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Sexual abuse survivor urges others to come forward against Baltimore's archdiocese before deadline

Deadline Friday to file claim against Archdiocese of Baltimore
Deadline Friday to file claim against Archdiocese of Baltimore 02:46

BALTIMORE - The deadline to file a claim against the Archdiocese of Baltimore for sexual abuse comes at the end of business hours on Friday, May 31

A federal judge provided a six-month window for survivors to submit an Official Form 410 as part of the Archdiocese of Baltimore's Chapter 11 bankruptcy

On the eve of the deadline, survivor Eva Dittrich urged others to come forward. 

"Bringing this claim against the Archdiocese of Baltimore required me to verify facts of my abuse with living witnesses," Dittrich said. "This process brought closure to my suffering from nightmares, low self-esteem, and the false notion that I was not worthy of help."

 More than 450 people have sued the Archdiocese of Baltimore over sexual abuse claims ahead of the deadline, according to our media partner The Baltimore Banner.  

The church district moved forward with reorganization just before a new Maryland law that went into effect in October 2023, the Child Victims Act.

The state law eliminated the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse cases, which provides survivors an avenue to file civil lawsuits at any point.

"It's a serious deadline in that it really creates a statute of limitations in this bankruptcy case that otherwise did not exist," Attorney Philip Federico said. "So, if you don't get your claim filed by close of business tomorrow, you're likely going to be precluded from ever filing a claim against the Archdiocese of Baltimore for any sort of sexual abuse."

Federico represents about 100 sexual abuse victims involved in the Archdiocese of Baltimore case, including Dittrich. 

This is a fraction of the more than 600 survivors who accused members within the Archdiocese of Baltimore of sexual abuse and physical torture dating back some 80 years, according to a report released by the Maryland Attorney General's Office

"The Archdiocese of Baltimore really did a pretty horrific job dealing with pedophilia," Federico said. "They would become aware of it, they would move priests from one place to another. We can't permit that as a society."

Federico believes after the deadline, the claim process could come to a close between 6 months to a year.

The Archbishop of Baltimore, Reverand William Lori, appeared in a video with a statement ahead of the claim deadline. 

The statement reads:

Dear Friends in Christ,

As part of the Archdiocese of Baltimore's Chapter 11 reorganization, a federal judge in December set May 31 as the deadline for victim-survivors who were harmed by a representative of the Archdiocese, to file a claim to participate in the process.

The scourge of child sexual abuse in the Church has had a lasting effect on many individuals who were the victims of this unimaginable abuse. Tragically, this includes those who were innocent children whose lives were severely harmed. Their pain and suffering are very real, and I continue to offer a heartfelt apology for the trauma they have endured.

We do not yet have an accounting for all of the claims filed, nor do we know their full nature. While many of the claims are abuse-related, the total number will also include a good amount of business and other claims not related to abuse. Even so, this week's deadline is a stark reminder that behind each abuse-claim lies a personal and painful story. Our goals in filing for Chapter 11 include compensating those individuals with the aim of helping to provide a possible path toward healing.

With the Survivors Committee, the Archdiocese recently filed a joint motion in court to ask a judge to appoint two highly qualified mediators to guide this process. The Archdiocese remains committed to working with the Survivors Committee and others to achieve an agreed-upon resolution of these reorganization proceedings.

While the May 31st court deadline relates to filing legal claims, it does not end the moral obligation of the Archdiocese to respond compassionately to those who were harmed. We can never undo the harm that was done to many, nor can we lessen the evil of what has happened, we can however continue to walk with those who have been harmed and do all we can to contribute to their healing. We will also continue to work together to make the Church the safest environment possible.

Please pray for the victim-survivors and for the Church – and know of my prayers for you.

With kindest personal regards, I am

Faithfully in Christ,

Most Reverend William E. Lori

Archbishop of Baltimore

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