State Report on Church Abuse Finds 'Astonishing' Scope

Maryland says Baltimore Archdiocese often did little to stop the torture and abuse
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 5, 2023 6:35 PM CDT
State Finds 600 Children Were Abused by Clergy Over Decades
Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown comments about releasing a report on child sexual abuse in the Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore on Wednesday in Baltimore.   (Kim Hairston/The Baltimore Sun via AP)

Maryland's attorney general released the results Wednesday of a four-year state investigation into the sexual abuse and torture of children by clergy members and employees of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. The report covers the totality of 80 years of mistreatment, during which it says 156 members of Catholic clergy abused at least 600 children, CNN reports. From the 1940s through 2002, the report says, they "engaged in horrific and repeated abuse of the most vulnerable children in their communities while Archdiocese leadership looked the other way." At a news conference, Anthony Brown pronounced Wednesday "a day of reckoning and a day of accounting."

The investigation found that one deacon admitted abusing more than 100 children, the Baltimore Sun reports. Even after the Rev. John Joseph Mike pleaded guilty to abusing a boy, he was assigned to a parish in Clarksville. A victim wrote in his diary that Mike tied him up, suspended him from a basketball backboard in the parish gym, and whipped him 150 times. Hundreds of abuse survivors were interviewed for the investigation; the state report called the scope of the abuse "astonishing." Brown met with advocates and survivors Wednesday to hear their accounts. "What was consistent throughout the stories was the absolute authority and power these abusive priests and the church leadership held over survivors, their families and their communities," he said.

In many cases, the report says, the archdiocese knew of the abusers but did little to stop them. They often were transferred to new jobs, even after admitting to abuse, where they mistreated more children. When looking into abuse, the report said, police, prosecutors, and local news media often treated church leaders with deference. The attorney general said many of the abusers have since died or can't be prosecuted because of statutes of limitations. "While it may be too late for the survivors to see criminal justice served, we hope that exposing the archdiocese's transgressions to the fullest extent possible will bring some measure of accountability and perhaps encourage others to come forward," Brown said. (More child sex abuse stories.)

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