Survivors of sexual abuse demand public release of Attorney General investigation into Archdiocese of Baltimore
BALTIMORE - Leaders of Baltimore's Catholic church said they will not oppose the release of a report showing widespread past abuse in the church.
That report, an investigation by the Maryland Attorney General's office, is now complete.
It found more than 150 clergy and other staff abused more than 600 victims over decades.
Investigators revealed the church went to great lengths to cover up abuses in the past.
"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," spokesperson Christian Kendzierski wrote to WJZ.
Survivors of abuse gathered in front of church headquarters Friday and called for the immediate public release of the 400-plus pages of findings.
Dave Lorenz, from SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said "prayers and apologies are not enough."
The Attorney General himself is petitioning a judge to make the report public.
He said he cannot do that without court approval because it contains secret grand jury testimony.
Archbishop William Lori apologized in a letter to all members of the church this week.
But he also noted the following: "Further confusion may arise from today's motion about the current response by the Archdiocese to allegations of child sexual abuse. Conclusions drawn from historic events in today's motion, while a continued source of shame and remorse, do not reflect the Archdiocese's current and decades-long strong pastoral response and handling of allegations of child sexual abuse. For decades, the Archdiocese has fully complied with child protection efforts including: reporting to law enforcement of all allegations of child sexual abuse; zero tolerance resulting in permanent bans of any employee or volunteer credibly accused of abuse; offers of counseling assistance and pastoral outreach to anyone reporting harm by a minister of the Church; extensive screening and training of all Church ministers, employees and volunteers; continued accountability and oversight by our Independent Review Board and national compliance auditors; and open communication about newly received credible allegations of abuse, including through the list of credibly accused priests posted on the archdiocesan website and through various other archdiocesan communications channels, the media, and Church institutions."
For some, the Attorney General's motion may help provide answers they have spent years awaiting. For others, it may reopen wounds or feel as an inadequate or incomplete account of justice. To all, however, I pray it brings some measure of healing of the deep wounds caused by the scourge of child sexual abuse in the life of the Church."
"To be honest, I don't feel at this point the Archdiocese should have any say in the matter," said Liz Murphy, who was raped by her former teacher at a Catholic school in Locust Point. She wants people to know it was not only priests abusing children.
Her rapist, John Merzbacher, was convicted and is now serving four consecutive life sentences.
"At the age of 11, 12 and 13, he raped me, he threatened me, he put a gun to my head," Murphy told WJZ investigator Mike Hellgren. "John Merzbacher going to jail will never restore my childhood or all that I have lost from his brutality. But [his conviction] was only half justice. The other half has been how the Archdiocese of Baltimore has never been held accountable."
Murphy testified multiple times before the attorney general's investigators and believes everyone needs to see the full, unredacted findings—hoping they will provide some measure of justice.
"Over and over again, the church that I grew up loving put their power, prestige and possessions above the lives of children entrusted in their care. Over and over again. And so this report that hopefully will be released will not change a thing but it might make justice whole," she said.
"What I know for certain is that the church could fall into the sea tomorrow, but it does not change one bit my faith," Murphy said.
She told Hellgren, "I am still faithful, and I am grateful for what I learned. The difference is I believed it."
Here is the motion from the Attorney General.
A court date has yet to be set.
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