Maryland Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Lawyers: Summary of Baltimore Archdiocese Report

Carl Saiontz

By Carl Saiontz
Posted April 12, 2023


UPDATE 02/1/2024: The Archdiocese of Baltimore filed for bankruptcy in September 2023. As a result, U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Michelle M. Harner has set a deadline of May 31, 2024, for filing childhood sexual abuse claims against the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Despite the removal of the statute of limitations outlined in the Child Victims Act, time is now limited to file a claim. Contact our attorneys today for a free and confidential consultation.

Following a four year long investigation, the Maryland Attorney General’s Office released a 463 page Report on Child Sexual Abuse in The Archdiocese of Baltimore (PDF) this month, which contains horrendous details about the extensive history of child sexual abuse by Maryland Catholic Church clergy and employees of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

The Attorney General Report on Baltimore Archdiocese clergy abuse starts with a disclaimer, due to the difficult nature of the findings.

The report contains detailed descriptions of childhood sexual abuse and other misconduct, and anyone needing assistance with the material are encouraged to contact the state of Maryland’s Victims of Child Sexual Abuse Reporting Hotline at 410-576-6312.

For survivors interested in learning more about the legal options that may now be available, our Maryland Catholic Church abuse lawyers provide free and confidential consultations.
Complete the form on this page or call 1-800-522-0102 to learn more.

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This post contains a summary of the key findings compiled by our Maryland Catholic Church sexual abuse lawyers, as well as important information about recent changes to the Maryland law, which will allow survivors of childhood abuse to now seek justice from the abusers and institutions that enabled the conduct.

Archdiocese of Baltimore Sexual Abuse Report

In 2018, the Maryland Attorney General launched a Grand Jury investigation into the Archdiocese of Baltimore, following hundreds of credible allegations of child sexual abuse by priests, seminarians, deacons, and employees of the Catholic Church.

The inquiry went beyond individual accusations, delving into the leadership of the Church and unearthing documents dating back to the 1940s, which included treatment reports, personnel records, transfer reports, and policies and procedures. Overall, the Grand Jury amassed hundreds of thousands of documents in response to subpoenas to the Archdiocese, individual parishes, affiliated religious organizations, and St. Mary’s Seminary.

As part of the investigation, more than 300 courageous victims and witnesses bravely came forward to share their experiences with investigators. Many of them were speaking out for the first time, providing crucial details to investigators on which Catholic priests abused children in Maryland.

These documents and testimonies uncover disturbing patterns of behavior by the Maryland Catholic Church, which revealed how certain children were targeted and how the Archdiocese of Baltimore actively worked to conceal evidence of abuse and protect known predators, by moving them to different locations or keeping them out of the public eye for decades.

The incontrovertible history uncovered by this investigation is one of pervasive and persistent abuse by priests and other Archdiocese personnel. It is also a history of repeated dismissal or cover up of that abuse by the Catholic Church hierarchy.

While every victim’s story is unique, together they reveal themes and behaviors typical of adults who sexually abuse children, and of those who enable abuse by concealing it. What was consistent throughout was the absolute authority and power these abusive priests and church leadership held over victims, their families, and their communities.

Patterns of Child Sex Abuse In Catholic Church

The investigation highlights patterns of childhood sex abuse by Baltimore Archdiocese clergy and other personnel, with many of the victims being children of devoted church members, who entrusted priests and the Catholic Church to serve as spiritual mentors for their children.

Characteristics of Children Targeted By Abusers

Abusers often singled out children who displayed certain characteristics that would make them unlikely to report the abuse or assault.  Clergy presented themselves as protectors or friends to gain the children’s trust. Some of the most common characteristics found in targeting children included;

  • Shyness
  • Lack of Confidence
  • Children of homes with domestic abuse
  • Learning disabilities
  • Devoted Catholic church members
  • Children lacking guidance

Church Members Targeted By Abusers

Children often targeted were active participants in church proceedings, and those willing to devote their time volunteering on weekends or evenings. Many of these children were dropped off at the church by their parents, and left under the exclusive supervision of the priests or clergy members, including:

  • Altar Boys
  • Choir Members
  • Church Youth Organization Participants
  • Boy Scout troop participants
  • Rectory volunteers, especially those answering telephones in the evenings or on weekends

Church Abusers Groomed Children

The Attorney General report highlights how abusive priests often gave special attention to children targeted for assault, making them feel special and building a level of trust.

Many of the atrocious descriptions detailed in the Archdiocese of Baltimore sexual abuse report outline patterns of this behavior among priest, deacons and other clergy members or employees. The investigation highlights the following types of grooming behaviors;

Establishing Trust: The abusers took interest in their victims’ hobbies, offered gifts such as expensive dinners or did them favors, as well as provided special attention to create time alone with them, such as making children their personal assistants.

Manipulating the Child: Abusers manipulated victims emotionally by making them feel special, loved, or important, creating a sense of dependency on the predator.

