BALTIMORE — Leaders of the Baltimore Catholic Church have said they will not oppose the release of a report showing widespread past abuse in the church.
That report, an investigation by the Maryland Attorney General’s office, is now complete.
He found more than 150 clergy and other staff abused over 600 victims for decades.
Investigators said the church had gone to great lengths to cover up past abuses.
“The Archdiocese does not object to the release of a report which accurately details the heinous crime and sin of child sexual abuse perpetrated by clergy and also fairly and accurately details how the archdiocese responded to such allegations, even when the response fell far short of how such allegations are handled today,” spokesperson Christian Kendzierski wrote to WJZ.
Abuse survivors gathered outside church headquarters on Friday and called for the immediate release of the more than 400 pages of findings.
Dave Lorenz, of SNAP, the network of survivors of those abused by priests, said “prayers and apologies are not enough”.
The Attorney General himself asks a judge to make the report public.
He said he couldn’t do it without court approval because it contains secret grand jury testimony.
Archbishop William Lori apologized in a letter to all church members this week.
But he also noted the following: “Further confusion may arise from today’s motion regarding the Archdiocese’s current response to allegations of child sexual abuse. The conclusions drawn from historical events in today’s motion, while a continuing source of shame and remorse, do not reflect the Archdiocese’s current and decades-long strong pastoral response and treatment of allegations of child sexual abuse. For decades, the Archdiocese has fully complied with child protection efforts, including: reporting all allegations of child sexual abuse to law enforcement; zero tolerance resulting in the permanent banning of any employee or volunteer credibly accused of abuse; offers of counseling and pastoral outreach to anyone reporting harm by a minister of the Church; thorough screening and training of all Church ministers, employees, and volunteers; the ongoing accountability and oversight of our independent review committee and national compliance auditors; and open communication about newly received credible allegations of abuse, including through the List of Credibly Accused Priests posted on the Archdiocesan website and through various other Archdiocesan communication channels, media and institutions of the Church.”
For some, the Attorney General’s motion may help provide answers they’ve been waiting for years. For others, it may reopen wounds or give the impression of an inadequate or incomplete record of justice. To all, however, I pray that he will bring some measure of healing from the deep wounds caused by the scourge of child sexual abuse in the life of the Church.”
“To be honest, I don’t think at this point the archdiocese should have a say,” said Liz Murphy, who was raped by her former teacher at a Catholic school in Locust Point. She wants people to know it wasn’t just priests abusing children.
Her rapist, John Merzbacher, was convicted and is currently serving four consecutive life sentences.
“When I was 11, 12, and 13, he raped me, he threatened me, he put a gun to my head,” Murphy told WJZ investigator Mike Hellgren. “John Merzbacher going to prison will never give me back my childhood or anything I lost because of his brutality. But [his conviction] was only half justice. The other half was how the Archdiocese of Baltimore was never held accountable.”
Murphy has testified to the Attorney General’s investigators several times and thinks everyone needs to see the full, unredacted findings, hoping they do justice.
“Time and time again, the church I grew up with has put its power, prestige and possessions above the lives of the children in its care. Time and time again. And so this report which hopefully the, will be published will not change anything but it could do full justice, ”she said.
“What I know for sure is that the church may fall overboard tomorrow, but that doesn’t change my faith,” Murphy said.
She told Hellgren, “I’m still faithful and grateful for what I learned. The difference is that I believed in it.”
Here is the Attorney General’s motion.
A hearing date has not yet been set.