Over the course of 80 years, the Archdiocese of Baltimore concealed pervasive sexual abuse of hundreds of children. Church officials convinced prosecutors not to charge priests with crimes. They transferred priests multiple times rather than acknowledge their abuse to parishes and schools. They ignored abusive priests who confessed that they struggled with pedophilia. They gave more weight to the denial of the abusers than to the allegations of their victims.
A 456-page report released Wednesday afternoon by the Maryland Office of the Attorney General lays out a “long and sordid history” with both broad scope and excruciating details. It identifies more than 100 priests and other archdiocesan personnel responsible for “horrific and repeated abuse of the most vulnerable children” in their community while the church looked the other way. But it also mentions police, state’s attorneys and even a journalist who helped hide the truth.
The report was released with 37 names redacted and identifying characteristics of another 60 removed, at the direction of a judge who will allow litigation over the release of those names later.
“The staggering pervasiveness of the abuse itself underscores the culpability of the Church hierarchy,” the report said.
“When denial became impossible, Church leadership would remove abusers from the parish or school, sometimes with promises that they would have no further contact with children. Church documents reveal with disturbing clarity that the archdiocese was more concerned with avoiding scandal and negative publicity than it was with protecting children.”
The Attorney General’s Office is calling on the archdiocese to expand its public list of abusive priests and brothers to include deacons and teachers, according to the historic investigative report.
”The focus has understandably been on abuse by priests, but great harm has also been caused by non-clerical members of the archdiocese, like deacons and teachers,” the report states.
The report covers the rape, beating, fondling, terrorization and torture of more than 600 children, sometimes for years at a time, over the period the investigation covered. The Attorney General’s Office believes the actual number is far higher because only a small percentage of abuse victims come forward. Many of the abusers are dead.
“While it may be too late for the victims to see criminal justice served, we hope that exposing the archdiocese’s transgressions to the fullest extent possible will bring some measure of accountability,” the report said.
A Banner analysis identified 32 people who have not previously been publicly identified.
“Today, certainly in Maryland, is a day of reckoning,” Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown told reporters at a news conference just before the release of the report.
Brown said many people who came forward during the investigation had done so in the past. But for some, he said, it was the first time.
“What we learned is that the incontrovertible history uncovered by this investigation is one of pervasive, pernicious and persistent abuse by priests and other archdiocese personnel,” Brown said. “It’s also a history of repeated coverup of that abuse by the Catholic Church hierarchy.”
Brown revealed that his office previously launched investigations into the Archdiocese of Washington and Diocese of Wilmington. He described those investigations as ongoing.
“We have issued subpoenas. We have been looking into this matter. And we will continue to do so,” Brown said.
The release of the report comes as more victims appeared on the verge of gaining the right to sue the church — creating a potentially perilous future for the archdiocese that could be overwhelmed with lawsuits or have to decide whether to file for bankruptcy protection.
Just hours after the report was released, Maryland lawmakers passed the Child Victims Act, which would remove time and age limits for survivors of child sexual abuse to sue institutions — such as churches and schools — that enabled their abusers. The act also undoes a legal protection called a “statute of repose” that some believe was sneaked into a prior bill on lawsuits in 2017, which had the effect of insulating institutions from older legal claims. After being approved in the House of Delegates last week and the Senate on Wednesday afternoon, the bill will soon be headed to Gov. Wes Moore, who has promised to sign the legislation into law.
Shortly before the release of the report, Brown met with abuse victims privately in his office.
“I feel great, like a weight has been lifted,” Linda Malat-Tiburzi said as she walked out of the meeting. Survivors voiced their appreciation to the office, Malat-Tiburzi said, and heard a brief introduction of what is in the report.
Officials explained why some names were redacted, and said they ultimately hoped to have a report come out with no redactions or fewer redactions. Elizabeth Murphy, walking out from the meeting, said she felt “grateful” for the attorney general’s office and what it had done.
”I think the Catholic Church should take the last few days of Holy Week to read the report and meditate on it,” she said.
At a late afternoon news conference at Jenner Law, which represents victims, Kit Bateman acknowledged publicly for the first time that he was abused as a 14-year-old by his religion teacher and school priest at Calvert Hall in 1973. Today was also the first time Bateman told his family, he said.
“I’m so sorry that happened to you,” one brother told him, “I never knew.”
”It’s a life sentence when it happens to you,” Bateman said. “You repress it as best you can and blame yourself as much as you can because a priest, to a little Catholic boy, is the closest thing to God. That’s what we’re told. That’s what we believe. The power is immense, even when you know its wrong.”
After the release of the report, Archbishop William Lori said in a statement that “the report details a reprehensible time in the history of this Archdiocese, a time that will not be covered up, ignored or forgotten. Acknowledgment, I know, is of utmost importance. My immediate predecessors and I have offered unyielding public acknowledgment of the horrors of this era.”
He said that the archdiocese has changed since previous decades when the abuse was ignored. “It is important that we shine God’s light on these lived accounts of abuse. The exposure illustrates the radical changes the Archdiocese began making in the 1990s to end this scourge. These efforts have been significant, and the Archdiocese has changed.”
Among the report’s key findings:
The report identifies 11 abusive priests — the largest concentration — at St. Mark Parish in Catonsville. Nine priests had been identified prior to the report, but informal investigations by survivors believed it was higher.
In May 2002, a man reported being sexually abused by Robert Lentz, a priest, in the rectory in 1964. The victim had incomplete flashbacks and remembers waking up to Lentz in a bathrobe. The archdiocese paid a $35,000 settlement to the victim. Later that year, in October, another man reported being abused by Lentz at St. Mark in 1967-1968. It happened after Lentz took the alleged victim and another boy to a hockey game. He later gave them alcohol and abused them both, according to the report. The victim said that “Lentz was infamous in the Catonsville area and kids knew you could go to him for alcohol or a ride.” Three other victims came forward to report their abuse at St. Mark since then.
The Rev. Thomas Smith admitted to sexually abusing multiple boys in the 1960s after a victim came forward in 1988. The abuse was not reported to anyone by the archdiocese, and Smith was allowed to continue his assignment. After another victim came forward in 1993, Smith died by suicide. Parishioners learned shortly after that the archdiocese knew Smith had a history of sexual abuse of children and quietly handled it.
At least 40 victims are known to have been sexually abused by Smith. The abuse occurred at every assignment Smith had: St. Jane Frances De Chantal, St. Michael in Overlea, Most Precious Blood and St. Stephen’s in Bradshaw, according to the report.
Joseph Maskell and ‘The Keepers’
Some new details emerged about the extent of the abuse that took place at Archbishop Keough High School, where the chaplain, Joseph Maskell, abused 39 people, including repeatedly raping some of his victims in his school office.
Maskell was the subject of the 2017 Netflix documentary series “The Keepers.” Complaints about Maskell started circulating as early as 1966, the report said, and Cardinal Lawrence Shehan knew about inappropriate behavior and reassigned him to another parish, before he was sent to Keough High School. The report details another priest who was involved in the abuse and says that administrators may have turned a blind eye to the abuse. In an example of the church’s complicity, the report included a 2019 interview with the Attorney General’s Office and another teacher, the Rev. John Carney, who said that between 1992 and 1994, Maskell confided in him that the allegations against him were true.
When pressed for further details, the report said, Carney only said that Maskell was “a very good person” and “kind to everybody.”
Multiple accusations were made against Jesuit priest Father Robert Cullen — who worked for 25 years as a teacher at Loyola Blakefield High School in Baltimore County. The earliest reported instance was in the 1960s when a mother caught Cullen preying on her daughter in their Baltimore County home. Despite the family’s reporting the abuse to Jesuit and archdiocesan officials, the church did not notify authorities, work to identify other victims, or restrict his access to children.
After the alleged abuse, Cullen continued to work at Loyola Blakefield until 1982. He then worked for parishes in West Virginia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania before returning to Loyola Blakefield in 1996, where he spent another six years as a teacher. Over the quarter-century he spent at Loyola Blakefield, Cullen allegedly abused multiple victims, according to the report. The archdiocese listed him as credibly accused in 2019.
