitations for future victims to sue the church. People who are abused as children can file lawsuits until they are 38 or within three years of an abuser’s criminal conviction. The Maryland Catholic Conference represents the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington and the Diocese of Wilmington in Delaware.
Jan. 3, 2023: Baltimore Circuit Judge Robert K. Taylor Jr. was assigned to the case of the release of the grand jury investigation.
Feb. 24, 2023: Taylor orders a redacted version of the report to be released. Before its release, he’s giving the attorney general’s office and church lawyers until March 13 to submit to the court their recommended redactions.