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Two women detail alleged abuse by Catholic priest in Baltimore: "I was in total shock"

Women speak out about alleged church abuse
Women speak out about alleged abuse in Baltimore's Catholic archdiocese 02:48

For more than 50 years, Teresa Lancaster wanted the Catholic Church to believe her when she said she was sexually abused by Father Joseph Maskell at her high school in Baltimore. She said she was 16 when she went to see Maskell for help, and that within five minutes, he took her clothes off and set her on his lap.

"I was in total shock," she said. 

Maskell was a priest who served as her school's counselor and chaplain. Lancaster said she didn't report the alleged sexual abuse at the time because he had a gun that he would put on his desk, and he told her that no one would believe her.

Lancaster is among hundreds of alleged child abuse victims by Roman Catholic Church leaders in Baltimore. The Maryland Attorney General's Office reviewed archdiocese records from the 1940s through 2002 and concluded more than 600 children were abused. At least 156 people were accused of abusing them, according to a state report released last week.

Jean Hargadon Wehner said she was also abused by Maskell at the same Catholic school, and that he raped her. 

"He was in this pattern of manipulating, controlling ... and so, at a certain point all you do is what it is that you know will make him happy — that's not going to make him mad," she said.

She said she reported her alleged abuse to the Baltimore archdiocese in handwritten statements in 1992 and was told no one had ever complained about Maskell before.

In the nearly 500-page report, Maskell is accused of sexually abusing 39 people.

According to the Maryland attorney general's investigation, some parishes had multiple alleged abusers, including one with 11 over a 40-year period.

"It was appalling," said Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown, who issued the report. "It was horrific abuse." 

"For many, it ruined their lives, their families," he said. "And as disturbing, we found an extensive coverup in an effort to conceal the abuse that was happening."

The current Baltimore archbishop issued an apology calling the abuse "evil" and "another painful reminder of the failings in the church's past." 

Maskell denied the allegations for years, and now he and many others have died or are beyond the criminal statute of limitations.  

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