Survivors can testify in Baltimore Archdiocese bankruptcy case, judge rules

Alex Mann, The Baltimore Sun on

Published in Religious News

BALTIMORE — Survivors of child sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Baltimore will be able to testify about their torment during two hearings in April and May, a judge ruled Thursday.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Michelle M. Harner granted a request by the committee representing survivors in the bankruptcy case to allow victims to speak for two hours during “status conferences” on April 8 and May 20.

“The sole purpose of the Conferences is to increase engagement and understanding in this chapter 11 case; no statements of any party at the Conferences will be considered as evidence in any matter or proceeding in this case or as part of the official record in this case,” Harner’s order said.

Survivors who choose to speak in court will do so with Archbishop William Lori, leader of America’s oldest diocese, in attendance, according to court records. The church supported giving survivors the opportunity to testify.

Advocates for survivors celebrated the idea of victim testimony when attorneys for the committee requested as much in a filing last Friday, and again when informed of the judge’s decision.

“It’s wonderful, because a lot of the survivors want to tell their story,” said Teresa Lancaster, an Annapolis attorney who survived abuse in the Catholic Church as a child and advocates for other victims.


She said survivors used to have to go to the archdiocese to report abuse.

“They’d have to go to the archdiocese building and be on Lori’s turf,” Lancaster said. “This way, it’s a neutral territory, where we’re on an even field to talk and he gets to see it without being lofty, sitting above us.”

David Lorenz, director of the Maryland chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP, compared chance to testify to the opportunity given to victims in criminal cases to tell the judge about how the crime impacted them.

“I want you to understand what the impact of this was on me. I’m not just some number,” said Lorenz, adding that it “helps give closure.”


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