Maryland’s attorney general’s office released a report on Wednesday that details clerical child sex abuse and its coverup in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. The contents of the report, in conjunction with the circumstances surrounding its release, will likely demoralize Catholics, but what it should do is infuriate them.
In addition to detailing the horrors of clerical sexual abuse, the 463-page report also describes “a history of repeated dismissal or cover up of that abuse by the Catholic Church hierarchy,” further noting that “[w]hat was consistent throughout was the absolute authority and power these abusive priests and church leadership held over victims, their families, and their communities.”
The report notes that “there are a number of senior members of the Archdiocese involved in and advising the handling of child abuse worthy of mention.” In a moment of nauseatingly morbid irony, the next five and a half paragraphs are redacted. In fact, much of the report is redacted, including the names of 10 accused abusers, some of them living, that the archdiocese had not previously disclosed — meaning these priests, brothers, or teachers are, for all intents and purposes, anonymous and free to run about, and no child’s parent is any the wiser.
The investigators who are responsible for compiling this horror story of a report demanded late last year that it be released in full. But a small lobbying group — not named in the report — petitioned for the report to be redacted, effectively delaying its publication while a judge reviewed the circumstances. Eventually, the lobbyists were successful in getting large swaths of the damning report redacted. That small lobbying group was funded by the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
Only one of Baltimore’s three most recent archbishops is named in connection with any negative activity: Cardinal William Keeler, who was previously named by a Pennsylvania grand jury for covering up abuse while serving as bishop of Harrisburg. Keeler’s successor, Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, and O’Brien’s successor, Archbishop William Lori, the current archbishop of Baltimore, emerge from the report unscathed.
Yet it was under Lori’s leadership that the archdiocese funded the group that called for the report to be redacted. When Keeler was accused in 2018 of covering up abuse, Lori quickly nixed plans to name an elementary and middle school after the late cardinal — but Lori had access to all of Keeler’s Baltimore files before the accusations about Keeler became public.
Lori talks a big game about financially compensating abuse victims, boasting of paying out over $13 million, but he aggressively fought to prevent a Maryland bill that would open a lookback window for abuse victims. The state Senate passed the lookback window bill the same day that the report was released. Democratic Gov. Wes Moore is expected to sign it.
The Archdiocese of Baltimore is the first and oldest Catholic diocese in the United States, established in 1789, with many of the nation’s major dioceses — including New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. — springing from it until well into the 1800s. Baltimore is, in many ways, the heart of Catholicism in America. The abuse report is damning enough, but the ongoing culture of coverup surrounding the report, its release, and even its contents is disheartening, to say the least.
The report states, “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.” Many Catholics will respond to the self-serving corruption of bishops and cardinals with apathy and surrender, leaving the Church instead of defending it. Unless Catholics get, in the words of Network’s Howard Beale, “Mad as hell,” the corruption and coverup will continue to erode the foundational institution of Western civilization and drive Catholics toward the arms of dazed and apathetic liberalism and nihilism.