Timeline: Catholic Church sex-abuse scandals in Baltimore

The Pennsylvania grand jury report on child sex abuse in the Catholic Church implicated the former archbishop of Baltimore for covering up the abuse. It’s not the first time the city has dealt with scandals within the Catholic Church. Here’s a timeline of major incidents:

June 1995: John Merzbacher, a former teacher, is convicted of rape and child sex abuse of a student at Catholic Community Middle School in Locust Point in the 1970s. More than 100 other charges of 13 other former students were dropped after a judge sentenced Merzbacher to four consecutive life terms.


April 2002: A man tells the Archdiocese that he had been sexually abused by a former priest, Michael Spillane, in 1968. Spillane had admitted in 1992 that he had abused six boys, and had been stripped of his priestly faculties. A victim who had reported his abuse to the Archdiocese in 1991 told The Sun he had been an altar boy at a church in Ellicott City when Spillane began abusing him, and it continued when the priest became pastor of a church in Crofton.

September 2002: As multiple dioceses dealt with revelations of clergy sex abuse in their churches and schools, Cardinal William H. Keeler releases a list of dozens of priests and brothers who have been accused of sexual abuse over the years. He also discloses that the archdiocese had paid settlements to eight victims totaling $4.1 million in the past 20 years. (The church has since paid out even more.)


February 2005: Defrocked priest Maurice Blackwell is convicted of three counts of child sex abuse of a former choirboy at St. Edward Roman Catholic Church in West Baltimore. The victim had shot Blackwell in 2002, saying the former priest refused to apologize. A judge overturned Blackwell’s conviction, saying testimony about possible other victims was improperly introduced in the trial.

November 2005: As his victim, then-CNN anchor Thomas Roberts, sat in the courtroom, Jerome Toohey pleads guilty to sexually abusing him in the 1980s. Toohey, known as “Father Jeff,” was chaplain at Calvert Hall College in Towson, where Roberts was a student who had sought counseling to help cope with his parents’ divorce. In 1993, Toohey was accused of abuse by a former student at John Carroll School in Bel Air, leading the Baltimore Archdiocese to strip him of his faculties as a priest.

September 2010: Former monsignor Thomas Bevan was sentenced to 10 months of home detention for the sexual abuse of a 10-year-old altar boy in Frederick in 1976. There were other allegations that were not pursued, for reasons of statutory limitations, the death of one accuser and the preference of another alleged victim not to go to court. The archdiocese had previously removed Bevan from active ministry.

January 2016: The archdiocese posts an updated list with the names of 14 priests who had been accused of abuse since 2002.

May 2017: Netflix releases a seven-part documentary, “The Keepers,” about the unsolved murder of Sister Catherine Cesnik in 1969 and the theory that it was related to sexual abuse allegations at Archbishop Keough High School in the 1960s and 1970s. The priest accused of the abuse, A. Joseph Maskell, had denied the allegations and was never criminally charged, although the archdiocese removed his faculties as a priest in 1994 and paid settlements to at least 16 accusers. Maskell died in 2001.

August 14, 2018: A Pennsylvania grand jury issues a report that details how more than 1,000 children were sexually abused over a 70-year period. It implicated more than 300 priests, and said church bishops and other leaders covered up the abuse. Among those leaders was Cardinal William H. Keeler of Baltimore, who died in 2017, who as Harrisburg’s bishop failed to take effective action in the cases of two abusers, the report said. That prompted the Baltimore diocese to drop plans to name a new Catholic school in the city after Keeler.

Sources: news articles, the Archdiocese of Baltimore