Testing Boundaries: Predators of the church tested the child’s boundaries by engaging in behavior that could be seen as innocent to a child such as wrestling or showering together after activities. These acts started innocently and gradually progressed to more invasive and harmful acts.

Desensitizing the Child: Abusers attempted to desensitize children to sexual content or behavior by gradually exposing them to pornography over time, having sexually explicit conversations with them.

Silencing Victims Complaints: Abusers manipulated children emotionally, by using guilt, fear, or threats to keep the child compliant and silent.

Abusers Used Their Position of Power to Assault Children

Investigators further identified that priests, and other clergy members used their position of power and authority within the church to manipulate parents so they could gain unsupervised access to children.

  • Telling the family it was an honor to work in the rectory
  • Encouraging overnight sleepovers at the rectory
  • Suggesting counseling for children of families going through divorce or other family issues
  • Manipulating children to request permission to go on field trips

Once the children were isolated from their parents or other church members, abusers often manipulated their victims into engaging in certain activities, included;

  • Telling children they needed to perform physicals on them for their health
  • Giving children alcohol to inhibit judgment or memory of the abuse
  • Engaging in wrestling or “rough-housing” to inappropriately touch victims
  • Encouraging fully nude group showers after activities
  • Telling children to sleep in beds with them
  • Teaching children masturbation
  • Showing children inappropriate movies

The young children targeted for abuse often did not understand boundaries, or that what they were being instructed to do was wrong, since these abusers were someone who both children and their parents trusted and seen as a prestigious member of the church.

Sadly, these behaviors often went on for long periods of time since children were persuaded into believing these behaviors were normal.

Frequency of Maryland Church Sex Abuse

The Maryland Attorney General report identifies Catholic clergy members, seminarians, deacons, members of a Catholic religious order or other employees of the Archdiocese who have been credibly accused of child sexual abuse in Maryland.

According to the report, church abuse cases involved;

  • 156 clergy members or church employees
  • Over 600 victims of child sexual abuse

Cases of child sex abuse found in the Maryland Attorney General Baltimore Archdiocese sex abuse report

Sadly, the amount of sexual abuse cases revealed in the investigation may only account for a fraction of the total number of incidents. The AG report points out that only 11% to 34% of all rapes and sexual assaults are ever reported, and the numbers are substantially lower for childhood sexual abuse affiliated with the Catholic Church or other respected organizations.

The wide-ranging sexual abuse in the Catholic Church found in association with the Archdiocese of Baltimore occurred in;

  • 153 parishes and missions
  • 59 schools
  • 24 Catholic orders of men
  • 26 Catholic orders of women
  • St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore City
  • Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg

That includes all perishes, Catholic school and church organizations in Baltimore City and the following nine counties in central and western Maryland;

  • Baltimore City
  • Baltimore County
  • Allegheny County
  • Anne Arundel County
  • Carroll County
  • Frederick County
  • Garrett County
  • Harford County
  • Howard County
  • Washington County

Schools Parishes and Counties Involving Baltimore Archdiocese Child Sex Abuse

Parishes With Multiple Sexual Abusers

The AG reports highlights several locations in Maryland where multiple offenders associated with the Catholic Church abused children, including:

St. Mark Parish in Catonsville: 11 Abusers

  • Father Robert Lentz
  • Father Ronald Belschner
  • Father Marion Helowicz
  • Father David Smith
  • Father James Dowdy
  • Father Frederick Duke
  • Father Edward Heilman
  • Father Charles Rouse
  • Father Ross LaPorta
  • Father Francis Ernst
  • Monsignor Henry Zerhusen

St. Michael-Overlea in Baltimore: 6 Abusers

  • Father Louis Affrica
  • Father Frederick Brinkmann
  • Father George Loskarn
  • Father Henry O’Toole
  • Brother Thomas Rochacewicz
  • Father Thomas Smith

St. Patrick in Cumberland: 6 Abusers

  • Father Thomas Bevan
  • Father Laurence Brett
  • Father George Hopkins
  • Father Robert Hopkins
  • Father Regis Larkin
  • Father John Mountain
  • Father John Wielebski

St. Mary in Cumberland: 6 Abusers

  • Father Thomas Bevan
  • Father Marion Helowicz
  • Father Robert Hopkins
  • Father Ronald Michaud
  • Monsignor Richard Smith
  • Father Michael Spillane

St. Clement in Lansdowne: 6 Abusers

  • Father Steven Girard
  • Stephen Brotzman – teacher
  • Father Francis Ernst
  • Father Joseph Kenney
  • Father Robert Lentz
  • Father Joseph Maskell

St. Thomas More in Baltimore: 5 Abusers

  • Redacted Name
  • Father Michael Barnes
  • Father Thomas Kelly
  • Father Michael Spillane
  • Father George Loskarn

Our Lady of Victory in Baltimore County: 5 Abusers

  • Father Louis Affrica
  • Father John Carney
  • Father Joseph Maskell
  • Father Francis Ernst
  • Father John Peacock

St. Clare Parish in Essex : 5 Abusers

  • Father Steven Girard
  • Father Joseph Messer
  • Father William Migliorini
  • Monsignor Richard Smith
  • Father Albert Stallings

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Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Coverup Continued for Decades

In addition to allowing clergy abuse to continue unchecked, the Catholic Church actively concealed and covered up problems with sexual abuse in the Baltimore Archdiocese between the 1940s through 2002.  The Maryland AG report highlights how this was only possible through the actions of  leaders in the Catholic Church.

