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'The Keepers' recap, Episode 4: Who is Brother Bob?

For The Baltimore Sun

It’s easy to forget that the events recounted in ‘The Keepers’ have ongoing real-world consequences, but things didn’t just stop when the documentary was done filming. For example, this week, the Baltimore Police Department created an online form for people to report abuse allegations related to the series.

And then there are the series of settlements the Archdiocese of Baltimore paid to people who alleged they were abused by Maskell, which came to light in November.

I mention this, because in Episode 4 of “The Keepers,” it’s easy to get lost in the sense of “this all happened a long time ago.” It almost doesn’t feel real — particularly when we spend so much time on the bizarre choice Maskell made to bury boxes of some kind of documents in a forgotten corner of Holy Cross Cemetery.

That incident, you’ll recall from the last recap, was brought to light when the caretaker to whom Maskell assigned the burial task approached an anonymous Baltimore police detective we know only as “Deep Throat” and asked for a meeting.

As former Baltimore Sun reporter Bob Erlandson recounts in this episode, the men met under cloak-and-dagger conditions — at midnight in an empty farmers’ market parking lot — and drove to the Holy Cross Cemetery, where the caretaker pointed out the exact location of the records he’d buried for Maskell.

The police — including Deep Throat, as well as Sharon A. H. May, who was the Baltimore state’s attorney in charge of prosecuting sex crimes at the time — converged on the cemetery location to dig up those records. But here, the memories of those who were present diverge.

Deep Throat tells Gemma, Abbie and others who have gathered to meet him as arranged by journalist Tom Nugent, that he personally saw photographs of young girls with bare breasts — which should have been enough for charges, right?

Except Sharon May remembers it differently. She recalls vividly driving her new red convertible to the cemetery, but doesn’t remember any incriminating evidence being recovered. There’s a lot of “I don’t recall that” and “to the best of my recollection” going on here, though, and to be perfectly frank, I don’t know who to believe.

So who is telling the truth here? As Tom points out, they can’t both be right. It’s enough to give an armchair detective a raging migraine.

Deep Throat confidently asserts — and Sharon May just as strongly denies — that the attorney “killed” any investigation into priests over sexual abuse allegations. He’s asked how she did that. The detective — whose voice is masked and who never appears on camera, so fearful is he for his own and his family’s safety — says that they’d ask for a warrant, and May would hedge, saying she needed to look into it more, but nothing would ever come out of the request.

So, Deep Throat asserts that despite the boxes at the cemetery and despite the fact he personally interviewed over 100 potential victims, no charges were ever filed against Maskell.

That’s how Jean and Teresa turned into Jane Doe and Jane Roe, in a Doe/Roe v. Maskell et al. lawsuit. But the lawsuit was far from a sure thing. It all hinged on a technical provision of law known as the statute of limitations, which restricts the time when a plaintiff can sue a defendant for injuries from the date of the injury.

In this case, it meant that Jean and Teresa brought their suit too late, and unless the judge agreed with their attorneys’ arguments that the recovered memories delayed that statute of limitations, their suit would be dismissed.

Another person introduced in this episode is Lee Richmond, a Loyola University Maryland professor of counseling. She says she met Maskell when he was pursuing a certificate in counseling from Johns Hopkins University, where she taught at the time. She frankly confesses she considered him a friend.

Richmond says that the last time she saw Maskell was around the time of the 1994 lawsuit. A mutual friend had suggested she visit him in the hospital. She remembers he was quite ill at the time, and when she saw him, he was reading “papers” (I think she means documents from the lawsuit) alleging all these awful, horrible acts he’d committed against the plaintiffs.

She says she was horrified, and asked him outright whether he’d done those things. When he didn’t answer, she says, she asked whether someone who did those things was acting in a moral manner. She says he responded that “he thought he was protecting the church.”

That sure sounds like an admission to me, but not much is made of it. It just floats out there for a second, and director Ryan White moves back to the issue of recovered memories.

Back in the 1980s, we’re reminded, there was a spike in reports of recovered memories in victims of child abuse.

After many high-profile cases led to several convictions — including some highly questionable cases later disproved — the backlash was almost as fast and furious. Courts in many states began siding with experts who claimed that memories of abuse just didn’t get repressed and then suddenly “recovered” years later.

Even Beverly Wallace, Jean’s attorney, admits that there were abuses in this field. Some therapists — perhaps unscrupulous, perhaps with the noblest of intentions — led vulnerable patients to manufacture these memories out of whole cloth.

But Wallace and some of her experts assert the pendulum swung too far in the other direction. We’re told by no less an expert than Richard Sipe, the researcher into priest pedophilia whose work was featured in the Oscar-winning movie “Spotlight,” that now we know more about how memory works.

And it’s a whole lot more fluid and self-protective than we thought, he says.

But the court didn’t agree with Jean and Teresa’s repressed memories argument. The Doe/Roe suit was dismissed.

In 2015, Gemma and Abbie reconnected and created a Facebook group for the purpose of seeking justice for Sister Cathy (and Joyce Malecki, about whom we haven’t heard anything else since the first episode’s brief introduction — I’m hoping we’ll hear more in the next episodes).

Teresa joined that group, and Gemma remembers she received lots of support from its members when she announced her presence there.

Jean, however, resisted the notion, primarily because she says she still doesn’t remember everything. She didn’t want to be thrust into a situation where someone else remembered something about her that she didn’t, and I can understand that.

Jean does, however, share one more memory of the man she says terrifies her more than Father Maskell ever did: Brother Bob, an anonymous, faceless, mysterious figure in Maskell’s apparent sex abuse ring.

Brother Bob, Jean says, actually confessed to Jean that he had killed Sister Cathy. She remembers he said he didn’t want to kill her, but that Cathy was going to the police and they couldn’t allow that. After Brother Bob raped Jean again, she says, Maskell came back into the office and asked him if he’d “taken care of everything” — to which the other man assured the priest that Jean would stay silent.

Jean points out she has no idea who this man is, what he looks like, or whether he’s still alive. He could well still pose a risk to her, she says.

Tom Nugent then tells us that he thinks it’s quite possible the key to the entire mystery may hinge on the answer to one question: “Who is Brother Bob?”

I doubt we’ll meet Brother Bob in Episode 5, but we may meet a few contenders.

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