Sunday, November 20, 2022

‘Shame, remorse, sympathy’: Maryland AG seeks to release major report on sexual abuse

 Maryland Attorney General - Brian E Frosh

The Maryland attorney general’s office is seeking to release a major report chronicling information about Catholic clerics accused or prosecuted for sexual abuse in the state, following a four-year investigation drawing on hundreds of thousands of documents subpoenaed from the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said his office had compiled the information given by the archdiocese, along with information gathered from interviews, into a 456-page report that claims to identify more than 600 victims. It is currently unclear whether the report will lead to any new criminal charges.

In a 35-page legal motion dated Nov. 17, Frosh asked permission from a judge to release the documents provided by the archdiocese, which were given in response to a January 2019 subpoena from a grand jury. The documents provided by the archdiocese, which number in the hundreds of thousands, pertain to “the last 80 years relating to allegations of sexual abuse and the response by the archdiocese to these allegations.”

Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore apologized to victims of abuse in a letter released Thursday and reiterated the archdiocese’s current zero-tolerance policy for sexual abuse.

“Upon reading today’s motion, we feel renewed shame, deep remorse, and heartfelt sympathy, most especially to those who suffered from the actions of representatives of the very Church entrusted with their spiritual and physical well-being,” Lori said in a Nov. 17 statement.

“The information contained in the motion will no doubt be a source of renewed pain for many, most especially those harmed by representatives of the Church, for the lay faithful of our archdiocese, as well as for many good priests, deacons, and religious,” Lori said.

“Ever-aware of the pain endured by survivors of child sexual abuse, I once again offer my sincere apologies to the victim-survivors who were harmed by a minister of the Church and who were harmed by those who failed to protect them, who failed to respond to them with care and compassion and who failed to hold abusers accountable for their sinful and criminal behavior,” Lori added.

Frosh says the report names 115 priests who were prosecuted for sexual abuse and/or identified publicly by the archdiocese as having been “credibly accused” of sexual abuse. It also includes an additional 43 priests — 30 of whom are deceased, and the identities of the rest redacted — accused of sexual abuse “but not identified publicly by the archdiocese,” for a total of 158 names.

The archdiocese’s own online list of credibly accused clergy includes 152 names, including many priests from other dioceses or religious orders and 17 religious brothers who served in or had a connection to the archdiocese, the Catholic Review reported. The list was last updated in June.

Frosh, who is retiring in January, said the final report chronicles such instances as one parish that was assigned 11 allegedly abusive priests in a 40-year timespan. He noted that while the archdiocese “reported a large number of allegations to police, especially in later years, for decades it worked to ensure that perpetrators would not face justice.”

The motion to release the report came on the final day of the U.S. bishops’ annual fall meeting in Baltimore, during which Lori was elected vice president of the national conference.

Addressing the apparent discrepancy between the number of priests named in the attorney general’s report and the number of credibly accused priests listed by the archdiocese, Lori said that the archdiocesan list does not include the names of priests or brothers who died before a single accusation of child abuse was received, unless the allegation could be corroborated by a third party or unless a second allegation was made against the same deceased cleric.

In 1993 the Archdiocese of Baltimore created an independent review board, which today is primarily made up of laypeople, to investigate allegations of abuse, and the 2002 reforms known as the Dallas Charter created national norms for responding to sexual abuse.

Lori said the archdiocese has long cooperated with law enforcement, reporting all allegations of child sexual abuse. Under Maryland law, any person who has reason to believe a child has been subjected to abuse must report the suspected abuse to civil authorities, even if the potential victim is now over 18 years old and even in cases where the alleged perpetrator is deceased, the Catholic Review reported.

Lori said they have sought to be open and transparent about abuse allegations they have received.

“We know horrifyingly well the enormity of the grievous harm caused to individuals, families, and entire communities from our past experience of publicly naming the 152 priests and brothers we believe have abused children,” Lori said.

The release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report in 2018 — which claimed to have identified more than 1,000 victims of 300 credibly accused priests as well as efforts by Church authorities to ignore, obscure, or cover up allegations — spurred numerous investigations of dioceses in the U.S. and around the world.

No comments: