In the years before his death, while his trauma and addiction worsened, the Baltimore lawyer and investment banker Francis X. Gallagher Jr. desperately wanted answers.
He wanted to know if other men had reported sexual abuse by the Rev. Mark Haight. He wanted to know if the Catholic Church had ignored the warnings. He wanted all of Haight’s old parishes to know of the allegations.
Instead, his written pleas to church officials in Baltimore fell on deaf ears, his daughter said.
Only after her father died last year did Flannery Gallagher discover the extent of his effort and his anguish. Based on his letters, Gallagher’s two adult children, Flannery and her brother, Liam, filed a wrongful death lawsuit Tuesday against the church.
“My father was asking the church, please reach out to those communities in case anyone else was harmed,” Flannery Gallagher said at a news conference Tuesday.
Their lawsuit filed in Baltimore Circuit Court accuses the Archdiocese of Baltimore, St. Mary’s Seminary & University, and the legal entity that operates the seminary, of negligence for failing to keep their father safe when he was a boy working as the seminary’s night receptionist. The lawsuit also accuses the archdiocese and seminary of hiding its knowledge of rampant abuse at St. Mary’s.
“The Archdiocese is just learning of this and cannot offer a response at this time. We offer our deepest sympathies and prayers to the family,” said Christian Kendzierski, the archdiocese spokesman.
The case is notable for another reason: The Gallagher family patriarch founded the church’s longtime law firm.
The late Francis X. Gallagher Sr. opened the Baltimore firm of Gallagher Evelius & Jones in 1961. The firm has handled the legal work of the church for decades and represents its interests in litigation around the Maryland Attorney General’s report on sexual abuse within the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
“Frank Sr. was, by all accounts, the AOB’s [Archdiocese of Baltimore’s] primary advisor in legal and political matters in the decade before he died,” according to the lawsuit.
In fact, the church honored the family patriarch for his service as a papal knight. Gallagher Sr. died of a heart attack in 1972, at the age of 43, while defending priests accused of antiwar activities.
His death plunged the family into financial trouble. The firm offered no help to his widow and five children and booted them from the firm’s medical insurance, according to the lawsuit. Longtime church lawyer, David Kinkopf, of Gallagher Evelius & Jones, did not respond Tuesday to the lawsuit.
In the 1970s, the children’s uncle, the Rev. Joe Gallagher, worked at the seminary and hired then-14-year-old Frank Jr. as a night receptionist.
Father Joe Gallagher himself was accused of sexually abusing a boy in the 1980s, according to the attorney general’s report.
“Defendants knew that placing 14-year-old Frank Jr. in a workplace rife with pedophiles to work, alone, at night, posed a substantial risk that Frank Jr. would be sexually abused,” Flannery and Liam alleged in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges Haight lured the boy to his room, sexually assaulted him and also abused him during a camping trip at Assateague Island. When Francis X. Gallagher Jr. told state investigators of the abuse, he said another seminarian was in the tent during the incident, but did nothing to help him, according to the attorney general’s report.
The attorney general’s report includes additional allegations against Haight. Two people accused Haight of child sexual abuse when he was assigned to the Diocese of Albany, and he’s been sued in Boston, Vermont and New York over alleged incidents of abuse, according to the report. The New York case settled last year for $750,000. Haight was removed from ministry in 1996.
Property records list Haight, 74, as living in Schenectady, New York. He could not be reached for comment.
“Haight took full advantage of his easy access to a physically, emotionally, and financially vulnerable 14-year-old who was raised to be deferential to priests and church leaders,” according to the Gallagher family lawsuit.
Frank Gallagher Jr. went on to graduate from Loyola Blakefield and Georgetown University. He rose to partner of the law firm Venable LLP then became an investment banker and co-founded Charlesmead Advisors in Mount Vernon. He kept secret the abuse, married and raised two children. Still, the events of his boyhood haunted him.
“Frank Jr. started to engage in risky extramarital sexual encounters with men. This behavior is common among abuse survivors, and it is commonly referred to in the literature as ‘repetition compulsion,’” the lawsuit states. “Frank Jr. directly attributed his risky behaviors to the sexual abuse he endured as a child.”
In 2002, Frank Gallagher Jr. contacted the archdiocese officials Bishop W. Francis Malooly and the Rev. Patrick Carrion to discuss his allegations against Haight. Frank Gallagher Jr. wanted to know if others had accused Haight of abuse.
“Neither official offered answers,” according to the lawsuit.
Frank Gallagher Jr. sent more letters and contacted the Diocese of Albany. According to the lawsuit, “The AOB [Archdiocese of Baltimore] responded with silence and apathy.”
Over the next year, he repeatedly wrote church and seminary officials in Baltimore and Albany to ask that parishes be notified of his allegations against Haight. The archdiocese included Haight on its 2002 list of accused clergy.
“Again and again, the AOB refused to take responsibility or action in response to concrete allegations of Haight’s sexual abuse of children,” according to the lawsuit. “The AOB’s utterly deficient response caused Frank Jr. to experience immense pain and suffering. Frank Jr. was further traumatized over time as it became apparent that the AOB had engaged in extensive coverups to protect its priests who were abusers.”
By 2015, Frank Gallagher Jr. began turning to methamphetamines to cope, according to the lawsuit.
Meanwhile, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh opened an investigation into the history of sex abuse within the Archdiocese of Baltimore. State investigators established a hotline for survivors to report abuse. They spent years poring over church records and counted 158 priests accused of the sexual abuse and physical torture of more than 600 people over the past 80 years.
Frank Gallagher Jr. was anxious for the public to understand the extent of the abuse. He met twice with state investigators to share his records and story. He followed up again and again, asking them when the report would come out.
In April, the attorney general’s office published its findings: 464 pages that told of a pervasive history of child sexual abuse and the complicit silence of church leaders.
But Frank Gallagher Jr. never saw the report. He died eight months earlier of a drug overdose.