Clergy Sex Abuse Probes Grow: Maryland Launches Investigation

by | September 26, 2018

By Jonathan M. Pitts

Archbishop William E. Lori has told clergy members of the Archdiocese of Baltimore that state authorities are investigating the archdiocese's records related to the sexual abuse of children.

Lori told priests and deacons in a letter Monday that the office of the Attorney General Brian Frosh has informed the archdiocese that it plans to "conduct an investigation and thorough review" of the records.

"I write today to inform you that the archdiocese has been in discussions with the Maryland attorney general," the archbishop wrote.

A spokeswoman for the attorney general's office said Monday that, consistent with policy, it can neither confirm nor deny the existence of such an inquiry.

But the letter from Lori appeared to affirm that Maryland has become the latest of several states to open similar investigations in the wake of an explosive Aug. 14 Pennsylvania grand jury report that revealed that more than 300 "predator priests" in that state were credibly accused of sexually abusing more than 1,000 children over seven decades.

The Pennsylvania report further concluded that for decades, church officials, including the leaders of archdioceses, covered up crimes such as the rapes of children.

Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Wyoming are among the states that have opened investigations into how the Catholic church has handled allegations of sexual abuse within those jurisdictions.

About two weeks after the Pennsylvania report was released, Frosh's office posted a notice on his office's website suggesting that such a review was under way in Maryland. On Friday, he sent out a tweet that called for victims and witnesses of sexual abuse in schools or houses of worship to contact the office.

Lori pledged in his letter that the archdiocese would cooperate in any inquiry.

"The archdiocese is supportive of the review and will be fully cooperative throughout the process," Lori wrote.

Lori wrote that he considered such cooperation the duty of a church that has fallen short -- a conclusion he has said he reached in the more than 20 gatherings he has held with clergy, lay Catholics, parents, teachers and students since news of the Pennsylvania report broke.

"Based on my conversations with people throughout the archdiocese and from the emails and letters I have received these past weeks, it is clear that we are a church in crisis and that crisis is one of trust," he wrote. "It is my hope and prayer that this independent review and other acts of transparency by the archdiocese will bring about greater trust in the church among those who are understandably skeptical about the church's handling of allegations of abuse."

Lori had announced Friday in a letter to local Catholics a plan to create a lay council in the archdiocese through which members of the flock could more easily share their ideas and suggestions. The letter also announced the creation of an ongoing, virtual "town hall" in which Catholics can share their views and keep up with news as the church wrestles with the worldwide crisis.

On Sunday night, the archdiocese began using two online communications platforms -- MyParish and Flocknote -- to facilitate conversations and solicit input from the wider archdiocesan community related to the abuse crisis.

Sean Caine, a vice chancellor and spokesman for the archdiocese, said Monday that the threads on both platforms have seen "heavy engagement," and that more than 300 people have added themselves to a Spanish-language version of the Flocknote platform.

The Catholic Church sex abuse scandal has become an issue in Frosh's race for re-election. After the Pennsylvania report, his Republican challenger, Craig Wolf, called for Frosh to open a similar investigation.

(c)2018 The Baltimore Sun