Maryland Attorney General Anthony G. Brown has released a redacted report on child sexual abuse within the Archdiocese of Baltimore, detailing a long history of systemic abuse and cover-up by clergy and others associated with the Church. The report is the culmination of a four-year investigation into allegations of child sexual abuse and cover-up by members of the clergy.
According to the report, young people in some parishes were preyed upon by multiple abusers over decades. The clergy used their power and authority to exploit the trust of the children and families in their charge. The report also highlights the repeated actions of those in leadership positions to conceal and cover up the abuse, including moving priests to other parishes, failing to investigate or report abuse to civilian law enforcement authorities, and providing financial support to retired priests.
The report recommends that Maryland eliminate the statute of limitations that has prevented survivors from bringing civil actions against abusers and recovering damages for the harms they have suffered, which the General Assembly is currently considering with the Child Victims Act of 2023.
“This Report illustrates the depraved, systemic failure of the Archdiocese to protect the most vulnerable – the children it was charged to keep safe,” said Attorney General Brown. “Based on hundreds of thousands of documents and untold stories from hundreds of survivors, it provides, for the first time in the history of this State, a public accounting of more than 60 years of abuse and cover-up. Time and again, the Archdiocese chose to safeguard the institution and avoid scandal instead of protecting the children in its care. This Report shines a light on this overwhelming tragedy, and the courage of the survivors made it possible.”
The Attorney General’s investigation into criminal allegations of child sexual abuse and cover-up efforts began in 2018. Hundreds of thousands of documents dating back to the 1940s were produced over a four-year period, including treatment reports, personnel records, transfer reports, and policies and procedures. The attorneys and investigators of the Office reviewed these documents and interviewed hundreds of survivors and their family members, and other witnesses, to uncover and document the systemic abuse and its cover-up by the Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. The Office created an email address and telephone hotline for individuals to report information about clergy abuse, receiving tips from over 300 people, including survivors and witnesses.
The report includes 156 current or former Catholic clergy, seminarians, deacons, members of Catholic religious orders, teachers at Catholic schools, and other employees of the Archdiocese known to the Attorney General’s Office to have been the subject of credible allegations of child sexual abuse committed in the Archdiocese of Baltimore or to have relocated to the Archdiocese in the wake of child sexual abuse committed in other dioceses.
The Office of the Attorney General has redacted the names and identifying information of persons named in the Report who are living, who were identified solely or primarily through review of documents provided in response to the grand jury subpoenas, and who the Report accuses of “hiding abuse, enabling abuse, assisting in the cover-up of abuse, or protecting abusers from the consequences of their action.”
Individuals whose identities are redacted will be notified and given an opportunity to review the portions of the Report that identify them and to file objections with the court. After receiving those objections, the court will decide whether to permit another release of the Report without redactions or with more limited redactions. Individuals whose identities are redacted are not necessarily accused in the Report of criminal misconduct.
Attorney General Brown expressed profound appreciation for the survivors who exhibited bravery and courage in coming forward to share their stories and experiences. The report is for informational purposes only and contains detailed descriptions of sexual abuse and other sexual misconduct against children. The accusations of wrongdoing described in this Report do not constitute findings of guilt.
The Archdiocese of Baltimore has issued a statement responding to the report, apologizing to survivors and acknowledging the harm that has been done. The statement also notes that the Archdiocese has taken steps to address past abuse and prevent future abuse, including implementing child protection policies and procedures, cooperating with civil authorities, and offering counseling and support to survivors.
The report’s release comes amid a broader reckoning with child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church in the United States and worldwide. Similar investigations have been conducted in other states, including Pennsylvania and New York, revealing widespread abuse and cover-up by the Church.
Advocates for survivors of child sexual abuse have praised the Maryland Attorney General’s report and called for further action to hold the Church accountable for its actions. Some have called for criminal charges to be brought against those responsible for the abuse and cover-up, while others have called for greater transparency and accountability from the Church.
The report’s release will also likely affect the legal landscape around child sexual abuse in Maryland and beyond. If the state eliminates the statute of limitations for civil actions against abusers, it could open the door for more survivors to seek justice and compensation for their harm.
The Maryland Attorney General’s report is a powerful indictment of the Catholic Church’s failure to protect children from sexual abuse and the subsequent cover-up of that abuse. While it may be too late for many survivors to seek justice through the legal system, the report provides a crucial step towards accountability and transparency and may help to prevent similar abuse from occurring in the future. As Attorney General Brown noted, the courage of the survivors made this report possible, and their voices must continue to be heard as we work towards a safer and more just society.