The Maryland Attorney General has identified 158 priests in the Archdiocese of Baltimore accused of sexually and physically abusing more than 600 victims over the past 80 years, according to court records filed Thursday in Baltimore.

The legal documents give a hint of what is detailed in a 456-page report the attorney general asked a Baltimore City Circuit Court judge to release to the public. The investigation was conducted over more than three years and included an examination of 100,000 documents from the archdiocese.

What are some examples of abuse in the documents?

One former priest told the attorney general’s office he had confessed to a church official to having an attraction to teenage boys in the late 1980s and was told not to worry about it. He confessed in the 1990s to having abused a 13-year-old boy, but nothing was done. “In 2017, another victim came forward and reported that the priest sexually abused him in 1988 when he was a 10-year-old altar boy. The abuse was so traumatic that the boy suffered facial paralysis,” the filing said. The priest was not dismissed from the clergy until 2004 — two years after he had been indicted on 12 counts of sexual abuse.

In another case, the church was made aware of a priest sexually abusing boys in 1959 but took no action to stop the abuse until 1995, despite the fact that multiple victims reported being sexually abused by the priest. The archdiocese did not alert authorities until 1997.

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In a third case mentioned in the filing, the archdiocese assigned a priest with a history of abuse to a Baltimore-area Catholic high school. When victims came forward several years later, the priest was taken out of the school and reassigned to a convent before disappearing in the early 1990s. Later, it was discovered that he had been in the Caribbean and had been supported by a religious group that wasn’t identified.

How extensive was the cover up?

The legal filing repeatedly uses strong language to describe the failure of the archdiocese to protect children, saying that the church worked for decades to make sure the abuse was kept secret.

“Time and again, the Archdiocese chose the abuser over the abused, the powerful over the weak, and the adult over the child. Hundreds of Marylanders have suffered mentally and physically for decades because of the Archdiocese’s decisions,” the filing said.

Which parishes had abusive priests?

Some congregations and schools seemed to have been assigned more abusive priests than others. A few had more than one at the same time.

“One congregation was assigned eleven sexually abusive priests over 40 years. The sexual abuse was so pervasive that victims were sometimes reporting sexual abuse to priests who were perpetrators themselves,” the filing said. It did not identify the parish.

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Were any priests named?

No priests or victims were named in the motion, although the full report is expected to name 158 priests. The filing said that 115 of the 158 priests have already been identified publicly by the archdiocese. In addition, the attorney general has identified another 43 priests accused of sexual abuse but never identified before publicly.

In 2002, the archdiocese began publicly compiling a list of priests and brothers accused of sexual abuse.

When will the report be released?

Because the report was produced as part of a grand jury investigation, the attorney general must ask a judge to release it to the public. Most grand jury information is kept secret.

As an interested party, the archdiocese has the right to file a request with the judge asking that the entire report or portions of the report be kept from the public eye. The archdiocese has not said what actions it may take. In addition, individual priests might ask that their names be redacted. How long that legal process may take is unclear.

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The attorney general’s filing argued it is time for a public reckoning.

“The secrecy must end. It is time to shine a bright light on the entirety of the sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Baltimore and the Archdiocese’s response to that abuse. Disclosure is necessary to protect the children of Maryland going forward and to acknowledge and honor the hundreds of victims who suffered at the hands of perpetrators and the Archdiocese.”

liz.bowie@thebaltimorebanner.com