The explosive, 456-page report released by the Maryland Office of the Attorney General Wednesday sheds new light on a key figure whose alleged crimes appear in the Netflix documentary series “The Keepers.”

Father Anthony Joseph Maskell engaged in several years’ worth of sex abuse and physical harm of children starting in the late 1960s, according to the report, which lays out dozens of examples to how the Archdiocese of Baltimore systematically enabled the sexual abuse of children for decades.

Detailing allegations over 80 years, the report resurfaces many of the documentary’s claims against Maskell and contains some new, horrific details about him and his involvement in covering up other claims that surfaced against colleagues facing abuse allegations. He is painted as one of the state’s most prolific child sex abusers who benefited from repeated cover-up and complicity at the highest levels of diocesan leadership.

The report mentions the possible link between Maskell and the death of Sister Catherine Cesnik, whose life “The Keepers” focuses on, but offers no new information about her killing.

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Here are some new details about Maskell included in the report.

At least 39 victims known

The report devotes dozens of pages to Maskell, naming him nearly 200 times and connecting him to 39 victims.

According to the report, cardinals and bishops knew of parents’ concerns about Maskell’s behavior as early as 1966 when parents complained about him “showing extraordinary curiosity about the boy scouts’ sexual fantasies and practice.” He reportedly taped interviews with the boys “about their own habits” when he was an assistant at Sacred Heart of Mary in Baltimore. Church leaders transferred him to St. Clement church in Lansdowne after less than 18 months at the parish.

A 1966 letter, signed by “the People of Sacred Heart of Mary,” said Maskell brought young girls into the rectory under “suspicious circumstances,” according to the report, but did not make specific abuse allegations.

The report claims Archbishop Lawrence Shehan knew about the concerns involving boy scouts, but took no action aside from the transfer. In 2018, a former altar boy at St. Clement who performed mass with Maskell said Maskell masturbated in front of him and asked him to touch him, which the victim refused. After the boy’s mother and another adult woman reported him to the archdiocese, he was removed from St. Clement and sent to Keough, an all-girls school, the report says.

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Bishop P. Francis Murphy, who also had received complaints about Maskell, gave him a positive reference when he applied for the superintendent of schools position for the archdiocese more than a decade later. And in a meeting with Archbishop William Keeler that delved into Maskell’s past in his later years, Keeler brought up allegations of “sexual harassment,” which Maskell denied while “weeping openly” several times.

The report says about 31 victims came forward to report sexual abuse allegations against Maskell from 2015 to 2018, including 16 who said they were abused by him at the Keough school.

His victims included one 11- or 12-year-old boy at St. Martin’s summer camp who said Maskell touched his genitals; a boy who, while in seventh grade, said Maskell forced him to perform oral sex and digitally penetrated him with his finger and objects; one girl who said Maskell inappropriately touched her, vaginally and orally raped her and videotaped her doing sexual acts with young boys as a preschooler at Holy Cross in 1986 and 1987; and one 9- or 10-year-old girl who said Maskell forced her to pose naked, perform oral sex and raped her orally and anally, according to the report.

The 9- or 10-year-old girl said Maskell also threatened her with a knife and threatened her family; she also believes she once saw Maskell and another priest carry a rug “which seemed to have a body in it.” The seventh grade boy also reported having been drugged by Maskell, raped by another priest and an “unnamed nun,” and made to watch while Maskell raped a female student from the Keough school.

One account, which is detailed extensively in “The Keepers” and is detailed in the report, surfaced in 1992. The survivor accuses Maskell of oral and vaginal rape and voyeurism, and said the abuse occurred every few weeks for multiple years. She claimed Maskell drove her to Sister Cesnik’s body after she had asked if anyone was harming the victim.

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In internal church documents reviewed by state officials, church leaders say the archdiocese investigated these claims but could not corroborate them. After confronting Maskell about the allegations, church documents say he denied them but agreed to attend a residential treatment program. He carried out a “very public relationship” with a young girl during that stay. Church documents mention a “6-month investigation” but no evidence of the investigation or a final report are included.

After treatment, church documents indicate that the archdiocese did not reinstate him as pastor at Holy Cross Parish due to a “sense of relief” felt by most people interviewed about him.

Pattern of abuse

The report identified patterns of behavior Maskell used on victims. Several reported him asking detailed sexual questions; “hypnotizing” or drugging students; and showing male and female students pornography. He also tracked at least one victim’s menstrual cycle and had pelvic and gynecological exams performed. At least one adult victim, a woman in her 20s at the time, is also mentioned.

Nearly all the 16 victims from the Keough school say Maskell fondled their breasts in his office, and at least nine said he gave them drinks that may have contained drugs. Many say they awoke after ingesting the drinks to find evidence of abuse, such as blood, on their clothes.

