The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore does not oppose the Maryland Attorney General’s Office’s efforts to make public a report detailing sexual abuse and torture committed by area priests and laypeople over 80 years, so long as it is accurate, a spokesperson for the church said Friday.
“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 members of the 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,” church spokesperson Christian Kendzierski wrote in an email to The Baltimore Sun.
Kendzierski’s email carried the subject line: “AOB (Archdiocese of Baltimore) does not object to the release of the report.” Reached by phone, Kendzierski said the church had not determined the accuracy of the attorney general’s report.
Baltimore Archdiocese leadership has had the full report since midday Tuesday, when Attorney General Brian Frosh’s office informed it of its plans to file a motion seeking the report’s public release, attorney general spokesperson Raquel Coombs told The Sun.
It’s not clear what, if any, sections of the report the church may disagree with.
The report is not available to the public — much of it is derived from grand jury materials, which are secret under Maryland law — and the attorney general’s office filed a motion Thursday in Baltimore Circuit Court asking a judge to waive grand jury privilege.
The Archdiocese of Baltimore has 15 days to respond to the attorney general’s motion. Because the proceedings also involve grand jury material, they are not open to the public.
“The archdiocese is participating in the court process, and understands that the courts rightly expect the law on grand jury materials to be followed and due process to be respected,” Kendzierski wrote, adding that the church will “continue to cooperate” in the attorney general’s legal process.
The 456-page report is the culmination of a four-year-long investigation conducted by Frosh’s office in which the agency interviewed more than 100 people and reviewed over 100,000 of the archdiocese’s own documents. Special Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Embry and Investigator Richard Wolf determined at least 158 priests and other church officials had sexually abused more than 600 people.
Lawyers for the attorney general wrote in the motion that there are “almost certainly” hundreds more victims than those the agency uncovered. What’s more, the church played an active role in covering up the abuse, failing to report it to authorities.
Some of the victims were young enough to be in preschool.
The archdiocese’s statement came after a group of sexual abuse survivors and their supporters gathered Friday to demand the report’s public release.
Standing in the shadows of the Archdiocese of Baltimore and across the street from the Baltimore Basilica, the nation’s first Roman Catholic Cathedral, members of the Maryland chapter of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, called on Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori to support the report’s release.
“I am concerned that the archdiocese is setting itself up to resist the release of the report because they’re saying it would be too painful,” said Maryland SNAP President David Lorenz, referencing a letter Lori sent to area Catholics acknowledging the attorney general’s finding. Lorenz’s statements came before the church’s announcement.
Lori’s Thursday evening letter, meant for the approximately 486,000 Catholics who comprise the Baltimore archdiocese, was filled with profuse apology, and also with language seemingly meant to cast doubt on the soundness of the attorney general’s findings.
“Sadly, we know horrifyingly well the enormity of the grievous harm caused to individuals, families and entire communities from our past experience of publicly naming the 152 priests and brothers we believe have abused children,” Lori wrote.
In another section of the letter, Lori wrote that the attorney general’s report “may reopen wounds or feel as an inadequate or incomplete account of justice.”
Survivors gathered Friday said if Lori were interested in transparency, he could direct the church to release the report itself. Lorenz also said the archdiocese’s claims of cooperation with the attorney general’s office come off as disingenuous.
“The archdiocese is basically taking a victory lap for complying with a subpoena from the attorney general,” Lorenz said. “They need to take action.”
(Baltimore Sun reporter Jonathan M. Pitts contributed to this article.)©2022 The Baltimore Sun. Visit at baltimoresun.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.