A Baltimore judge approved the needed redactions Tuesday for the attorney general’s report on sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore, clearing the way for its public release.
Circuit Judge Robert K. Taylor ordered the Maryland Attorney General’s Office to redact 37 names from the report and to anonymize the identities of 60 other people, removing them from the 456-page document entirely.
Taylor’s order leaves the timing of the report’s release at the discretion of Attorney General Anthony Brown, whose office must complete the required redactions and notify the 37 individuals before publishing it.
A timeline for when Brown expects to release the report was not available Tuesday afternoon, although it was unlikely the report would be released before Wednesday. The attorney general’s office will publish the report on its website.
“We will work to complete the court-ordered redactions and release the report as soon as possible,” Brown said in a statement issued Tuesday.
The timing of the release may coincide with debates in Annapolis about the civil statute of limitations for child sexual abuse lawsuits and whether to pass a law that would allow survivors to file lawsuits against their abusers and the institutions that enabled their conduct, regardless of whether the suit was previously time-barred under state statutes.
The Child Victims Act (Senate Bill 686) passed committee and is awaiting its final vote in the Senate, which likely will come Wednesday morning. That bill is cross-filed in the House as House Bill 1 and likely will be voted on in the House Judiciary Committee if the Senate version passes.
There is the possibility a less-redacted version of the report could be released in the future. In a written ruling, Taylor said he would give those named in the report a chance to come forward and explain to him why their identities should not be publicly revealed. Any such proceedings would be confidential.
The redacted names include individuals who are living, are accused of abuse or of hiding, enabling, assisting in a cover-up of abuse or of protecting abusers from the consequences of their actions, and whose identities were revealed as a result of a grand jury subpoena, Brown said in a statement Monday.
The report, titled “Clergy Abuse in Maryland,” reveals the extent of child sexual abuse and the subsequent cover-up within the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore, with examples going back eight decades. The product of a four-year investigation, the report relies on diocesan documents that the attorney general’s office obtained by way of a grand jury. Grand jury proceedings, and the information obtained from them, are secret by law, and a judge’s permission is needed for public disclosure.
In addition to reviewing the grand jury documents, attorney general investigators interviewed scores of survivors. All told, they identified more than 600 victims, with the possibility of hundreds more, and 158 clergy and other church officials who abused and tortured children and young adults.
The attorney general’s office sent Taylor a list of 220 names Monday, with a breakdown of whether they needed to be shielded or not.
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Of the 220, 91 are dead and do not need to be redacted. Another 21 names were of people whose identities weren’t obtained through grand jury proceedings, so they are not subject to being redacted, and another 13 names who are involved but did not meet the criteria of needing to be redacted. Of those 13, Taylor determined two should be contacted and will have their identities shielded prior to a hearing on whether to reveal them.
Archbishop William E. Lori has said he does not oppose the report’s release and that the Catholic Church would continue to cooperate with the attorney general’s office and the courts. The archdiocese also, however, paid the legal costs for an anonymous group of people named in the report but not accused of abuse who sought to keep all court proceedings in the matter secret.
The archdiocese has more than half a million Catholics and operates parishes, schools and other institutions in Baltimore City and nine counties across Central and Western Maryland.
With the General Assembly examining whether to repeal the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse lawsuits, and to open a retroactive “lookback” window for victims to sue abusers regardless of when the abuse happened, Taylor wrote that part of his reason for ordering a swift release was to aid lawmakers.
Lori sent an email Sunday night to Catholics in which he urged them to contact their delegates and senators to voice their opposition to the Child Victims Act. Lori’s email also included a script for people to email lawmakers, or to read to them over the phone.
The script reads: “I am calling to ask that you vote against SB 686/HB 001 because it treats private and public entities differently by exposing private schools, churches and other entities to much higher monetary damages than their public counterparts. I don’t think that’s fair and it sends the wrong message, namely that if you were abused as a child in a publicly run institution you deserve less than someone abused in a private one. Please vote against this bill.”
The Child Victims Act sets a lower cap on monetary judgments against public entities because state law limits how much a governmental entity can pay out.