•Weisman went to the archdiocese for guidance after Homberg's allegations, telling officials that Merzbacher may have brought a gun to school and may have been "interacting inappropriately with the students." Merzbacher was placed on leave, but reinstated after Weisman said she conducted an internal investigation.

•Weisman witnessed Merzbacher choke, punch and kick a male student, Steven Melnick, in class, and "merely responded, 'Oh John, stop it.'"

Later, Weisman and the archdiocese also failed to report the sexual abuse to law enforcement, records allege, when a former student — Elizabeth Ann Murphy — raised it on at least three occasions. Murphy claims she told Weisman in 1979 and 1987, and notified archdiocesan priest George Moeller in 1988.

Five years later, Murphy confided in another former student, Bill Mannion, who happened to be a priest at the time but has since left the position. Mannion contacted the archdiocese on her behalf in 1993, and Murphy reached out to a lawyer, who called prosecutors. That led to a criminal investigation, Merzbacher's conviction and his lengthy sentence.

Although more than a dozen students were named in Merzbacher's criminal cases, only the case involving Murphy went to trial. After Merzbacher was convicted and sentenced, the cases involving other named victims were dropped by prosecutors.

Principal's neglect ignored

Archdiocesan officials declined requests for an interview about the Merzbacher case but said in a statement, "No one in authority at the institutional level (the Archdiocese as opposed to the local/school level) knew of any allegation of child sexual abuse by Merzbacher until 1988" when Murphy confided in Moeller.

The four-page statement from Caine, the archdiocesan spokesman, said archdiocesan officials did not alert authorities — police or the Department of Social Services — at that time because the archdiocese mistakenly believed it was mandated to report "only when the alleged victim was still a child."

Moeller said the same thing during Merzbacher's trial in 1995. He testified that Murphy came to him and he encouraged her to report the incident and offered counseling.

"That's part of our expressing a concern and reaching out to people," he said, according to a court transcript. When asked if he investigated Murphy's claims, he said he did not.

"I didn't do anything further, you know, after, after that, after that meeting," Moeller said in court.

A December 1993 attorney general's opinion, stating that all claims must be reported, cleared up the confusion. It acknowledged that the Maryland statutes "could reasonably be construed to apply only if the alleged victim were still a child," but added that "in the end, [they were] more convinced that the better construction of the language is that reporting is required whenever an act of prior child abuse or neglect occurred, no matter the present age of the victim."  From that point on, the archdiocese has "always reported every allegation of child abuse we receive regardless of how long ago the alleged abuse occurred," Caine said. 

Weisman, meanwhile, had left the South Baltimore school and become principal of the School of the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in 1982. A statement signed by Archbishop William E. Lori in the Catholic Review newspaper last month — similar to the one Caine issued to The Sun in September — publicly acknowledged for the first time that Weisman's actions regarding Merzbacher led to her forced retirement from the Cathedral School.

In his statement to The Sun, Caine wrote that Weisman was barred in 2002 from holding "any position within the Archdiocese that involves overseeing the safety of children." Since then, he added, she has not held any assignment within the Baltimore Archdiocese and is not eligible for future work there.

That year, the Boston Globe published a series of award-winning articles exposing sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. They led to sweeping reforms and a bishops' "Charter for the Protection of Children & Young People" that prompted "a broader evolution ... of responding to child abuse cases," Caine wrote in a follow-up email.

The shift led an independent review board within the Baltimore Archdiocese, charged with reviewing the handling of sexual abuse cases, to expand its focus beyond the "perpetrator ... into an examination of how others must be accountable for creating safe environments and enforcing the Archdiocese's policies and procedures," Caine wrote. That ultimately resulted in the removal of Weisman, who had denied any knowledge of Merzbacher's abuse during a school assembly before parents in 1994.

The nun's provincial superior at the School Sisters of Notre Dame in Baltimore, Sister Kathleen Cornell, declined to answer questions or to make Weisman available for an interview. In a brief statement, Cornell said she recently met with Weisman about the allegations, in response to renewed complaints from former students, and that the past principal, along with other sisters "who know of the case," are "deeply saddened by the suffering of all of the victims of John Merzbacher."

None of the statements explains the interaction between Weisman and archdiocesan officials over the years.

Baltimore church lawyers learned of allegations concerning Weisman's failure to report abuse cases as early as 1994, in criminal filings and related civil suits. The lawsuits, which sought a collective $140 million from Merzbacher and the archdiocese, the oldest in the nation, detailed the worst claims in a series of depositions given over several years.

Other officials were aware of these allegations during Merzbacher's 1995 trial, said P. McEvoy Cromwell, who chaired the archdiocese's independent review board at the time and in 2002. No action was taken against the school principal, he said.