An investigation into the Baltimore Archdiocese of the Catholic Church has found more than 600 victims who were abused by clergy in the last 80 years. Photo courtesy of Farragutful/Wikimedia
Nov. 18 (UPI) -- An investigation into the Baltimore Archdiocese of the Catholic Church has found more than 600 victims who were abused by clergy in the last 80 years.
The nearly four-year probe into the church was conducted by state prosecutors in Maryland and revealed in a court filing made by Attorney General Brian Frosch on Thursday to disclose the results of the investigation.
"For decades, survivors reported sexual abuse perpetrated by Catholic priests and for decades the Church covered up the abuse rather than holding the abusers accountable and protecting its congregations," Frosch wrote in the court filing. "The Archdiocese of Baltimore was no exception."
The investigation is the second to be conducted by state prosecutors after the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office announced in August 2018 that the late Cardinal William Keeler, long-time Archbishop of Baltimore, was engaged in covering up sexual abuse.
Maryland opened its criminal investigation in January 2019 and a grand jury issued subpoenas to the Archdiocese of Baltimore seeking all documents relating to sexual assault allegations over the last eight decades.
The Archdiocese produced hundreds of thousands of pages of documents in response to the subpoena over the past four years, with the most recent documents provided in July.
Prosecutors also interviewed former priests and church officials, victims and witnesses in its investigation and compiled all the findings in a 456-page report which identifies 115 priests that were prosecuted for sex abuse or identified publicly by the Archdiocese as having been "credibly accused."
The report also found 43 priests who were accused of sexual abuse but not identified by the Archdiocese publicly.
"The report summarizes the sexual abuse and physical torture perpetrated by all 158 identified priests and the Archdiocese's response to that abuse," Frosch wrote in the court filing.
"As shown in the report, both boys and girls were abused, with ages ranging from preschool through young adulthood. Although no parish was safe, some congregations and schools were assigned multiple abusive priests, and a few had more than one sexually abusive priest at the same time."
Frosch wrote that one congregation was assigned a startling 11 sexually abusive priests over 40 years and said the sexual abuse "was so pervasive that victims were sometimes reporting sexual abuse to priests who were perpetrators themselves."
"The Archdiocese failed to report many allegations of sexual abuse, conduct adequate investigations of alleged abuse, remove the abusers from the ministry, or restrict their access to children. Instead, it went to great lengths to keep the abuse secret," Frosch wrote.
"While the Archdiocese reported a large number of allegations to police, especially in later years, for decades it worked to ensure that the perpetrators would not face justice."
Archbishop William Lori published a message to members of the diocese after the report was made public Thursday.
"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 wrote in the message.
"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 that the revelations would "lead to confusion and question, including about the Church's commitment to transparency" and noted that a list of 152 priests and brothers published on the website for the Archdiocese does not include the names of those who died before accusations were received.