At least seven of Maskell’s victims said they were forced to have vaginal, oral and anal sex with Maskell and at times with other men he brought into the room. At least six said he performed enemas on them, sometimes with other men present. One said Maskell showed her photographs of herself naked, being penetrated by an object and being orally raped. Several survivors said Maskell threatened them with guns, expulsion or harm to their parents. The Keough school survivors said the abuse was recurrent.

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Victims also said Maskell often used religious elements as part of sex acts: use of the confessional; ink blot tests; drugging; and sensitive questions. Multiple people, including other priests, police officers and civilians were involved in the accounts.

His accomplice

Many of the documented allegations happened with another priest, Father Edward Neil Magnus, who commands his own section of the report.

Magnus, who worked at Keough from 1969 to 1972, is accused of both participating in abuse with Maskell, or bearing witness to Maskell’s abuse. In one instance, Maskell led a drugged victim to Magnus so he could rape her, the report says. The report said Magnus abused people in Maskell’s office, including one victim who also alleged being raped by both priests in her home while her siblings were present.

Both Magnus and Maskell worked as counselors at Keough. One victim in 1970 asked Magnus to be her counselor to escape Maskell, who she said was sexually abusing her, according to the report. He responded: “I’m sorry, but I can’t help you. Try to stay away from him.”

Another woman who reported abuse by Magnus in 1992 alleged he described his ejaculate as “the Holy Spirit” and that she received communion when he raped her. She also alleged that she and two other girls were photographed topless by Magnus in Maskell’s school office on multiple occasions.

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When Magnus resigned from Keough in 1972, he wrote that there was a lack of leadership at the school and that he had concerns about “what has transpired during the past year.” He referenced without details the way that a sister at the school was treated by faculty and leadership, saying faculty and staff had “very gravely failed” to act as Christians. He also expressed fears of verbal “slips” and making injurious statements about the school.

Others involved

The report identifies Sister Judith Schaum, the dean of the Keough school, as among those who knew about claims against Maskell. Several teachers at the school are also alleged to have known about his abuse.

William C. Newman, a monsignor and the archdiocese superintendent of schools, wrote a memo to Bishop Murphy requesting Maskell’s transfer out of Keough in 1975. He was then assigned to Baltimore County’s Department of Social Services as a representative of the Catholic school system. The memo referenced Maskell’s “expertise” and ability to assist with “child abuse issues.” Bishop Murphy also recommended Maskell for the position. Newman denied ever being approached by anyone in reference to Maskell.

After the stay in residential treatment, the Archdiocese assigned Maskell to an administrative role at St. Augustine in 1993.

Maskell faced a lawsuit in 1994 from a Keough student who says he abused her in his office at the school, administering pelvic exams and enemas and once calling on another student to perform sex acts on her. The lawsuit ultimately failed on statute of limitations grounds, but documents collected during the discovery period include a 1970 report of a gynecological exam performed on her by Dr. Christian Richter. Maskell was placed on administrative leave and resigned from priestly ministry in late 1994.

Maskell moved to Ireland, where church leaders found him frequently wearing clerical garb and performing works of “public ministry.” The Irish Health Board reached out to the Archdiocese of Baltimore regarding Maskell’s involvement in child abuse, and in 1996, the Archdiocese responded by letter with some details into the allegations leveled against him. The letter said that church leaders found the first reporting victim credible at first but ultimately did not believe her after Maskell denied the accusation.

In a church letter to Maskell that same year, an unidentified leader whose name is redacted wrote to Maskell in Ireland reiterating that his priestly faculties had been removed. The same person said he was “pleased” that the lawsuit against Maskell and the archdiocese might not proceed because of a late filing. This person is mentioned throughout the report as “Official C.”

John Carney, another abuser identified in the report and a roommate of Maskell’s at Holy Cross, St. Clement and Our Lady of Victory, as well as in Federal Hill, told state officials from the attorney general’s office in 2019 that Maskell once confided in him between 1992 and 1994 that the allegations against him were true, according to the report.

When asked for additional details, Carney had none, and stated Maskell was “a very good person,” and “kind to everybody.”

Involvement in other cases

According to the report, Maskell knew of abuse being perpetrated by his colleagues and did nothing.

A survivor of abuse by Father John Joseph Mike Jr. said Maskell knew about the abuse in 1980 but did not report it. Mike, who relied on Maskell as his counselor, transferred to a new parish.

Mike reported that he told Maskell and a doctor about the abuse, and Maskell and the doctor both concluded that the incident was isolated and borne “out of stress.” No reports were made and no treatment was ordered, the report notes. Mike later received a diagnosis of “sexual sadism” in 1987, and church documents state concern about what Maskell knew about Mike and when.

A victim of Father Joseph Gerg said she also reported abuse to Magnus and Maskell.

Hallie Miller covers housing for The Baltimore Banner. She's previously covered city and regional services, business and health at both The Banner and The Baltimore Sun.

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