Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown challenged the veracity of statements the Archdiocese of Baltimore posted on its website about a report by Brown’s office that details decades of child sex abuse and torture by Catholic clergy in Maryland and the Church’s cover-up.
When the attorney general’s office released the 456-page report April 5, the archdiocese posted to its website answers for what it described as frequently asked questions about the investigation. The report aired publicly for the first time the staggering scope of abuse committed by priests and others affiliated with the Church.
In one section of its FAQ, the Archdiocese addressed the issue of 10 people accused in the report of abuse whose names are redacted from the public document. The FAQ says the names “were not redacted at the request of the Archdiocese” and the “attorney general requested that their names be redacted, and the court ordered it.” The 10 people are still living; many others accused of abuse have died.
In another — under the question “Is the Church still covering up abuse?” — the Archdiocese included a partial quote from a radio interview Brown gave the day after the report’s release, citing Brown’s comments as evidence the church had changed its ways.
Brown, a Democrat who assumed office in January, denounced both segments of the FAQ as an attempt by the Archdiocese to mislead the public.
Jennifer Donelan, a spokesperson for Brown, said in an email Friday evening that the church has “continued to mislead their readers and mischaracterize the AG’s position.”
“We have two investigations still ongoing and the potential of survivors still coming forward in the Archdiocese of Baltimore case,” Donelan said. “The Attorney General has been very careful to protect the integrity of these investigations and he has been very clear about one thing ... he is here for the survivors. He wants them to know he hears them and he believes them.”
“The Archdiocese,” Donelan continued, “should answer its own questions in truth and stop incorrectly referencing the words of Attorney General Brown.”
Earlier in the day, Brown issued a statement himself challenging the section of the FAQ about the redacted names.
“The archdiocese can, at any time, publish those 10 names on their website as individuals who have been credibly accused of child sexual abuse, yet they have not done so, despite having the full and completed report since November, as well as information about those 10 individuals for many years,” Brown said. “They are uniquely positioned to legally release those names to the public at any moment as part of their credibly accused list, should they choose to do so.”
The attorney general issued the statement to “set the record straight,” Donelan told The Baltimore Sun in an email.
“The office has spent four years in a very difficult process of disclosing more, not less,” Donelan said. “The Archdiocese of Baltimore should know better and should remove this misleading information from their website.”
A spokesman for the archdiocese responded that it “will continue to follow the court’s process.”
The dispute adds tension to the fallout from the long-awaited release of the report and fuel to the demands of abuse survivors for the archdiocese to publish names redacted in the report.
David Lorenz, Maryland director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, agreed with Brown’s interpretation that the archdiocese could release the 10 names.
“Most of the information released in this report, including the redactions, could have been made public 10 years ago,” Lorenz said in an email. “That the Church congratulates themselves on their newfound transparency is the height of hypocrisy and is a wound to the mind of anyone willing to give this even a second’s worth of thought.”
The report lays out in wrenching detail how 156 clergy and other Church officials tormented more than 600 children and young adults over 80 years dating to the 1940s.
It revealed the names of 36 abusers the Archdiocese of Baltimore has not included on its website’s roster of credibly accused priests and brothers. The archdiocese covers Baltimore City and nine counties in Central and Western Maryland.
In addition to the redactions involving 10 people accused of abuse, the public version of the report shields the identities of five Church officials accused of covering up abuse.
In its FAQ, the archdiocese said none of the 10 abusers redacted from the report are “in ministry today.”
It does not mention that the Catholic Church paid at least some of the legal costs for a group of people who sought to have their names withheld.
Former Attorney General Brian Frosh, whose administration oversaw the four-year investigation culminating in the report, questioned the archdiocese’s transparency in his first public appearance since the report became public.
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“The protestations about them supporting its release are undermined by the fact that they are actually paying for the folks that are trying to stop its release and who got the redactions,” Frosh said.
In the part of the FAQ addressing the church’s coverup, the quote included by the Archdiocese, which cuts Brown off, suggested the abuse and coverups by the church in Baltimore ended in the 1990s. But several priests who were known to have committed abuse or considered credibly abused by the Archdiocese held jobs with the diocese after 1999.
“None of what the Attorney General said was meant to give the Archdiocese an ‘all-clear’ as currently presented in the FAQs,” said Donelan, the office’s spokesperson.
The Most Rev. William E. Lori, archbishop of Baltimore since 2012, has described his and other Catholics’ “shock” and “horror” at the revelation of the Church’s “enormous” history of abuse.
He has said the attorney general’s office, with the report’s release, “signaled that the cultural changes, child protection policies and accountability measures the archdiocese began implementing more than a generation ago have proven successful.”
“As far as we can tell, the archdiocese started complying with the law in 2002,” said Frosh, referring to obeying legal mandates to report child abuse to authorities. “I would not say that they have done everything they can to stop child abuse, to hold people accountable.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of Office of the Attorney General spokesperson Jennifer Donelan. The Sun regrets the error.