From the archives

Maskell resigns as pastor

Sun Staff Writers

The Rev. A. Joseph Maskell, who left his Elkridge parish July 31 to seek psychological treatment in the wake of allegations that he sexually abused high school students, has officially resigned from the post.

Cardinal William H. Keeler this week named the Rev. Gerard J. Bowen, 43, to the post of permanent pastor. He has been temporary administrator at St. Augustine's In Howard County since September, shortly after Father Maskell's departure.

Father Bowen's appointment was announced Wednesday in the Catholic Review, the Archdiocesan newspaper, in a front-page story that did not mention Father Maskell. St. Augustine's parishioners were notified by letter last week of his appointment.

Father Maskell, 55, left St. Augustine's to seek in-patient treatment for what the Archdiocese reported as anxiety and stress caused by a criminal investigation of the sex-abuse allegations and a pending lawsuit. He is said to be still in treatment, although the Archdiocese would not say where.

Archdiocesan officials were not available yesterday to discuss how the Bowen appointment affects Father Maskell's pastoral future.

In his Jetter to the parishioners, Bishop P. Francis Murphy, the Western Vicar, said Cardinal Keeler had spoken with Father Maskell and was concerned "about Father's lengthy and continued absence from the parish related to matters involving civil suits. With sensitivity to the needs of the parish for permanent pastoral leadership, he indicated his willingness to resign and has done so."

Two former students at Archbishop Keough High School, now Seton Keough, filed lawsuits asking a total of $40 million in damages Aug. 24 in Baltimore Circuit Court, alleging that Father Maskell molested them. He was chaplain and counselor at Keough from 1967 to 1975.

The Sun has interviewed other former Keough students who made similar allegations but who are precluded from suing by a three-year statute of limitations.

In the case of the two students who are suing, a hearing has been scheduled for May 1 to determine whether the civil suits meet legal requirements for so-called "recovered memory" that permit legal action after the normal three-year statute of limitations has expired. The plaintiffs both say they recalled the sexual abuse under therapy many years after the alleged abuse.

While Father Maskell undergoes therapy, a group calling itself "Friends of Fr. Maskell Fund" have been soliciting contributions to a defense fund for the priest.

Several weeks ago, workers for the fund were asked to leave the area around Holy Cross Church in South Baltimore, where Father Maskell served as pastor before his appointment to the Elkridge church.

Dorothy Neubauer, chairwoman of the fund-raising organization, has refused to comment.

The Baltimore state's attorney's office has been conducting a criminal investigation of the allegations but the probe has appeared to slow down in recent weeks.

Cardinal Keeler did not strip Father Maskell of his priestly functions this year as he did in 1992 when the sexual abuse allegations surfaced the first time and the priest was sent for evaluation to the Institute of Living, a private psychiatric hospital in Hartford, Conn.

The Baltimore Sun is republishing archived coverage of the unsolved 1969 murder of Sister Catherine Cesnik, which is the subject of a Netflix documentary series set to debut May 19. Cesnik, a 26-year-old Baltimore nun, was reported missing in November 1969 and her body was found in Lansdowne in January 1970. These stories appear as they were originally written in The Sun or The Evening Sun. 

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