Lee O’Hara, a deacon affiliated with Saint Athanasius and St. Rose of Lima in Baltimore, was charged in 1987 with 16 counts of sexual offenses in various degrees and 16 counts of child abuse in Ocean City. A 2004 internal memo stated that O’Hara admitted to molesting more than 100 children since 1953 but was not charged because “the State’s Attorney’s Office could not identify any specific victims.” He was not listed as credibly accused by the archdiocese.
Church officials moved abusers
The report uses Father Lawrence Brett as one example of a priest being moved around after allegations surfaced against him as a way of concealing, and enabling, abuse. Brett was said to be sent for “treatment” to New Mexico after admitting to the Bridgeport Diocese in 1964 of abusing and assaulting a boy while serving in Connecticut. He came to the Archdiocese of Baltimore after “treatment,” and was placed at Calvert Hall, a Catholic school for boys, where the report notes he abused more than 20 boys after 1964.
Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office abuse coverup
Father Robert Newman admitted to sexually abusing children between 1971 and at least 1986, and the archdiocesan records include a list of 12 boys between the ages of 9 and 15. Newman resigned as a pastor of Most Precious Blood Parish the same day he shared his history of sexual abuse. In a letter written to parishioners about Newman’s resignation by someone whose name is redacted from the report, “reasons of health” was listed as why he resigned, and he was praised for his “fine ministry.” Newman’s sexual abuse of children was not disclosed to parishioners. Newman was never charged with crimes of sexual abuse of children, and a 1987 police report reflects he received “exceptional clearance” from the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office under the condition that he receive “certain” treatment.
At least seven teenage boys reported that John Joseph Mike Jr., who served several churches in the Baltimore area, physically abused them between 1975 and 1987. One victim was put through a “test of torture” where Mike removed the boy’s clothes, tied his hands and his body to a tree and whipped him. In another instance, the victim’s back and chest were cut so badly that “he was unable to take a shower.” After parents reported the abuse to the archdiocese in 1987, psychologists diagnosed Mike with “sadomasochistic perophilia [sic].” The archdiocese reported the abuse allegations to the Howard County State’s Attorney’s Office. The police charged him with one count of physical child abuse, assault and battery, and Mike pleaded guilty.
John Francis Shine
In 2002, a victim’s son reported that his father was sexually abused by Brother Marius, also known as John Francis Shine, at St. Mary’s Industrial School in 1947 or 1948, where he was sent to live. He confirmed the abuse to the archdiocese. The victim said Shine took a different boy to his room every night. On the night the victim was selected, Shine sexually abused the victim and he tried to push Shine away. Shine beat him with a belt.
The victim ran away from the school, only to be returned. The victim told his parents, who reported the abuse to the head of the school, a Xaverian Brother, and to the archdiocese. The parents removed him from the school. Shine was listed as credibly accused in 2019. Between 1921 and 1973, Shine was assigned to at least 10 different places, including schools and churches in Maryland, Michigan, Wisconsin, Kentucky, and Massachusetts.
The Attorney General’s Office launched its investigation in 2018 and subpoenaed hundreds of thousands of documents; interviewed former priests, church employees, witnesses and survivors of sexual abuse; and compiled the document, which is called “Clergy Abuse in Maryland.”
The office later agreed to reword the document to remove the names, titles and other identifying information of 60 people.
Taylor instructed prosecutors to redact the names of an additional 37 people and let them know about their inclusion in the report. They will have the opportunity to review the portions that refer to them behind closed doors and respond in court.
The grand jury investigation resulted in one indictment: Neil Adleberg, 74, of Randallstown, the former head wrestling coach at Mount Saint Joseph High School, is charged in Baltimore County Circuit Court with sexual abuse of a minor and related offenses. He’s set to stand trial on June 20, according to online court records.
Law enforcement is not seeking additional criminal charges, according to court documents.
Baltimore Banner reporters Hallie Miller, Brenna Smith, Kristen Griffith, Jessica Calefati, Jasmine Vaughn-Hall, Penelope Blackwell, Cadence Quaranta, Clara Longo de Freitas and Ryan Little contributed to this report.