While reviewing hundreds of thousands of documents, investigators reported finding an egregious pattern of conduct by the Catholic Church, which shows how extensive and persistent efforts were made by ranking officials of the church to protect abusers and silence victims.

Documents obtained during the investigation paint a disturbing picture of how Church leaders would transfer the abusers from one school or parish to another, without disclosing the reason or warning church members.  The actions of the Catholic Church leaders highlight how there was no concern for the well-being of other potential victims.

Pattern of Church Sex Abuse Cover Ups

Even when undeniable sexual abuse allegations were made to leaders of the church, or when abusers admitted to the sexual assault, the Catholic Church put reputation management first, over justice or protecting children.

Investigators found that time and time again reports of sexual abuse were covered up by leaders of the church by deploying tactics intended to silence victims or diminish their claims, including

  • Accepting the word of abusers over that of the victims or their families
  • Providing more empathy for abusers than children who were abused
  • Dismissing pedophilia or childhood sexual abuse as symptoms of alcoholism or other substance abuse disorders
  • Conducting “investigations” by other clergy members who were not trained or independent
  • Failing to confront the abuser
  • Failing to seek corroboration or information about other potential victims
  • Transferring priests or other abusers with false reasons for the removal
  • Failing to warn parishioners of prior allegations of abuse
  • Providing known abusers with continued access to vulnerable children

Clergy members went to great lengths to silence victims, telling children that the abuse was “God’s will”, and threatening victims and their families that they would go to hell if they told anyone.

Church Placed Known Sex Offenders Back In Schools

Not only did the AG report find that the Church disregarded children who had already been abused, there was also zero concern for the safety of future victims.

According to documents, the Church would transfer offenders out of state to different schools or parishes after allegations were raised. In other cases, offenders were transferred just miles away into a different county of Maryland, where they continued to abuse children.

Abusers Were Transferred To Different Parishes

Calvert Hall Sex Abuse: In 1964, Father Laurence Brett admitted to the Bridgeport Diocese in Connecticut that he abused and assaulted a boy. Rather than reporting the abuse to authorities, the Church sent Brett to “treatment” in New Mexico where he continued to abuse children. Later that same year, Brett was transferred to the Archdiocese of Baltimore, where he was placed at the private, all-boys high school, Calvert Hall. Investigators found that Brett would go on to abuse over 20 boys in Maryland after 1964.

Offender Transferred Out Of State: Father Walter Emala was banished from the Archdiocese of Memphis in 1968 after several child sexual abuse allegations were made against him to church leaders. Rather than reporting the criminal child abuse or removing Emala from the Catholic Church entirely, Emala was allowed to enter the Archdiocese of Baltimore, where he would go on to abuse at least six more children in Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Archbishops Responsible For Cover Up Efforts

In the Catholic Church, the archbishop is responsible for the overall administration and governance of the diocese, including overseeing the pastoral care of the faithful, supervising the activities of the clergy, and ensuring that Church teachings and guidelines are followed.

In cases of child sexual abuse by priests or other clergy members, the archbishop has a responsibility to take appropriate action to ensure the safety and well-being of the victims, as well as to follow civil and canonical procedures in investigating and addressing the allegations.

These responsibilities include;

  • Reporting allegations to law enforcement
  • Cooperating with investigations
  • Providing support and assistance to victims
  • Taking disciplinary action against accused clergy members
  • Removing abusers from ministry or initiating canonical processes

Rather than protecting children, the AG report found that the Archbishops in the leadership roles not only failed to follow the protocols, but they also ultimately made the decision to;

  • Return priests with sexual abuse allegations to ministry,
  • Facilitate the abusers transfers to another Diocese, and
  • Conceal or provide no reason, or false reasons, for the abusers removal.

Maryland Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Lawsuits

Survivors of sexual abuse by the Catholic Church in Maryland are no longer remaining silent. Individuals are coming forward to tell their story, and showing the courage needed to hold the Catholic Church accountable for the years of sexual abuse by priests, clergy members, teachers and other employees.

On April 11, 2023, Maryland Governor Wes Moore signed the Child Victims Act of 2023, which now allows Catholic Church sexual abuse lawsuits to be pursued, regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred

Our Maryland child sexual abuse lawyers understand the courage it takes to come forward, and will be working to help survivors obtain justice and the financial compensation they are entitled to receive.

To learn more about the Maryland Attorney General Catholic Church sexual abuse report or the ability to now pursue a claim under the Maryland Child Victims Act of 2023, request a free and confidential consultation.


1 Comment • Add Your Comments

  • Louis says:

    Abused at St Casmir’s Church.

    Posted on April 24, 2024 at 1:49 pm

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