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Baltimore Catholic church sex abuse survivors file request to make 456-page report public

Baltimore Catholic church sex abuse survivors file request to make 456-page report public
Baltimore Catholic church sex abuse survivors file request to make 456-page report public 02:33

BALTIMORE - Attorneys are fighting to make public a 456-page investigation on sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Advocates and victims of sexual abuse by clergy continue to make their voices heard.

They held a joint press conference Wednesday afternoon at Jenner Law P.C. Office in Baltimore to discuss the latest developments in their new, joint representation of clients, including Baltimore Archdiocese survivors and their advocates.

The legal team for victims of sex abuse will make a filing of their own to make the report public.

"They want the report released for themselves and all survivors as part of their quest, not only for accountability, but it validates their story and legitimizes their claims," attorney Rob Jenner said. "When this is out in the open does their healing truly begins."

The legal fight is to expose the accused priests and church leaders named in the 456-page report that alleges sexual abuse of nearly 600 children by 158 clergy members spanning over decades.    

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh embarked on the in-depth review of priests and other clergy members who are accused of sexual abuse

"The report is what we are here to address today. Inspired by the Netflix documentary 'The Keepers,' the Maryland Attorney General embarked on this in-depth review into priests and other clergy who either committed heinous crimes of abuse or shielded sexual predators so they can be moved from parish to parished," Jenner said.

The state's top prosecutor filed a motion seeking approval from the Circuit Court of Baltimore City to release its 456-page report on abuse in the diocese to the public.

After the AG filed his motion, the Archdiocese of Baltimore issued a statement saying it would not oppose the report's release.

"I know it takes time to rebuild and earn trust," Archbishop William Lori said. "Our sincere hope is that this process will provide a measure of closure and a measure of healing for victim survivors."

Survivors speak up on State Attorney General's report on church sexual abuse 05:12

The report identifies 158 priests and more than 600 victims in the diocese since 1940.

The Attorney General's Office said the report summarizes the sexual abuse and physical torture perpetrated by all 158 of the identified priests who allegedly carried out sexual abuse on both boys and girls ranging in age from preschool to young adulthood. 

"The investigation also revealed the Archdiocese failed to report many allegations, conduct adequate investigations, remove abusers, or restrict their access to children," the motion states. "Instead it went to great lengths to keep the abuse secret. While the archdiocese reported a large number of allegations to police, especially in later years, for decades it worked to ensure that the perpetrators would not face justice."

However, an anonymous group named in the report but not accused filed an appeal for the report not to be released.

Maryland AG wants 'justice for victims' with release of report into 600+ children sexually abused by 02:56

Lawyers featured in the 2017 documentary, "The Keepers," also filed a motion recently in Baltimore Circuit Court to disclose the state's investigation.

"Not only are we in support of the report being released, but we want all the names not to be redacted," said Kurt Wolfgang, executive director of the Maryland Crime Victims Resource Center, who filed the motion along with his colleague, Victor Stone, according to our media partner The Baltimore Banner.

The Baltimore Banner reports the attorneys to represent Jean Hargadon Wehner and Teresa Lancaster, two of the women who say they were raped and sexually assaulted in the 1960s and 1970s by the Rev. A. Joseph Maskell, the chaplain and counselor at the now-shuttered Archbishop Keough High School in Southwest Baltimore, as well as another priest at the school. 

Advocate Gemma Hoskins, a former Keough student and retired teacher, is pressing for Baltimore Archbishop William Lori to resign from his position.

"To the Archdiocese of Baltimore, you could have been a hero by addressing your friends, some in very, very, very high places," Hoskins said. "Read between the lines, often in very, very low places that neither you nor I would step foot in. But instead, you turned away, you chose to fall silent and you chose to protect your criminals."

Advocate Barbara Hart recalls hearing horror stories from victims about their alleged sexual assault by the Catholic church.

"One of them that echoes in my head is a call from a man who was wearing how he never told his late wife," Hart said. "He was in his 70s, and she had died years before and I was the first person he would ever tell.

"The stories are not uncommon among childhood sexual abuse survivors. It is something they keep locked down. They believe they must carry shame for something that was completely beyond their control.

David Lorenz, the Director of Maryland's Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said he wants justice for the survivors.

"What would justice look like? It would look like the church taking total and complete responsibility for their crimes," Lorenz said. "They simply don't do this."

Lorenz went on to explain the pain and suffering victims go through, for years, or even decades, after they were abused by clergy.

"I want you to imagine your deepest, most intricate secret, one you are completely ashamed of, and having to tell that to a stranger because that's the right thing to do," Lorenz said. "That's what victims have to go through."  

Lorenz, speaking for survivors, said that survivors were not just enabled by one or two priests, but by the Catholic institution.

"They learn that these priests didn't act alone. They were enabled by the institution," he said. "They fall into despair and they believe there can be no justice. The sexual assault, the rape, of that child is really damaging - physically, spiritually and psychologically."

Last week, a Baltimore judge ruled a seal while attorneys battle over the public release of a report into child sex abuse within the Archdiocese of Baltimore, according to our media partners at The Baltimore Banner, which means all hearings will be closed to the public and all legal motions will be confidential.

Maryland SNAP members said these latest decisions by the Archdiocese and the court are a slap in the face to victims who have been fighting for justice for years.

"This same organization stands up on Sundays and makes proclamations of how transparent they are, how they aide victims and how they treat them," Lorenz said. "They claim to follow the Gospel of Jesus Christ but they turn their backs on the peppers of the dead, peppers that they infected. In my opinion, there can be no lower moral stance than the one being taken by the Diocese of Baltimore.

"I am ashamed for the Diocese of Baltimore and for other Catholics in Baltimore." 

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